#DutchKidLit – Translate This! We Moeten Allemaal Feminist Zijn by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, adapted and illustrated by Mylo Freeman

Mylo Freeman’s 2021 picture book adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay We Should All Be Feminists is currently only available in its Dutch edition in translation by Hi-en Montijn, We Moeten Allemaal Feminist Zijn. This is a picture book introduction to feminism for children ages 8 and up, and full of Freeman’s characteristically bright, bold figures coupled with a child-friendly Dutch version of Adichie’s call for social justice and a more equitable world for everyone.

“An accessible book to talk to children about feminism” via Standaard Uitgeverij.

Both the essay and the picture book are based on a well-known 2012 TED Talk We Should All Be Feminists where Adichie lays out her rationale for why she has claimed the word “feminist” as her own identity and why everyone else in the world should as well.

Gender as it functions today

is a grave injustice.

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists, TEDxEuston, 2012
“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Adichie’s original TED Talk “We Should All Be Feminists”, TEDxEuston, December 2012

In Freeman’s picture book interpretation, Adichie is depicted with her natural hair up in a bun as a young girl with a bright green tent dress with her full name in darker green letters. Her best friend joins her, a Nigerian boy named Okolama, who was the first person to ever call Adichie a feminist during an argument when they were teenagers. Adichie admits that she didn’t know what the word feminist meant when Okolama used that word in anger. When she looked up the word and realized what it meant, then she understood “what he wanted to say,” the implication that feminists were angry unreasonable beings.

Freeman chooses stories from Adiche’s original text that highlight and describe what feminism really is so that her version of Okolama, and her readers, can understand why feminism is so important. The opening story is about Adichie’s great-grandmother who refuses to marry someone she doesn’t love, running away to marry a man she did love. “She was a feminist,” Adichie tells Okolama, “Women have to choose for themselves.”

“I told Okoloma about my great-grandmother.”

Adichie acknowledges the role of physical strength determining male leadership in the past, but now that cunning and intelligence are more needed instead, “girls are just as smart as boys.” When Adichie talks about how boys are allowed to be combative and angry, Freeman’s double-page illustration features climate activist Greta Thunberg with a G and T on her coat and her signature pigtails, arms crossed in anger about global warming. Freeman wraps Thunberg’s portrait in swirls of environmental symbols, including whales, recycling logos, and power plants, as Adichie talks about women and girls’ anger and how society tells girls to behave and be nice. Girls shouldn’t have to be nice. Girls can get angry and become activists.

There’s a spread of five girls wearing fancy dresses, including young Adichie in a pink tiered and ruffled dress and her full name. The message here is that it’s OK to want to be pretty and even to accept compliments, but the reason for fashion is to feel good for themselves: “I only choose my clothes because I think they are beautiful and I feel good in them.” There’s a woman who has the same job as her husband, yet does all the housework at home and even thanks him for changing their child’s diaper: “Shouldn’t it be normal for him to help take care of his baby?” Freeman posits this question while depicting the couple as construction workers in hardhats and orange work crew vests. Yet, the wife is wearing bright pink dishwashing gloves, carrying a cleaning bucket, and multiple cooking utensils while also wearing a tool belt, looking on as her husband changes the baby. The inequities here are gently portrayed within a caring nuclear family, but they are nonetheless unmistakeable:

I also drew a kickboxing girl and a boy who does ballet, because it is also about what children like to do instead of what they are supposed to do. I look forward to discussing feminism in schools with children with this book.

– Mylo Freeman, “Mylo Freeman: Arabella Is My Way of Spreading More Color”

The book ends with the definition of feminism clearly drawn by the examples from Adichie’s life that she shared with Okolama and the world: “A feminist is a man or a woman who says: ‘It is not good to treat boys differently from girls. This must change. All of us need to make that change!'” This call for equality is grounded with a large group illustration featuring people of many different genders, races, ages and cultures. Adichie and Freeman celebrate the unity that feminism can bring to communities if we all work together to create a more just and equitable world for all.

#TranslateThis! An English edition of this picture book would be a wonderful addition to social justice and gender equality library and classroom collections in schools around the world.

We Moeten Allemaal Feminist Zijn
Written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Translated from the original English by Hi-en Montijn
Adapted and illustrated by Mylo Freeman
ISBN: 9789403131115
Published by De Bezige Bij

We Should All Be Feminists
Written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
ISBN: 9781101911761
Published by Anchor Books, 2015

You can purchase a copy of We Should All Be Feminists here.

Reviews:

“An enchanting plea by the award-winning Nigerian novelist to channel anger about gender inequality into positive change…Adichie makes her arguments quietly but skillfully. A moving essay that should find its way into the hands of all students and teachers to provoke new conversation and awareness. — Kirkus Reviews

“Nuanced and rousing.” — Vogue

“One and a half million YouTube viewings later, this small but perfectly formed talk has become an equally small but perfectly formed book…there really is no excuse not to buy several.” — Harper’s Bazaar

“The humorous and insightful tone will engage teens and give them an accessible entry point into gender studies. This title would also work well as a discussion starter in debate and speech classes. An eloquent, stirring must-read for budding and reluctant feminists.” — School Library Journal

“In this adaptation from Adichie’s TEDx talk, the Nigerian author points out that a focus on “human rights” overlooks the specific problems of gender. This short yet poignant work is a great way to begin the conversation with teens.” — Cicely Lewis, “A Teen Feminist Reading List” | Read Woke 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria, 1977) is the author of three award-winning novels: Purple Hibiscus, Half a Yellow Sun and Amerikanah. She also wrote the collection of short stories The Thing Around Your Neck and the essay “We Should All Be Feminists.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lives in America and Nigeria. Adichie graduated summa cum laude in communications science and political science from Eastern Connecticut State University. She holds a master’s degree in creative writing from John Hopkins University and a master’s degree in African history from Yale University. She has delivered two historic TED talks: her 2009 TED talk The Danger of A Single Story and her 2012 TEDx Euston talk We Should All Be Feminists, which sparked a worldwide conversation about feminism and was also published as a book.
Mylo Freeman was born in The Netherlands to a Dutch mother and an American father. After studying visual arts at the renowned Rietveld Institute in Amsterdam, she wrote and illustrated her first picture book Potje which won the Dutch literary Kiekeboekprijs in 1998. She has since written and illustrated over 60 books receiving more awards and was selected to be the Dutch Children’s Bookweek author for picture books in 2020. More information about Freeman and her books, as well as videos of her illustrations, can be found on her website: https://en.mylofreeman.com/. You can follow Mylo on Twitter @FreemanMylo.
Hi-en Montijn (1950) is an English to Dutch translator working in the Netherlands.
Kim Tyo-Dickerson, seen here visiting the Kinderboekenmuseum/Children’s Book Museum in The Hague, is the Upper School Librarian and Head of Libraries at the International School of Amsterdam. Kim has a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, a Master of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She is one of the founding members of the grassroots professional learning project International Teacher Librarians Lead (inTLlead) and is committed to world libraries, literatures, and literacies. Originally from United States, she has lived on three continents and worked in international school libraries for 16 years in both Europe and Africa. Kim’s languages include English, German, and Dutch. You can follow her on Twitter @kimtyodickerson.

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