The 'Transparent' actress speaks with EW about her first children's book
Kathryn Hahn has quietly amassed a boldly feminist filmography. Now the Emmy-nominated actress is bringing that ethos to her new children’s book.
EW can exclusively reveal details of and the cover for her upcoming picture book My Wish for You, illustrated by Brigette Barrager (Uni the Unicorn) and published by Scholastic. The book is fashioned as an honest, heartfelt reminder to girls at every age and every stage of the beauty and strength that resides inside each of them. It’s a poignant, encouraging reminder to mothers, daughters, and friends of the importance of simply being yourself.
“I was inspired by the big gorgeous id of my 6-year-old girl,” Hahn says of how My Wish for You came about. “I started to dream about what it was like before I cared what people thought or how I was seen. When I asked questions and demanded answers. When I trusted my gut.”
Hahn earned her first Emmy nomination earlier this year for her turn on Transparent, Jill Soloway’s groundbreaking Amazon series, and she also played the lead in the writer-director’s new show I Love Dick. Both shows explore femininity and womanhood, presenting flawed but empowered characters as they work toward more authentic living.
Hahn spoke with EW about how she approached her first children’s book, what inspiration she drew from her film and TV work, and why she hopes it resonates for mothers and daughters alike. Read on below, where you can also check out the exclusive My Wish for You cover.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come to decide to write this book, and how did you land on the title?
KATHRYN HAHN: The beautiful women at Lenny Letter asked me to write something during their first year up. As I was listening to my then-6-year-old girl monologue about her day, I was struck by how authentic and full she was — how sure of her own voice and loud and self-respecting. And I thought of how those qualities can start to disappear as a young girl grows up. So we “co-authored” a piece on how to be a woman, my daughter and I. It was all advice I needed to hear. When I was approached to turn it into a children’s book, I didn’t hesitate.
Did the politics of the current climate inform how you approached it at all?
Yes, clearly today, politically, we are at a boiling point. Women are still made to feel smaller and smaller culturally, and the abuses are physical (limited access to health care and birth control, less, harassment and rape) to invincible and cutting (“You’re so pretty! What a good girl. Look how cute.”) I wanted an innocent, inspiring book for both moms and their daughters to embolden themselves by reading together.
Why is the theme of empowerment central to the book? What do you hope girls will take away from it?
Self-empowerment is the key to happiness, I truly believe. If you can trust your own beating heart to speak up and tell the truth, then you can go to bed every night with a clear conscience. It is a work in progress, for sure, being a human woman.
I associate a lot of the projects you’ve been working on — especially Transparent and I Love Dick —with ideas you’re exploring in the book.
I think working on shows with Jill Soloway, Lena Dunham, Tamara Jenkins — all these incredible strong humans who are exploring and investigating gender constructs — has for sure influenced the way I think of myself as a woman: what was culturally put on me as opposed to who I am. For sure.
Can you talk a little bit about your vision for the art, and Brigette Barrager coming on board?
Having never gone through this process before, the illustrating process was the most interesting and so fun. I loved Bridgett’s work — Uni the Unicorn has a lot of play at our house — and I was so excited to see how she took the skeletal text and blew it open in such a colorful, rich, emotional way. I knew that I wanted her to imagine all kinds of girls, and I was thrilled by what she made.
What message should mothers take away from this? Is this for them too?
Oh, I hope mothers and daughters can sit and read this together: that girls will be emboldened to be who they already beautifully are, and that mothers can use this as a prayer for their daughters to continue to love their perfect, messy, beautiful selves.