Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. While Goodreads does ask for a review in exchange for the advance reader copy, I was in no way compensated for my review.
This is a collection of stories about real-life princesses throughout history who made their marks, in one way or another. Several make power grabs, while others are known for being the true power behind the throne, or for their madness. There are some warriors, all from non-European backgrounds. Many of the stories are about princesses in the last century or so, known for a certain wildness.
The book's strength is that it covers a lot of different cultures. There are princesses from every continent but Australia and South America. It could've stuck to just European royalty, but the variety fills in a lot of gaps of my own knowledge of history. Two North American princesses are discussed, in very different terms due to their very different approaches to the white conquerors.
While this does go a long way toward showing us where the women were in history, it's not without its faults. The book uses "gypsy" to describe people of Romani heritage, and doesn't question the stereotyped views thereof. It also takes a modern approach to beauty, scoffing at descriptions of plump princesses as attractive and describing all of the European princesses in terms of their looks. The Asian, African, and Native American, apparently, weren't worth considering. Last, it often presents the mythologized stories of these royals for several paragraphs before cutting in to say that's not true, that this is how it really happened.
This book was a decent way to make history interesting and relevant to me. It adds on to my high school courses about dead white guys. But, as a primary resource, it's lacking. I think it's a good jumping-off point for discovering about different people and cultures, but it's not detailed enough. It is a fun read, though the last third felt rather repetitive.
I would recommend this book to middle school and high school students who are bored to tears of their history courses, and want to hear about something other than dates and battles and borders. Budding feminists may also be pleased with the new ammunition about how women have been erased from history.
This book will be released November 19th.
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