In an era of renewed attention to feminism comes a biography of the co-founder (along with Dorothy Pitman Hughes) of Ms. magazine.
Author/illustrator Lewis portrays Steinem’s consciousness-raising journey to adulthood using short declarative sentences in the present tense (“This is Gloria. She has big dreams”), striking a decidedly young narrative tone. Pink predominates in the flowery illustrations, beginning with a young Gloria dancing across a pink typewriter’s keys. Later, after having “a big idea,” she stands, arms akimbo, on the same machine, with the unfortunate result that the scale makes her look like a Barbie. Such infantilization of Steinem and her cause permeates the book, from the persistent use of her first name to text that oversimplifies social concepts. Hearing about the “women’s liberation movement[,] Gloria is curious!” Lack of context will puzzle uninformed children. Underutilized as a journalist, “Gloria feels like a typewriter without a ribbon.” What’s a typewriter ribbon? What does “Ms.” mean, and why was it chosen as a magazine title? Steinem also comes across as a white woman rushing to the rescue, both in India and with her “fearless friend Dorothy,” a black woman, posing next to her with raised fist. The only clue to the sophistication of the subject is backmatter with unsourced biographical detail and “page-by-page notes” that are themselves simplistic: “She learned that change comes from the people and in order to learn, you must listen.”
Well-intentioned but misses the mark. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)