The Radical Element

The Radical Element

12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls

Book - 2018 | First edition
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An anthology of historical short stories features a diverse array of girls standing up for themselves and their beliefs, forging their own paths while resisting society's expectations.
Publisher: Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2018
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780763694258
Branch Call Number: RADICAL
Characteristics: x, 308 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Spotswood, Jessica


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Apr 28, 2018

Anthologies are difficult to rate but there are some truly wonderful stories in this collection. Like "A Tyranny of Petticoats" it's a celebration of girlhood, diversity, and American history. There is even a bit of magical realism mixed in with the hard realism of other stories.

Overall I enjoyed the reading experience. As with any anthology, some stories are stronger than others. "Glamour" by Anna-Marie McLemore was probably my favorite. It follows a Latina girl in 1920s Hollywood who struggles to fit the white American "ideal," and it has a hint of magic. McLemore has always been on my TBR list but this story made her novels a higher priority. Her writing is lush and gorgeous. There are many other high points, and many fabulous girl characters that I want to protect. Some of the stories inspired me to read about the truth behind the fiction, like the awful eugenics case covered in Marieke Nijkamp's "Better For All the World."

I have a couple critiques. There isn't a single story predating the 19th century. I get that America is a relatively young country, but there is so much history prior to 1838. I also would have loved to see at least one story with a native character (I believe the protagonist in "The Magician" is at least part-native but it isn't really explored).

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