Book review: Rebellious Daughters

Rebellious Daughters, edited by Maria Katsonis and Lee Kofman
Review by Kylie Thompson

Genre: memoir, gender studies

Sugar and spice and everything nice. We’re raised hearing that girls are sweet, meek, and kind, warned away from any other patterns of behaviour with threats of being unloved and alone. The good girl gets the happily ever after, the bad girl? Eaten by dragons, stabbed by heroes… there’s not a lot of good in rebellion, if you listen to the folklore.
The problem is that a little rebellion is good for the soul. It teaches us about responsibility and accountability, and shows us our strengths and weaknesses. We learn about who we are and what we stand for when we step out from the shadows of other people’s expectations, and walk our own paths.

Though we praise boys for their independence, even focus our storytelling on male journeys into their own power, the stories of our rebellious daughters don’t tend to get the same attention. Or if they do, they’re shoehorned into a happily ever after when she finds herself settling into the obligatory ‘good wife’ role, and handing her power over to the nearest pretty male.
For Maria Katsonis and Lee Kofman, whose memoirs both dealt with stepping away from family expectation, the rebellious daughter isn’t just a trope but a life choice. In ‘Rebellious Daughters’, the pair have gathered together some of Australia’s finest female writers for an open and honest conversation about the acts of rebellion that have shaped their lives and careers.

‘Rebellious Daughters’ is a wry, wise, and emotional exploration of the role of rebellion in the road to adulthood, and how the weight of expectation shapes us all. Each woman’s story, or journey, is different, and yet, they’re all utterly relatable. Who hasn’t wanted to shock their parents? Who hasn’t felt the urge to run, or rage, or do something other than meekly submit to inevitability?

What you realise through these stories is that rebellion as a woman looks an awful lot like setting boundaries and being accountable and responsible for your own life and choices. Are they always good choices? No, but that’s the point. Figuring out who we are isn’t a tidy, simple act. It’s messy and emotional, and it looks nothing like the picture perfect ideas we see in the movies.

This is the sort of book that would make a brilliant gift for the women in your life, a gentle reminder that we each have the power to shape our own lives, and a much needed reminder that the world won’t end should we dare to say ‘no’. ‘Rebellious Daughters’ is a celebration of the unsubtle art of saying no, of speaking out, and forging your own way through life. It’s hard not to fall under the spell of these brave, complex, and beautifully imperfect women.

And for those still sitting on the fence: a percentage of sales from ‘Rebellious Daughters’ will support Women’s Legal Service Victoria. It’s easy to forget that rebellion often takes the form of prioritising the self, and saying no to the behaviours, people, or events that cause us pain or fear. Having ‘Rebellious Daughters’ using profits to support a vital service in the empowerment of women is wonderful to see, and I really hope readers get behind this book, and cause.

‘Rebellious Daughters’ is published by Ventura/ Simon and Schuster, and is available through the publishers’ websites, and through bricks and mortar and online retailers.

Rating: 4 stars

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