Hey, welcome back! It’s Daniela, and today’s Beyond The Bio author is the one and only Jennifer Mathieu! She has been writing stories since kindergarten, absolutely loves pepperoni pizza, and is obsessed with the sitcom Golden Girls. Jennifer also just happens to have written an amazing feminist YA novel named Moxie that will make you want to riot! It is actually already available at bookstores. Seriously, you don’t want to miss out! You may have already heard of Jennifer through her twitter and Tumblr accounts or from her other books Devoted, Afterwards, and The Truth About Alice (which she talked about with James last year). I’m sure you will love Moxie just as much as I do! And don’t forget to enter to win a signed copy of the book at the bottom of this page.
Now, let’s get to it!
Hi Jennifer! I just got done reading your new book Moxie and I feel super inspired! Can you tell our readers more about this empowering novel?
Jennifer: I'm happy you were inspired and hope other readers are, too! Moxie tells the story of an underground army of teenage girls who takes on the sexist culture of their high school - and (spoiler alert!) wins! There was no way I was going to write about an army of teenage girls tackling the patriarchy and losing, of course. The main character is a 16-year-old girl name Vivian Carter who is inspired by her mom's Riot Grrrl past and starts an anonymous zine, really a homemade magazine, that she calls Moxie. She distributes it anonymously in the girls' bathrooms at her high school because she is fed up with the culture of harassment and sexism that's pervasive in her small town Texas high school. Eventually other girls start adopting the Moxie name and a movement is born, but they send the principal into a rage and are faced with hard choices about how far they want to take the Moxie mission. It's my hope that Moxie serves as a fun, fast-paced, exciting read about the joys of living your life as a feminist.
Daniela: Being a girl, this book is extra special for me. I don’t think I have ever read a YA novel that tackled so many issues. We need more feminist YA novels! With that being said, why was it important for you to write a feminist novel for young adults?
Jennifer: I'm so glad you felt this way. Hearing something like that makes all the hard work worth it! I wanted to write a feminist novel for teenagers because I wanted them to know how joyful and wonderful and *fun* it is to live your life as a feminist. Moxie tackles some heavy issues but it's also a story of teenage girls having a kick ass, fun time being feminists and building a feminist community. So many negative, nasty stereotypes surround the idea of living your life as a feminist, so it was important for me to dispel those myths by writing this book.
Daniela: Do you see yourself in Vivian?
Jennifer: I admit I do, maybe more so than in any other main character I've ever written. I was more outspoken than she was at the beginning of the book, but when I was in high school I, too, felt frustrated with my environment and was terrified to make waves. In a lot of ways, I gave Vivian the storyline I wish I could have actually lived in high school. It's sort of a love letter to my high school self.
Daniela: Vivian is quite the punk rock fanatic. Every time she listened to Rebel Girl, I did too! Saying I like Bikini Kill would be an understatement. Do you know any other songs or bands with similar concepts?
Jennifer: I'm so happy to hear you like Bikini Kill. It's my hope that this book will introduce Riot Grrrl to a new generation. There's a playlist of Moxie anthems on the Moxie Tumblr, but some other Riot Grrrl bands that I loved and still do love include Bratmobile, Team Dresch, and Sleater-Kinney. There are some kick ass girl punk bands around right now who have that Riot Grrrl spirit, including Fea out of San Antonio, TX and Big Joanie out of the UK. I listened to all of these bands while I was writing Moxie!
Daniela: For girls who are interested in starting a Moxie club at school, what advice would you give them?
Jennifer: First of all, they can find detailed tips on the Moxie Tumblr, but I think it first starts with finding like-minded teenagers who share their passion for gender equality. A Moxie Club can have two members - that's okay! So stick a few posters up around your school and see who comes to the first meeting. Asking a supportive faculty member to be your mentor and sponsor is important, too. Check out the Tumblr for more details!
Daniela: The zines were definitely one of my favorite parts. Did you illustrate them yourself?
Jennifer: I'm so glad you enjoyed them! And yes, I did! I used to make a zine when I was in my early 20s, so it was fun to pull out the old Sharpies and rubber cement and clip art. I adored making them and hope they are a fun addition to the book for readers.
Daniela: At the end of the novel, all the girls at East Rockport High come together as one to finally stand up to sexism by declaring themselves feminists. Although Vivian started the feminist revolution at her school, she still struggled to recognize she was a feminist. I didn't even call myself a feminist until now! Why do you think that labeling yourself a feminist is hard for teenagers?
Jennifer: I think it's hard because the word feminism has been linked to so many lies and negative stereotypes, so young women are scared to use it as a label. They think people will think they hate men or they can't like lipstick or something. I'm always really open about using the term because I want young women to know they should be proud to call themselves feminists. All it means is standing up for gender equality, especially the rights of women and girls. I've found the more often you use the term the easier it gets, and it's contagious! Women are more likely to label themselves feminists if other women in their lives do, I think.
Daniela: Also, by the end of the book, some of the boys at East Rockport become involved in the movement too. What motivated you to include these boys becoming part of the movement?
Jennifer: Feminists need male allies! And as the great bell hooks once said - feminism is for everybody. It's about releasing ourselves from the burdens and suffocation of tightly prescribed gender stereotypes. So by having some guys getting excited about Moxie, I was trying to reveal to young women and men that the feminist movement needs everyone's support.
Daniela: What books would you recommend to teens who want to learn more about feminism and getting involved in it?
Jennifer: There is a terrific book called Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti that is specifically for teens. I think that would be a great place to start. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is another great one. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay may be more for older readers, but I think she's worth checking out - and she's definitely worth following on Twitter!
Daniela: Lastly, do you have any more books coming our way soon?
Jennifer: Yes! I am working on a fifth book but it's still in very early stages. It's about a teenage brother and sister living on an island off the Texas Gulf Coast with their mother, a Cuban immigrant. It's told in multiple points of view and is set in the 80s with flashbacks to the 60s! My mom is Cuban so this is something I've wanted to explore for a while now. It should be out in 2019 sometime!
That’s it for today’s interview with Jennifer, but don’t leave just yet. We’re teaming up with Jennifer to give away a signed hardcover of Moxie. Just click on the image below and enter to win a copy for your bookshelf or classroom. The contest ends on Tuesday, October 24th, and the winner must live in the United States. Good luck!