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‘Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs’ – Book Review

50 Women from History –
Mothers, Grandmothers, and Godmothers – Who Lived
Fully, Brashly, and Boldly and Changed the World.

In his follow-up book to Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics, author/illustrator Jason Porath is back with Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs. Globetrotting and traveling across several time periods, Porath provides readers with 50 new stories about women who were also mothers. This volume comes just in time for Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 13). For those are familiar with Rejected Princesses, you have probably already picked up Tough Mothers or plan to shortly; however, for readers new to Porath’s books, read on.

There are several elements that Porath has included in both volumes. First, he presents a guide for his content which starts with the Table of Contents. He not only lists out the name of each woman (of course!), but he also includes the dates they were alive, as well as their country of association. A reader could easily pick and choose which biography they would like to read, since this is not a book that has to be read in sequential order. Next, Porath includes a reading rating guide that is two-fold: maturity rating system from 1 (PG content) to 5 (R-rated content). He also provides content coding, too: violence, abuse, sex, rape, self-harm, and child loss. Many of the stories carried at least 1 or 2 content labels while some have more in the 3 – 5 label range. These guidelines are reasonable indicators to each story’s content; however, they do not replace reading the stories and then mediating the content for younger audiences. Also helpful, Porath includes a bibliography of his research materials for the reader who wants to know more. There’s a brief section in the back for “Other Notables” that includes about a dozen women that did not make it into the main part of the book, and there’s an index. Additionally, Porath notes through bolded color coding the names of women mentioned in the biographies, if there they are featured elsewhere in Tough Mothers or Rejected Princesses. All of these elements lend the reader to being informed about the content they are about to consume, which is a good thing.

Porath has found his niche with these two volumes, as well as his website in which he posts additional women’s stories. This reviewer was struck by the similar layout with each story, yet he skillfully keeps each entry fresh and engaging. That is not an easy task to keep the material interesting and not sound redundant after having 150 tales printed and many more featured on his website. In Tough Mothers, Porath spent more time breathing life into these women; in other words, he went for quality over quantity (50 stories instead of 100 in the first volume). The attention to detail and the care he takes in giving voice to tragic, heart-wrenching stories resulted in a deeper engagement with the women spotlighted and more insight into their sacrifices as mothers. His accompanying illustrations were beautiful in the first volume, but one can see he has improved his artistic skills for this volume. The illustrations have had more thought to them, and Porath is blossoming into a talented artist making thoughtful and smart visual choices as a result.

For not being a trained historian, Porath does spend quite a bit of time researching each woman. He is obviously passionate about giving voice to largely forgotten, historically significant women whose impact on history has been omitted from our history books. He is also genuine in asking his readers to submit corrections; he wants to get each story right. Also, he takes suggestions of women to spotlight at his website and for future books. Tough Mothers and Rejected Princesses are well worth picking up by readers seeking to read about forgotten women of history; many are heartbreaking, some dangerous and should not be replicated, and others uplifting and inspiring. Each woman proves unique in their experience and promises to captivate the reader’s attention!

Creative Team: Jason Porath (creator/writer/illustrator/researcher)
Publisher: Dey Street
Click here to purchase (and check out his first book, Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions & Heretics, as well as associated merchandise).


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