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Making noise for young girls: A chat with Kazoo’s Erin Bried on ‘Noisemakers’

The new book features stories from comics’ most talented women and non-binary artists.

Erin Bried launched a Kickstarter in 2016 to create a magazine that would inspire young girls ages 5-10 “to be smart, strong, fierce and above all, true to themselves.” Now, four years later, and Bried is the editor-in-chief of Kazoo Magazine, empowering young girls with content aimed at their unique interests and perspectives.

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On February 4, Kazoo Magazine will launch another lofty endeavor, Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Change the World. It’s a dynamic compilation of outstanding stories about courageous, forward-thinking women by some of the most talented women and non-binary artists in the comic industry. That lengthy list features Lucy Knisley, Emil Ferris, Brittney Williams, and Yao Xiao, among others.

Before the project’s debut, I sat down with Bried to talk about Noisemakers and its larger goals, how the book was put together, the messages in the book, and much, much more.

AIPT: I love how you pull young readers in by asking them what they have in common with each Noisemaker. Association is incredibly important in storytelling. What inspired you to come up with the “In Common” section of each introduction? 

Erin Bried: That’s one of my favorite parts too. I wanted every kid reading the book to very easily be able to see themselves in each of these amazing Noisemakers. The idea of becoming a ship designer might feel like a faraway, or even impossible, dream for a 10-year-old, but if she can see that, like Raye Montague, she also likes to build things and learn by watching, then that dream becomes much more real. Knowing that you share the same exact interests, or character traits, with some of the most amazing women throughout history makes anything feel possible.

AIPT: How were the cartoonists/artists and Noisemakers paired? Did you have an idea of which figures in history would be covered by a particular person or was it all random?

EB: So many of the pairings just made sense: Mary Shelley and Emil Ferris, who wrote the amazing, must-read book My Favorite Thing is Monsters; Julia Child and Lucy Knisley, who wrote Relish: My Life in the Kitchen; Kat Leyh, who rides her bike all over Chicago, and Annie Londonderry, who rode her bike around the world; Lucy Bellwood, who sails tall ships, and Jeanne Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe; Maris Wicks, who draws incredible science comics and also scuba dives all over the world, and Eugenie Clark. When an artist has a personal connection to and deep understanding of a subject, she brings such heart to the page and art.

For some of the pairings, the artist was learning about the subject of her comic for the first time, and I paired them because I thought their art style would really reflect the energy of the Noisemaker. These artists learned stories they’d never been taught before, and it was really fun to see them get so excited. As Molly Brooks, who illustrated Kate Warne’s story, said, “The only thing better than an amazing story is an amazing true story, and to me, Kate Warne’s story reminded me that the actions of just one person really can change history.”

AIPT: You have showcased women from many different points in time. With so many amazing women to choose from what was your process for whittling down the field and designating these 25 women as “Noisemakers”?

EB: The book is an extension of our award-winning, indie, ad-free print magazine, Kazoo. In every issue, we cover science, art, engineering, critical thinking and more, and those pillars formed the chapters of the book: create, grow, explore, play, rally and tinker. It would be overwhelming to choose any 25 women in history to feature, but by narrowing down our fields before we started, it made it feel more doable. For our Create chapter, which focuses on the arts, for instance, we included a painter, a writer, a singer, a poet and a chef. Don’t get me wrong, though: It was tremendously difficult to whittle down our list of amazing women who’ve raised their voices and changed the world, but I take comfort in knowing that this is our first book. I hope we’ll have a chance to create many more volumes.

AIPT: After reading this inspiring book highlighting heroic acts, scientific breakthroughs and stories of strength it is difficult to understand how we are still a patriarchal society.

Women’s and LGBTQ+ rights are under attack more than ever. Your book launches at a time when another strong woman is making an attempt at the US presidency. How did our current political climate weigh into your decision to write this book, if at all?

EB: Our current political climate weighs in on all of my decisions. That’s why the next issue of our magazine is all about kindness (something else that seems to be missing right now). And that’s why we’ve featured Elizabeth Warren in issue #8, where she gave our readers advice on standing up for what they believe in. We’ve also run stories on standing up to bullies, celebrating the earth (and fighting climate change), having hope, understanding context in the news. We even ran a story on how to call Congress, and one parent wrote to us to say how surprised and impressed she was to walk into her living room to see her usually shy 7-year-old daughter leaving a voicemail for Chuck Schumer.

Kazoo’s mission is to celebrate girls for being strong, smart, fierce and, most importantly, true to themselves. Everything we do—our magazine, our book, our videos—supports that mission. It’s the world I want to live in and it’s the world I want to give to our kids. There’s so much that’s out of my control, but what’s in my control is the pages in our magazine and book. I always want kids to know that they are powerful, capable and worthy of celebration just as they are. Is that political? Absolutely.

AIPT: It must have been difficult to boil down a person’s life to a limited number of panels. What direction did you give the artists to help them with the process?

EB: I think the most helpful instruction I gave to each artist was, “Imagine that you’re telling this story to a 7-year-old girl with two missing front teeth and grass-stained knees.” While some of the readers of this book will be older, and some younger, having that reader in mind makes it easier to understand what context you need to add the story to make it understandable and exciting, but never scary. I also didn’t want each story to be how they were oppressed, I wanted the focus to be on how they triumphed. I told the artists that by the time our reader finishes the comic, I want her to want to dress up as the Noisemaker for Halloween, which is one of the highest compliments a kid can pay to any historical figure. I’d love to see a gaggle of Bessie Colemans at my door.

AIPT: As progressive as I would like to believe my family life was, there were still certain assumptions about my future. Were you brought up in a household that instilled the belief that you could be anything and do anything you set your mind to? What did you aspire to be when you were ten years old?

EB: When I was a kid, I thought my mom should be Miss America and my dad should be president, which is so hilarious to me now. So, obviously, I had an idea of gender roles and what would be the pinnacle of success for both women and men. But funnily, I never held myself to those same standards. I was the 6-year-old girl, out there playing football with my 10-year-old neighbor-boy and his friends. I was the 8-year-old girl on the all-boy soccer team. I was the only 11-year-old in sixth grade to wear pants to the dance. They were cream-colored, and I paired them with a mint green sweater vest, because I was obviously going there to slay. At 10, I wanted to be an advertising manager (whatever that was) just like Angela Bower on Who’s the Boss. I’m really happy I found my way into publishing instead.

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