“No Girls Allowed” graphic novel pictures women who lived as men

Thanks to BoingBoing’s review, I just got my hands on Susan Hughes and Willow Dawson‘s No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure.

The transcendent graphic novel, which is geared toward 9 to 12-year-old readers, tells seven stories with one common link: the female general in Kahn’s army, the female viking warrior, the female pharaoh and the female surgeon all chose to live their lives as men. And in passing themselves off as members of the opposite sex, they rose to the top of their professions.

It is a multi-layered collection of tales that touches not only on female empowerment, but also on gender fluidity.

Illustrator Willow Dawson spoke to that in a Vepo Studios-produced promo for Whazamo! at Open Book Toronto:

I think it’s easier for younger kids to sort of play with identities of gender. It gets trickier when they get into school and are confronted with these other kids who are sort of assuming these opinions of their parents that are very strict: girls are girls and boys are boys, end of story. I hope kids reading this book will see, you know, it’s OK if I’m a 12-year-old girl and I want to dress like a boy. It’s OK if I go in the opposite direction, and I’m a boy who feels like dressing like a girl. It’s cool.

We talk a lot about the comfort of seeing yourself reflected on screen and in books. This is the first young adult work I’ve come across that has the potential to provide that impact for middle school-aged girls who refuse to conform to the images they see in magazines and on television.

Perhaps equally important is the way these stories can reframe our understanding of history. It is almost impossible to ascertain the historical influence of women from standardized text books, but No Girls Allowed opens up the reader’s mind to the possibility that there really were women there, making significant contributions. Maybe they just weren’t recognized.

Check out this video promo, too:

What do you think about No Girls Allowed?