A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls
Edited by Jessica Spotswood
Candlewick Press, 2016

Float from the Alaskan wilderness before colonization to the heart of the Black Panther Party in the 1960’s. Hop from a pirate ship during the height of the slave trade to the parlor of a debutante fresh from a Quadroon Ball in New Orleans. They’re all here, pirates, princesses, assassins and the occasional deathwielding monster. In this collection of stories you’ll find the stories of girls all across the American timeline and landscape that have been forgotten or seldom told. Each story is written by different author who brings her own special eye to historical fiction. They include Kekla Magoon, Marie Lu, Andrea Cremer and more.

As soon as I read the description of this title I was intrigued and the moment I read the first story I was in love. A very deliberate focus on diversity and feminism has is apparent from the stories themselves and their arrangement. The story that opens the book is Mother Carey’s Table by J. Anderson Coats about an African American girl posing as a boy on a pirate ship to escape a life of slavery. Jo is brave and smart and in love with the sea.(Spoiler Alert) It was a disappointment that Jo doesn’t survive the story, nor did Whitby in High Stakes. Both had my diversity nerves tingling and throwing up a Magical Negro flag on the play, but it was undeserved or at least mitigated by my favorite of the bunch, El Destinos by Leslye Walton, a wonderfully imagined retelling of the Three Fates myth that transforms the women into Tejano teenage girls in 1848 Texas. I love a little paranormal and it’s not often that I get it in my historical fiction. This is a fantastic addition to any collection and much needed.

This Book is Perfect For:

  • History buffs.
  • Lovers of strong female characters.
  • Folks who have a hard time finishing long works. They can chew on these titles in small bites.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why have stories of girls and women in history been silenced in history books? Especially, given the history of letter writing and diary keeping amongst American women.
  2. What era of American history do you think has the richest soil in which to tease out stories?
  3. Lesley Walton reimagined the Three Fates as Tejano girls after the annexation of Texas. How did she stay true to the myth and what was your favorite or least favorite part of the reimagining?
  4. Issues of class, race and gender conformity are woven throughout Madeleine’s Choice. How do race and class conflict? What part does colorism play?
  5. Discuss the idea of the Magical Negro and how that trope is or isn’t manifested in High Stakes through Whitby and Jo in Mother Carey’s Table.
  6. Discuss how dressing like a boy or adopting really fancy dress can be a protection or hindrance depending on the situation. How does fashion effect perception?

If you like this, try:
The Astonishing Life of Octavion Nothing, Traiter to the Nation: Volume I, The Pox Party by MT Anderson

Suggested Soundtrack:
Prism by Katy Perry

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