UC Santa Cruz alum writes first children’s book in City Lights’ 60-year history

Rad American Women A-Z book cover
UC Santa Cruz alumna Kate Schatz
Author Kate Schatz graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2001 with a B.A. in Women’s Studies & Creative Writing
Patti Smith (illustration by Miriam Klein Stahl, 2015)
Patti Smith (illustration by Miriam Klein Stahl, 2015).
“American history is filled with stories of brave and powerful men, but have you ever wondered where the women are?”

So begins Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History…And Our Future, a new book for kids by UC Santa Cruz alumna Kate Schatz.

It features the stories of 26 women who have had a major impact on American life--from artists and abolitionists, to scientists and sports heroes, to rock stars and writers.

It also has the distinction of being the first children’s book published by San Francisco’s famed City Lights Publishers in the company’s 60-year history.

“I decided to write this book so that my daughter would have something fun, informative, and empowering to read when she was old enough,” said Schatz. “But the more I talked to friends about the idea, the more I felt their enthusiasm around it, and realized the legitimate need for a book like this.”

A graduate of UC Santa Cruz in 2001 with a B.A. in Women’s Studies & Creative Writing, Schatz said that her time on campus had a major influence on her life and the book.

“I loved my experience at Santa Cruz, and remain so glad that I was able to go there,” said Schatz. "UCSC was incredibly formative in so many ways, and many of my closest friends are my UCSC pals. I'm still close with several of my professors as well, which I think is pretty remarkable.”

“Majoring in Women's Studies (now Feminist Studies) and Creative Writing pretty much shaped everything. I came in wanting to be an Environmental Studies major, but I took Intro to Feminism with Bettina Aptheker my first quarter--and that was that. Then I took a fiction writing class, and that, too, was that,” she added.

“Women's Studies became the lens through which I learned about and came to understand so many different fields, from literature to economics to history. Creative Writing workshops became the place where I took all of that critical thought and worked it into characters and new language. The two fields of study were so complementary-- I'm pretty excited at how they've come to directly influence what I'm doing now!“

Schatz’s Rad American Women includes many bold, visionary women whose names and achievements will be recognized by many, including tennis star Billie Jean King, farmworker activist Dolores Huerta, comedian Carol Burnett, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, rock singer/poet Patti Smith, and author Ursula LeGuin.

But the A-Z book also introduces readers to women they might not have heard of, such as Ella Baker, who mentored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and helped shape the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, Schatz reserves the letter “X” For The Women Whose Names We Don’t Know—noting “it’s for the women we haven’t learned about yet, and the women whose stories we will never read.”

“We all need role models, and the more we can expand the pool of visible, familiar faces and names, the better,” said Schatz, who is Chair of the School of Literary Arts at Oakland School for the Arts, where she teaches fiction, poetry, and journalism to 9th-12th graders.

“American history gets pretty fixed on a few singular figures, especially when it comes to women and people of color. I hope this book opens up the field of history a bit, and shows readers—whether they're boys or girls, kids or grown-ups—some new inspiring figures.”

Rad American Women A-Z includes graphic paper-cut style illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl. The official publish date from City Lights is March 23.