Kate Schatz Grabs Headlines with Feminist Childrens’ Book
An Alameda woman publishes City Lights’ first children’s book with a Berkeley illustrator and earns bestseller status.
Alameda Kate Schatz wrote the words, and Berkeley’s Miriam Klein Stahl drew the pictures in this children’s book about edgy female role models.
Photo by Pat Mazzera
Look at the bookshelves of your children’s classroom or bedroom. Where are the female protagonists, the heroines and sheros?
Alamedan Kate Schatz was inspired to write a children’s book about amazing women, known and unknown. Rad American Women A to Z, the first children’s book published by City Lights, has, in the past six months, grabbed headlines in leading women’s magazines and websites and snagged a spot on The New York Times bestseller list for middle-grade books.
Schatz worked with Berkeley artist Miriam Klein Stahl, who created striking portraits in primary colors, to showcase 26 bold women, one for every letter of the alphabet. There are artists, abolitionists, scientists, and rock stars from all sorts of different backgrounds, from Angela Davis to Zora Neal Hurston. The book is filled with female role models for people of any gender and age. Schatz is a writer, editor, and educator; she is the chairwoman of the School of Literary Arts at the Oakland School for the Arts. Klein Stahl is a visual artist, teacher, and an arts commissioner in Berkeley.
“It was an incredibly fun book to research and write. I really got to geek out,” Schatz said. When reading aloud to her then-2-year-old daughter, Schatz felt the lack of empowering kids’ books. “There wasn’t a lot out there interesting, fun, feminist, aesthetically pleasing.”
Rad American Women A-Z is not just for girls. “It’s really important for me that boys read the book,” Schatz stressed. “It’s really important that boys see female role models, too. If girls are the only ones who see this, then nothing changes. Kids are so much more receptive and wise than we give them credit for. Kids understand what’s fair and what’s not fair.”
The book has sold better than Schatz or City Lights expected. Within the first month, the book went into its second printing and has since moved into its fourth. “Public response is far greater than any of us could have anticipated,” said Stacey Lewis, vice president of publicity for City Lights. “Sales are amazing, and the reception from librarians, teachers, journalists, and book buyers has been positive from day one. We’re excited for Kate and Miriam’s follow-up publication with City Lights, taking on the world’s women.” Schatz and Klein Stahl are at work on an international version of the book for their next project.
“We’ve managed to get copies in the paws of so many rad people, all of whom have expressed much love for the book—Gloria Steinem, John Waters, Nikki Giovanni, Lena Dunham, Kathleen Hanna, Maxine Hong Kingston, Judy Blume,” Schatz said. “Who knew the world was this hungry for a feminist children’s book?”
Schatz and Klein Stahl will take part in a Litquake event Friday, Oct. 16, benefiting The United Booksellers, at The Makeout Room, 3225 22nd St., San Francisco. Keep up to date at www.RadAmericanWomen.com.
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History … And Our Future, By Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl (City Lights/Sister Spit, $14.95, 64 pp.)