The Penguin Q&A

Pénélope Bagieu: 'We're still not done with patriarchy!'

Pénélope Bagieu author of Brazen shares why she'd love to march with the Suffragettes and why she writes comics for people who don't know they love comics

Where did you grow up, and what was it like?

I grew up in Paris, in a popular area full of social housings,  that within 20 years has now become a hipster neighbourhood. My mother always collected old pop-up children’s books, and she had nowhere else to store them but in my room, so my walls were covered in shelves of beautiful illustrations. (And it was great.)

What is your earliest reading memory?

Not my first reading memory, but the first time I lost the count of the hours and fell into a vortex to forget everything else around me, was when I accidentally started reading Dune by Frank Herbert, one summer when I was 13, while I was bored to death at my uncle's house. That's the first time I discovered a book could do that.


What kind of books do you write?

Comics for people who don't know they love comics. 


What inspires you?

People with a "plan B" path, who find a way to end up exactly where they wanted, even though all the odds were against them. That always get me.       

Books and authors I’ve loved include:

Among many: Simone de Beauvoir, JD Salinger, Alison Bechdel, Maya Angelou and Terry Pratchett. 

Who is your favourite fictional character and why?

Eloise! I remember believing I was her when I was 6 (except I didn't live at the Plaza), and even today I still love her and her adorable mischief so much. 


Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party and what would you serve?

Roxane Gay, Gloria Steinem, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Virginie Despentes and Joan Jett, to whom I would probably serve something I ordered cause I'm the worst cook.


What do you always carry with you? And whenever you travel?

I know this is when I'm supposed to answer something clever and inspiring, but to be honest: chargers, cause I keep losing them everywhere I go. 


What moment in history would you have wanted to be present at and why?

I would have loved to march with the Suffragettes and tell them about the future and how more than a century later, believe it or not, we're still not done with patriarchy! 

More about the author


Pénélope Bagieu

'Pénélope Bagieu … is a kind of genius. This book already feels like a classic, one to be loved by every girl who reads it from now until the end of time.' Rachel Cooke, The Observer

Immerse yourself in the captivating adventures of some of history’s unsung heroines, whose stories are told through engaging voices, dazzling drawings and with startling wit.

Discover the life of an apache warrior dubbed “strong as a man and braver than most of them”, the only female Empress of China, three rebel sisters who toppled a fascist regime, a dancer who escaped poverty in America to become the darling of the Paris jazz scene and a resistance fighter, and a little girl who grew up to realise that being a witch is better than being a princess.

Take in the stories of volcanologists, astronauts, animal whisperers, activists and explorers and feel ready to take on the world.

Illustrated by award-winning Parisian artist Pénélope Bagieu, humorous dialogue and uncommon true tales make Brazen an ideal book for anyone who loves trail blazers and courageous women, from Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls to The Handmaid’s Tale.

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