Finding a voice that rings true
Fourteen-year-old Kayla Dean thought she had her future all mapped out. With the help of her Grandma JoJo and her best friend Rosalie, Kayla, a budding feminist, has been inspired to right wrongs through investigative journalism and to empower other young women through SPEAK (Sisters Providing Encouragement And Kindness). But now, as she's about to enter high school, Kayla's got a lot of questions. Is it so wrong to want to wear her This Is What a Feminist Looks Like t-shirt with a pair of really fabulous high heels? Would she be dishonoring her grandma's memory by choosing to tame her Afro just a little? And, most importantly, would it be the end of the world if Kayla, with her small breasts, queen-sized booty and incredible talent, made it onto the rump-shaking, super-sexy Lady Lions dance team and actually liked it?
Assigned to investigate the Lady Lions' sexist underpinnings, Kayla soon discovers that the team and its members are a lot more appealing than she had ever imagined. Can Kayla reconcile the two spheres of her life, mend fences with her staunchly feminist best friend and finally find her own voice? Along the way, Kayla just might end up re-defining feminism and herself on her own terms.
Kayla narrates her story with plenty of sass, energy and enthusiasm, and she's willing to laugh at her mistakes even as she struggles with her own internal conflicts. True to Kayla's journalistic ambitions, each chapter includes its own headline, just like a real newspaper story chronicling Kayla's mishaps and triumphs.
Few books for young readers take on feminism the way Sherri Winston does in The Kayla Chronicles. Kayla's story is sure to inspire young women to realize that feminists come in all shapes, sizes, colors and attitudes, and that before you can speak up for all women, you have to learn how to stick up for yourself.
Norah Piehl is a writer and editor in the Boston area.