Move over, Ariel. Take a seat, Cinderella. There’s a new group of princesses in town—only they’re not likely to be getting their own movies (animated or otherwise) any time soon. Though after reading Jason Porath’s new book, Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics, readers may wonder why none of the women included have any of their own feature films in the works.
The book, based on Porath’s wildly popular blog of the same name, features the stories of 100 female figures throughout history. Only unlike other books about women in history, Rejected Princesses also aims to provide an uncompromising look at women who’ve been kept out of the history books, presenting them as the complicated individuals many of them were.
“You look at how history is taught and boys get everybody from Abe Lincoln to Genghis Khan to Churchill, the good, bad, and both. For women you get Amelia Earhart, but you don’t mention that she’s a polyamorous libertine. You get Harriet Tubman, but not as an arsonist spymaster,” says Porath. “That’s such a disservice to everybody to put up historical people as these flawless heroines. Historical people have just as many dings and dents as you and I.”
Because Rejected Princesses showcases the darker aspects of these women’s lives—including mentions of abuse, self-harm and rape—Porath has included a similar rating system to one found on his site, which allows readers to jump around from stories labeled PG to the R.
“If you’re going to go into a movie, you’re going to look at the rating,” explains Porath of his decision, which is partly to alert readers to the fact that despite it’s colorful illustrations, the book is not meant for all ages. “I consider it as strong as any book of Greek myths, but the difference between that and this is that the stuff I’m writing about actually happened. People have a lot stronger reaction when it’s rooted in reality. So I tried to be really upfront about that and be as best a guide as I can.”
Though Porath says readers are occasionally surprised when they learn he is male, he says, “People see that much attention and care has been put into [the entries] and they assume that I must personally identify as a member of the gender. I don’t. I personally identify as another human being who is a big fan of women. We’re all descended from these geniuses, warrior women, and uncompromising badasses. [But] systematically that link has been cut off. It’s a shame. This should be everybody’s birthright. You should have a connection to that.”
Rejected Women: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions and Heretics is out Oct. 25.