Meena Harris’s New Children’s Book Is Dedicated to Little Girls Who’ve Been Told They’re “Too Much”

Young girls deserve to understand their inner power and worth.

It’s a simple—but essential—sentiment that serves as the theme and story behind Ambitious Girl, the newest children’s book from New York Times best-selling author and Phenomenal founder Meena Harris.

Set to be released by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in early 2021, the book narrates an experience familiar not only to Harris and her remarkable family (does the name Kamala ring a bell?) but also young girls and women worldwide: the realization that little girls who embrace their ambition can turn into women who enact change.

“I grew up in what I now realize was a very unique family where I was surrounded by women, but not only that, they were very strong and powerful and ambitious,” Harris exclusively tells BAZAAR.com. “Growing up, that was something that I was raised to believe was a good thing. Ambition means owning and living your purpose. It means self-determination. It never occurred to me until I was much older and sort of got out into the real world that [ambition] could be viewed as anything other than positive and something that we celebrate.”

Ambitious Girl follows its pint-size protagonist as she discovers the opportunities her inner ambition can bring, like becoming an activist, or an astronaut, or even a politician à la Representative Ayanna Pressley, who is illustrated and featured in the story. Not surprisingly, Harris’s latest literary offering was influenced by witnessing her aunt, California senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’s own political trajectory.

“A family member of mine has been referred to as too ambitious. Not only that, it was amplified by the media as if that was something that was even newsworthy. It’s not like I hadn’t heard that before. It’s not like I wasn’t equipped thanks to my family and how I was raised to sort of navigate that,” says Harris. “But in that moment in particular, because it was in the context of the presidential campaign, it just felt like, ‘Enough already. We get it. We get that you have issues with strong, powerful, ambitious women.’

I grew up in what I now realize was a very unique family where I was surrounded by women, but not only that, they were very strong and powerful and ambitious.

“It’s something that I’m very aware of in addition to words that are used against women. There’s a double standard in a way that is not applied to men. And there are other examples of it as well,” continues Harris. “I’ve been told that I’m too much. I’ve been told that I’m too direct. I’ve been told that my laugh is too loud. You name it. We’ve all been told these things.”

For Harris, writing Ambitious Girl was a two-fold teaching opportunity. Not only was she able to share the lessons she teaches her own two daughters with the world, but she found a way to explain to them that ambition is an asset to their vibrant personalities, not a detriment.

“Like a lot of things I do, and certainly with my first book, I was thinking about my daughters and, frankly, thinking about the women who have to deal with this,” says Harris. “And I think that there’s a lot of unlearning that we as women can do to sort of reclaim these words that I think have been used unfairly, used against us in a way that is not the same for men.

“When I wrote it, I imagined little girls all across the country reading this book before they go to bed, and then waking up the next morning, feeling like, ‘I’m ambitious, I’m going to go out into the world and step into my ambition,’ and how amazing that is that we can literally be intentional about raising the next generation to know that ambition is a good thing and not allow a sexist society to tell them otherwise. I think, too, about the women who might be reading that to their kids, that they might need that reminder and benefit from it just as much as kids might.”

Harris describes her second children’s book as an overarching manifesto for a new generation of girls—an affirmation of sorts that girls can return to and remember.

“I want to see girls tell themselves: ‘I’m ambitious, I’m smart. I’m powerful. I’m phenomenal. And no one can tell me otherwise,'” declares Harris.

More than anything, though, Ambitious Girl, serves as an homage to one of her personal inspirations, someone who taught her the importance of ambition, confidence, and resilience: her grandmother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, to whom the book is dedicated.

“A lot of these lessons I’ve talked about in terms of these value systems that were passed down to me start with her,” she explains. “She was someone who I give a lot of credit to when you talk about ambition or definitions of success, which is that she, as I said, not only taught me that ambition was a good thing, that it meant purpose, self-determination, it meant pursuing your dreams. She tied ambition to excellence in the idea that you can do and be anything, but you’re going to be the best at it. Pursue them with passion and vigor.

“I wanted to include her and memorialize the values that my grandmother taught me and doing it to kind of honor her in raising these two girls who became these incredible, powerful, ambitious women with big ideas. It all goes back to her.”

Ambitious Girl, available for preorder now, will hit shelves January 19, 2021.

Source: Read Full Article