We Wanna Be Friends With Feminist Children's Book Author Kate Schatz

We Wanna Be Friends With Feminist Children's Book Author Kate Schatz


Kate Schatz isn't one to wait around. When faced with a messy presidential election, the Alameda-based writer started a local women's political action group. And when she couldn't find any children's books that mirrored the feminist beliefs she wanted to share with her daughter, she wrote them herself. Rad, right?

In an effort to create a book that would appeal to both kids and adults, Schatz teamed up with Berkeley illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl for what would become the first-ever children's title from San Francisco's City Lights Publishers: Rad American Women A-Z. The book, which quickly made the New York Times best sellers list in 2015, shares 26 stories through punchy, one-page biographies and papercut illustrations that pop against bold colors. Now, the newly released Rad Women Worldwide (from Emeryville-based Ten Speed Press) tells 40 new stories of women from 31 countries around the world.

Standouts for the author include the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo of Argentina and Sophie Scholl, a German student who publicly spoke out against the Nazi regime and was executed for treason in 1943 at age 21, but she doesn't play favorites. "Right now I love the ones whose stories, even when they're from a long time ago, are just so relevant with everything that's going on today," Schatz says.

And as rad as she is, you won't find the likes of Amelia Earhart in the pages of either book. "Kids all know a few women," explains Schatz, a former teacher. "The way history is taught, we tend to learn one person who kind of represents an entire movement or time period and then we don't go beyond that." Bucking that trend, Rad Women Worldwide features a few recognizable names such as Frida Kahlo and Malala Yousafzai alongside lesser-known visionaries such as Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Colombian street artist Bastardilla. From rock stars to polar explorers, the book closes with 250 additional names of the women Schatz couldn't bear to leave out.

The writer's activist efforts have also given rise to Suffragette Sundays, the local group she started in January with her neighbor Leslie Van Every. "We wanted to create a space where people, specifically women who don't have activist backgrounds, can feel like they're actually making a difference beyond just sharing a petition on Facebook," she says. Members meet up for monthly house parties to learn about various progressive issues, hear from guest speakers, and do some phone banking. "You come and you make phone calls, send emails, drink champagne, and eat snacks," Schatz says. "And you make your voice heard."

Cover of Rad Women Worldwide. (Reprinted with permission from Rad Women Worldwide, written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl, copyright (c) 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.)

We sat down with Schatz to learn a few of her favorite people, places, and things in the Bay Area.

Weekend getaway

Healdsburg. I don't ever actually do all the bougie wine stuff but my best friend lives there, so I go to hang out at her house, go down to the river, and drink beers in the backyard. That's my fave.

Date night go-tos

My husband and I are big fans of Forge or Boot and Shoe Service, so we tend to go to Oakland. Sometimes we take the ferry over to the city and have drinks at The Slanted Door, then we walk to Chinatown and eat noodles and take the ferry home. The ferry is a great date.

Favorite bookstore

I gotta say Books Inc. Alameda. It's my local spot.

Bay Area living

As the parent of two small children, my life here is a consistent kind of fun, semi-controlled chaos. Whether we're hanging out with our friends, neighbors, or family who live in the Bay Area, it's social, it's engaging, and we try to be outside a lot. I'm a total Northern California lover.

Island life

I was one of those Oaklanders who did not understand Alameda at all until I moved here and then I was like, 'Oh god, I get it now.' Alameda is like secretly cool. I mean, I think it's getting to be less of a secret, but there's just so much just fun, weird, interesting stuff happening.

What it means to be rad

Being rad is being awesome and believing in yourself but also believing in what you can do for other people around you. Constantly connecting your immediate circumstances to a larger circumstance is incredibly essential. And to me, being rad is being willing to maybe be wrong but still take chances and take risks in anything you're doing.

What's next?

We have already finished the third in the Rad Women set, which is very different from the first two books and due out next summer. It's an illustrated journal called How to Be Rad, so instead of telling stories about rad women, it's more about the reader getting to write about and explore how they're rad. It has way more illustrations by Miriam, really awesome inspirational quotes from a lot of badass women, and prompts and questions throughout the book.

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