In fairytales, women are often damsels to be saved or witches to be defeated. Not so in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, the bestselling books that transform the inspirational stories of real-life women into fairytale-like yarns.
Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli, the creators of Rebel Girls, have recently recruited famous feminists from the modern day to retell these fabled stories on a new podcast that shares the name of their books. In the latest episode, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #metoo movement, recounts the biography of Harriet Tubman.
For Cavallo and Favilli, the leap from storybook to podcast was inevitable. They had always conceived of the books as stories to be read aloud, even before they launched the Rebel Girls podcast. They even read the stories aloud to each other while writing them in order to understand how they would sound when parents read them to their kids.
The duo says that their aim is to make movies for people’s ears. Adding auditory elements, like the sounds of the water as Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini helps swim a boat of refugees to shore or dramatic swells of music as Harriet Tubman navigates the underground railroad, transport the listener into the story.
And they believe that bringing in women like Burke, Diana Nyad and Our Lady J to narrate these tales can help teach young girls that women’s voices matter. “We so rarely get to hear powerful women’s voices — in politics, especially, but also in media,” says Favilli.
The story of Harriet Tubman in particular continues to have resonance today for women and men fighting for equal rights: “She touched freedom. And then she turned around,” Favilli says. “She couldn’t be free if others weren’t free.”
Correction: The original version of this story misspelled the last name of one of the creators of the Rebel Girls podcast. She is Francesca Cavallo, not Vacallo.