Following on from last night’s story of the princess who was too busy studying to accept a marriage proposal, I’d like to present this little gem – Eugenia l’ingegnosa (Eugenia the Ingenious) as part of my celebration of female protagonists, female authors (Anne Wilsdorf), and female-run indy presses (Sinnos Editrice). Oh, I do love a story with a positive takeaway. Not only is it a bargain (two things for the price of one) it’s also excellent for girls to see different role models in their books. You know, princesses are nice, but they don’t always have to be marrying princes.
So, this book’s about Eugenia. Eugenia lives alone with her family on Nascondoni Island. Until she discovers another island – Nonsodove – that looks far more interesting. Eugenia wants to go there. She tries with a plank of wood first, and fails. She tries again with a sort of floating bridge, and fails. Try and try again, Eugenia finally makes it to the island. All sorts of things happen there, the most important of which are making lots of new friends and discovering she has a skill for building things.
Suffice it to say this this is not a book about princesses and pink ribbons. If you want your little girl reading stories about building bridges and revelling in the wonders of the world around us, then this is the book for her. It’s definitely going on my list of books to take into schools and libraries, translate into English and maybe stick under someone’s (publisher person’s) nose. But for now, I’m sticking it under yours as I mark International Women’s Day.
The idea for this story came from a group of feisty female engineers and architects in Switzerland who have been fighting for women’s rights for years. “We want our book to encourage girls to be curious and not settle for the games and toys they’re supposed to play with just because they’re girls.” Valérie Ortlieb, spokesperson for the group, said, “We need to give girls activities and models of women that they can identify with. So that when they grow up and start thinking about who inspired them, they’ll think of a woman.”
Switzerland (and Italy) both have a gender problem in the professional, technical world. Girls make up 50% of students in Architecture faculties but ten years later, that figure drops to 20%. Maybe if we start our daughters, nieces, grand-daughters or friend’s children reading empowering stories like these when they’re young, they maybe we can inspire the confidence and self-belief to make it where society in general expects/wants/forces them to fail.