Recently I was asked by Second Story Press if I would do some reviews for them. They aren’t paying me and said I could choose the books that looked interesting to me. Because they have a strong feminist angle – especially books for girls – I jumped at the chance (even though, order lets be honest, seek finding the time has been difficult). The first book I read was June Callwood: A Life of Action. (Ages 9-13, dosage written by Annie Dublin.)
One of the few memories I have of my elementary school library was coming across history books written for kids. For some reason I can still recall reading – and re-reading – about George Washington Carver. Carver, in case you didn’t know, invented peanut butter (among the many uses he came up with for peanuts after encouraging poor farmers to diversify from cotton crops and then needing to find a use for all the peanut crops that were being grown). While he has nothing to do with June Callwood he has everything to do with my love for history books for kids (easy reading and rather to the point – although I suspect if you are looking for gossip and scandal you aren’t going to find it).
While this book is geared for ages 9-13 I think it was really good for me to read right now – especially as a writer, some-time journalist, and mother about to have #2 while trying to figure out how to juggle it all. Callwood came from humble beginnings, had a fantastic journalism career and four children. She was smart, resourceful and a dedicated mom.
She often brought one or two children with her when she had to go to the office to write or revise an article. She worked on her story while a baby sat on her lap or a toddler played in a corner nearby.
She used one day a week – Thursdays – for interviewing people and hired a babysitter to look after the children. Of course, it also said she was highly organized – something I used to be but haven’t been in a number of years. The only real problem I had with this book is that it made me feel like I am doing very little with my life right now – except having babies – but that is my issue. It is easy to feel that way when you are reading about someone’s entire life condensed into a few short chapters. Since this book is geared towards young girls (although I believe boys would get a lot out of it too) I view it as inspiring – it would show them that those from the most ordinary backgrounds can become extraordinary people in ordinary ways. (Extraordinary, well-adjusted, happily married people which I don’t think we get to see in the media much anymore as normality isn’t glamorous and doesn’t sell.)
I also really liked her view on feminism:
June didn’t become a feminist until the early 1970s, when something “clicked.” Feminism gradually “sneaked up” on her, she says, as she wrote about issues like abortion, day-care centers, and the scarcity of women in politics. She came to the conclusion that women and men sometimes perceive things differently; that both their views are valuable and need to be considered. “Women have different ears. Maybe not better, but they hear different things.” But she also believes that feminism is about getting equality not only for women but for men, too. She points out that “there’s no improvement in the human condition in replacing discrimination against women with discrimination against men.”
All in all, a great little history book for kids and an inspiring book for me – making me interested in checking out the many books Callwood has written. You can check out this short interview with her here by clicking on Choosing Truth over False Eyelashes) from the CBC Digital Archives.