Bestselling Author Brittney Cooper Wants Children to 'Stand Up' and Build New Worlds

The unapologetic Black feminist’s new children’s picture book Stand Up: 10 Mighty Women Who Made a Change is meant to inspire kids as young as 4 to stand up for themselves and their communities.

Brittney Cooper, Ph.D., realized the power of books to build new worlds as a child. As an adult, she proudly identifies as an "unapologetic Black feminist." Her journey was directly inspired by the books her village of loved ones provided in her youth. And she continues to spend her career as an activist, critic, author, and educator, working to bring those shifts to life through books for various stages of life.

"If you don't feel like you can offer anything else to your kid, or to the children in your life, offering them access to stories is a cheap and easy way to build a version of the world you want to see," Cooper told Kindred by Parents.

In her newest children's picture book release, Stand Up: 10 Mighty Women Who Made a Change, the New York Times Bestselling Author writes to "the littles' who remind her of her younger self" doing what they can to navigate the subtext of life whileBlack.

Cooper's earliest memory of standing up for herself was in the 3rd grade after a classmate called her "the N-word." At the time, she didn't have all the context, but she felt the "vitriol" in the word and knew she had to push back. Cooper says Stand Up is "a love letter to black girls who are figuring out what it means to have a voice." For her, books have been essential in that process.

She says family members gave her certain books, and she understood: "Here are the books you need to be reading about Black people you should know and be proud of." These books gave her an idea of what it meant to be a Black girl in the world. Cooper understood very young: "You had to stand up to people. You didn't let people push you around."

She also remembers reading about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in fourth grade, which inspired her to produce and star in a play about Parks. Of course, Rosa is one of the mighty ten women featured in her book. And Parks is a big part of the message that there is more than one way to stand up for yourself.

Now Cooper wants to give other Black children, especially Black girls, the confidence she received through books. "I want my friends' children to see Black children as part of their story, not as tangential."

Cover of Stand Up: 10 Mighty Women Who Made A Change by Brittney Cooper
Orchard Books/Scholastic

Cooper is best known for her bestselling book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Woman Discovers her Superpowers. But her other books, namely Crunk Feminist Collection and Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, which she says was her love letter to Black women, provide insight into the Black experience. Stand Up! picks up where the other books left off, giving readers of all ages a chance to learn untold moments from frequently discussed moments in history.

When choosing which ten women to include in the book, she says she wanted to show the long lineage of women freedom fighters. And she wanted children "to look at every century of iconic women who had done things that no one had done before and span the scope of American history even before there was a thing called the United States." She also wanted to represent activists through different ages and decades. Stand Up! includes activists from as early in history as Phills Wheatley to Mari Copeny, whose story is still unfolding.

Cooper wants kids to have the opportunity to have conversations about the things they see in the world, and she hopes her book will aid in that process. "Kids are growing up seeing monumental things around race and gender. We have the opportunity to talk to them in a way that will not shock, scare or terrorize them," Cooper says. "And I want that conversation to start much earlier than it started for me."

Cooper hopes this book will spark intergenerational conversations and that readers will find a character who inspires them to use their voices. Stand Up: 10 Mighty Women Who Made a Change is available now.

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