Artist Spotlight: Author and Activist Kate Schatz
Kate Schatz is a Bay Area writer, activist, and educator. The author of the Rad Women series, which features a mixture of history and feminism aimed at young children, is a personal favorite of the Rare Device staff. Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in the middle, these books are not just a bedtime story, but rather a historical look into the lives of the courageous women who have challenged and changed history. In a social and political climate that is often unaccepting of women, people of color, LGBTQ-identified folks, immigrants, and those who choose to not conform to societal norms, Kate’s books and outlook on activism are a breath of fresh air. The future is ours for the taking. Let us be informed and inspired by the women who have come before us, and that are living among us, who are using their voices to invoke positive change in a world that doesn’t always feel pretty.
KC: We carry your books Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z. Both of these books focus on women who have changed the world we live in today for the better. What inspired you to write each book, and how long did you spend researching each woman’s biography?
KS: First, thank you for carrying them! I got the idea for the first book, Rad American Women A-Z, when my daughter was 2 years old (she’s now 9!). As a new(ish) parent I was thinking a lot about what it meant to raise a daughter in this (misogynistic, white supremacist) society, how I would raise and teach and guide her, etc. I was also feeling very uninspired with my own writing practice, which had been mostly short fiction, and was also feeling challenged when it came to activism—this is when Occupy Oakland was happening, and I had major FOMO as I watched people organizing and marching and taking action while I was home with a baby. I’d always wanted to write a children’s book, and one day while she was napping the idea for an A-Z book about badass women from American history popped into my head! It felt like the ideal way to blend these passions/questions/desires/practices—activism, parenting, creating—and I got to work.
As for how long I spend researching the biographies...it varies, and is also pretty hard to answer, because one thing I’ve realized is that I’m kind of always researching—I’m constantly reading and looking and listening and paying attention to stories about women and girls and changemakers and allies and resisters and radical humans.
KC: Books like these feel especially important in our current political and social climate, where the need for female representation in elected positions is dire. Based on your research, who do you feel are the women leading the feminist movement today?
KS: Young women and GNC (gender non-conforming) people of color are leading and redefining and expanding the feminist movement—and it is especially imperative that white feminists like myself listen, learn, and figure out how to move out of the way AND use our privileges/platforms to hold open doors and add seats at the table.
KC: You’re formerly a teacher of 9th - 12th graders. What messages do you hope the younger generation reading your books will take away from them?
KS: That they matter. That they’re part of powerful histories and legacies—and powerful, transformative futures. That change is possible. That education is crucial. That taking chances and risks can really pay off. That believing in the safety, potential, and dignity of yourself and others is essential. And that history and feminism are cool!
Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz. Photo by Dave Medal.
KC: You partnered with local illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl for the artwork in the books. How did you two pair up, and did she play any part in helping compile the list of women for each book?
KS: Miriam and I had a number of mutual friends and I was a big admirer of her artwork. When I had the idea for the first book I wanted illustrations that would compliment the women in the book, that would be bold and powerful and strong. I thought of Miriam’s stunning woodcut portraits of social justice heroes like James Baldwin and Phoolan Devi. I reached out and asked her if she’d be into collaborating and she said yes—it all happened really fast, and five years later we are still collaborating and love working together. I do most of the research but we discuss all of the women and girls we include, and Miriam brings in many great ideas.
Kate Schatz, photo by Meg Perotti
KC: What resources would you give to young adults who have started to examine or reexamine what feminism means to them and how they can apply it to their everyday lives?
KS: SO MANY!
Read this article in Harper’s by writer and scholar Rachel Cargle that clearly and decisively lays out the dangers of toxic white feminism.
Follow social media accounts/online platforms/activists/thinkers that are committed to intersectional feminism. Some of my faves are: Bitch, Wear Your Voice, @guerillafeminism, @femalecollective, @feministabulous, @feministvoice, @feministpress, @rachel.cargle, @mumumansion, @virgietovar, @jamiaawilson, @womensmarch, @muslimgirlsmakingchange, @unladylikemedia, and many more!
Read read read! Some good places to start: Classics like Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and Feminism is for Everyone by bell hooks; Lies, Secrets and Silence and The Fact of a Doorframe by Adrienne Rich; Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis; But Some of Us Are Brave by Akasha T. Hull and Barbara Smith; This Bridge Called My Back by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua; Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde…
And contemporary books! We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; The Mother of All Questions and Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit; Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture by Roxane Gay; The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward; Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti; Eloquent Rage by Brittany Cooper; This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins; and, an absolute necessity for white women, in particular, is White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk about Racism by Robin D’Angelo.
Listen to podcasts! Like: Divided States of Women; Call Your Girlfriend; Nerdette; Stuff Mom Never Told You; The History Chicks; 2 Dope Queens; MomRage; Popaganda; and more!
That is JUST the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a decent start—remain open, make connections, and let these books/accounts/etc lead you to other thinkers and artists and changemakers.
Finally: If you’re in college, TAKE A WOMEN’S STUDIES CLASS! Or even better: become a Women’s Studies major!
You can purchase Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z at both of our brick and mortar locations on Divisadero and in Noe Valley.