Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Author Spotlight on Jason Porath, author of Rejected Princesses, a blog-turned-book about women in history that Disney or other cartoons are not likely to animate stories about. Since the bunch of us at the bookstore are especially fond of this sort of princess tale, we are especially thrilled to carry the book—signed!—in the store for all our patrons who wish to inspire the princesses and princess-lovers in their life this holiday season.
Thank you so much for joining us and signing our stock! For readers less familiar with your work, can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
My name’s Jason! I write and illustrate a blog (turned book!) called Rejected Princesses, where I put the spotlight on badass historical women nobody’s heard about, while subverting the “animated princess” archetype by drawing them in that style. In a previous life, I used to work at DreamWorks Animation and before that I was just some random white guy from Kentucky. Arguably, I still am.
What can readers expect from Rejected Princesses?
The book highlights 100 strong-willed women of history (and a handful from myth) with cocktail party-level-vernacular tellings of their stories – although thoroughly-researched, and accompanied by a full-page color illustration imagining them as the lead for an animated movie. The stories come from all over the world: Viking pirates, Nigerian teachers, Canary Island judges, transgender Native American warriors, lesbian Bolivian vigilantes, and much more comprise the table of contents.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
I read like a maniac for this book (there’s around 230 citations in the back) to try and get as many cultural and visual details correct as possible. I loved researching all the stories, but the story of Filipina spy Joey Guerrero – who contracted leprosy and let it go untreated so that the Japanese forces would grow so disgusted they wouldn’t frisk her – was a special treat, because nobody knew what had happened to her. The last news article about her was from 1957. I got to find out what happened to her in her later years.
What was the inspiration for Rejected Princesses? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
When I was working at DreamWorks Animation, Frozen came out, and with it, a rash of terrible clickbait articles. One such article was a thinkpiece on “twelve reasons why the Frozen girls are bad role models.” Making fun of it, I asked my lunch cohorts, “if they’re bad role models, we can come up with way worse ones… what’s the worst idea you can think of for an animated princess movie?”
The answer out of that lunchtime conversation was Nabokov’s Lolita, which was such a terrible idea I had to see it exist in some form, so I drew it.
But I also suggested a number of awesome historical figures I just knew about from Wikipedia binges, like Nzinga Mbande (pre-Angolan warrior queen) or Ada Lovelace (first programmer in history) or Hatshepsut (phenomenally successful ancient pharaoh) – but my co-workers had never heard of any of them. Which I thought was a shame.
So after I left DreamWorks, I had a ton of projects I wanted to do, and on a lark, I put out twelve of these ideas under the heading of “Rejected Princesses.” It went viral, and I started posting weekly – and getting much more thorough with the artwork and research. Two years later, here’s a book!
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
That I’m a guy. Most readers assume I’m female, which delights me.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
New entries online every week or two at http://www.rejectedprincesses.com!
Best place to find it is www.rejectedprincesses.com – because even after they pick up the book from ABSW, they can find all sorts of bonus content on the website, plus new web-only chapters posted every week or so!
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
I’m on Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook as Rejected Princesses, although I had to go with @jasonporath for Twitter (@rejectedprincesses was too long). Additionally, the main website is www.rejectedprincesses.com, and it has all sorts of cool additional stuff that doesn’t translate well to social media.
Thank you very much for the great interview, Jason! It was a pleasure to have you, and we’re happy to have your signed books on our shelves.