"What could possibly be wrong with this perfectly adorable X!"
August 23, 2012 9:16 AM   Subscribe

In 1972, an early version of best-selling novelist Lois Gould's X: A Fabulous Children's Story was published in Ms. Magazine as part of its monthly "Stories for Free Children" feature. In 1978 it was expanded and turned into a wildly delightful children's book with a distinctive illustration style, critiquing gender expectations in infancy and childhood. The New York Times, for which she wrote, has more about her in her obituary, while Google Preview has some history on the publication of X, now in print only as part of the 2008 anthology Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature.
posted by DarlingBri (6 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I loved the Stories for Free Children feature, and I remember this story well! (I think I liked the overalls the best.)
posted by Madamina at 9:38 AM on August 23, 2012

I remember reading this when I was a little kid, in a book my mother bought for me called Stories for Free Children, so it must have been a collection of those Ms. magazine features. The Google Preview doesn't come up for me, so I don't know 100% that I'm remembering it accurately, but that story made an impression on me. I think I must have already internalized some gender norms by that time, because I think part of what made it so memorable for me was that it made me uncomfortable and I didn't really know why. I thought about it over the years, and about how subversive it was, once I developed a vocabulary for that sort of thing. I ended up doing a Women's Studies/Sociology degree, and I think X might have planted one of the seeds for that. Good post, thanks.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:40 AM on August 23, 2012

Yes, rabbitrabbit, my mom used to cut out the ones in the magazine, but that actual book collection was one of my favorite books. It is literally in tatters now -- whatever pieces we still have.
posted by Madamina at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2012

Sorry, in case it wasn't clear, you don't need the Google Preview link. The entire text of the story is online in the X: A Fabulous Children's Story link. (Sadly, not the illustrations.)

I had the 1978 edition of the book and it was absolutely one of my favourite stories as a child. 10 years later I read it to my youngest sister. I wish we still had it; 2nd hand copies in good condition are about $40 and I'd really like to page through it again.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2012

I was read Stories for Free Children all the time as a kid, and I liked them. I hated this story and book. Even as a very young kid (we got the book when it came out, when I was 8), it struck me as trying way too hard, and it always seemed to me more political tract than good story. I'm glad it was written, in a sort of general way, but I regularly mock it now (although you'll pry my copy of Free To Be You And Me from my cold dead hand), and I would never describe it as "delightful" in a million years.

But thanks for the post, seriously.
posted by OmieWise at 9:47 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had X: A fabulous children's story when I was a kid. I remember liking it quite a bit. Thank you for this post.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2012

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