Going through roughly 16 years of education, give or take, the majority of us learn about historical figures: Christopher Columbus, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, George Orwell, etc. Notice anything about that list? It’s all men. Granted, we do learn about some women, too. I mean we have Eleanor Roosevelt, Amerlia Earhart, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, and a few more. But the “few” is what causes an issue, however overlooked it may be. We are taught about dozens of male historical figures, but only a few female ones. Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, & Heretics aims to tell us the stories of the rejected women that helped shape time and history—the women that the bulk of society doesn’t want its children learning about.
Writer and artist Jason Porath acknowledges that current historical education leans towards one sex over the other, and he is here to educate us on the women we never learned about because hundreds of people were too scared to mention them. Porath was an animator for DreamWorks Animation, and has worked on notable films such as Kung Fu Panda 2, The Croods, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. He brings that creativity with him and mixes it with historical research in order to craft one entertaining book.
Surely, though, they were left out of curriculums for a reason. Porath understands the hesitancy, but still recommends this book for ages 12 and up. Luckily, he has implemented a helpful technique of guide markers to let us readers know what story has a certain maturity level and features themes of violence, sex, abuse, rape, and self-harm—along with explanations of these categorical guides. This is a great way to warn any squeamish or “delicate” readers of what they’re getting into.
The women that Porath writes about vary in age, time period, and location. They can be split up into categories including Warriors, Intellectuals, Wickeds, Banished, and more. These women each have their own entry within the book that lasts a few pages at most. But it’s not just the small entries that keep our attention. Porath’s writing is really easy to love. He writes with an informal tone that makes it seem more like we’re having a conversation with him than reading a published work. The narrator (in this case, Porath himself) speaks directly to the reader(s). This alone is a technique used to keep the reader’s mind busy and enthralled. In a world dominated by technology, that’s difficult to do—but Porath does it with ease.
With a compilation of 100 women with titles like pirate, journalist, spy, activist, empress, concubine, ninja, pilot, samurai, mathematician, warlord, sword-slinger, and more, it’s only appropriate that Porath shows us some depiction of what these women might have looked like. His art style is very animated and cartoonish, which takes a bit away from the realism of the history he is teaching us, but somehow gives us a sense of the women’s legacies. Sure, they’re gone, but they look young and often times charming in these illustrations; nearly all of them are smiling (except a select gloomy few, like Elisabeth Bathory). Each of their facial features, wardrobes and body language reflects their time period and ethnicity, too. The attention to detail is absolutely stunning. While this isn’t the normal sequential art that we see in comics here at ComicWow!, it does present some seriously enthralling creativity.
Porath has orchestrated the publication of what is one of the most important books on the shelf. We know what we’re taught, and it’s about damn time that someone taught us about women’s role in shaping and revolutionizing the world we live in. From the women saving lives to those taking them, each and every one paid a big contribution to the pop culture, geography, equal rights, and other aspects that we consider parts of everyday life. This is beautifully constructed book that we can tell Porath spent a lot of time working on. Not only is the concept a heartwarmingly respectable one, but the execution is nearly flawless. This is a great read for pretty much anyone. I definitely recommend it to each and every person, regardless of your usual genre choice(s). Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, & Heretics is nothing short of a masterpiece, and will remain relevant for the rest of our lives.
Written & Illustrated by: Jason Porath