Book Review: Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath

rejected princesses

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath

Dear husband brought this book to my attention after hearing a segment about it on NPR (what a very good husband!). After hearing only a few anecdotes about it, I needed to read it, NOW. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime.

Rejected Princesses grew out of a lunchtime chat among Dreamworks animators: Who was least likely to be turned into an animated princess? Out of this seed grew a blog ( and the blog sprouted a book (with a second on the way!). The first volume is a massively heavy compendium of 100 women who defied norms, expectations, invading armies, assailants, and politicians. Each entry is roughly 2-3 pages long, and each features a Disney-style illustration of the featured “princess.”

The entries are neatly cataloged with maturity ratings and applicable trigger warnings. This means you can read the more family-friendly entries to the kids, and save the stories of rape, murder, and revenge for later (or never, as it suits you). In this way, Porath has created a book that has something for all ages, while at the same time not glossing over the violence experience by quite a few defiant women. The stories also skip across time, space, and legend. You’ll find biblical queens next to Bolivian revolutionaries next to British suffragettes next to African warriors next to Japanese samurais. You’ll find straight women and women who represent every color of the LGBTQA rainbow. Porath show us that there is a princess out there for everyone.

This book was amazing. Some women, like Hatshepsut (the only female pharaoh in Egypt), Harriet Tubman (“Moses” of escaping slaves), and Joan of Arc (the gold standard of defiant woman) I had heard of already, but others like Saint Olga of Kiev (who set a town on fire using pigeons), Calafia (mythical Muslim queen and namesake for the state of California), and Trung Trac and Trung Nhi (Vietnamese sisters who led armies to defeat the Chinese in the 1st century) I had never even guessed existed. The book is jam-packed with these kinds of stories, and the encyclopedia-entry-style of each story means it’s easy to pick up and put down as needed, and come back to your favorite parts. Once you read through the book, there are even more entries on the Rejected Princesses website, so you can head over there to keep getting your fix.

This is a great book for anyone looking for inspiration from some truly badass ladies. Porath’s rating system means that you can share these stories with the little girls in your life, and let them know they can grow up to command their own tank regiment (Mariya Oktyabrskaya), overcome handicaps (Wilma Rudolph), be great at math (Hypatia), and/or decide exactly what they want out life and strive for it.

Book Review: Mexico by Josh Barkan

Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan

This is a book of tangentially connected short stories, all taking place in and around Mexico City, Mexico. We hear from painters, chefs, and cancer patients, architects, and plastic surgeons. We do not really hear from any Mexicans. Nearly all the subjects of the stories are ex-pats from the United States. Only three stories involve individuals born in the country, and even these keep themselves separated from the land of their birth.

In addition, the stories all tend to revolve around one theme: Narcos and violence. A chef’s restaurant is visited by an infamous Narco and he is tasked with making him “the best thing he has ever eaten,” a cancer patient talks with the former wife of a midlevel drug kingpin, an architect gets caught in the crossfire of rival gangs, a painter is taken by professional kidnappers and held for ransom.

This book is a series of stories about outsiders looking in, and so sees only the violence and corruption. You will find nothing of Mexican culture or everyday life here, instead you will find poverty and deprivation. This is not a book about Mexico, it is about disconnectedness.

I must admit to being a bit disappointed by the single-mindedness of the subject matter. I had been looking forward to a variety of stories about the country, as there’s much, much more to Mexico than Narcos and death. Though the stories are well written, the repetition of theme gets old after a while.

An advence copy of this book was provided by the publisher via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. Mexico will be available for purchase on January 24th, 2017.