Feminism is Fun

Novelist Jennifer Mathieu’s new book, whose movie rights Amy Poehler has already snapped up, joyfully empowers high-schoolers to shake up gender roles.

Daniel Ortiz
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Stashed away in a crowded bookcase in young-adult author Jennifer Mathieu’s Westbury-area home, near the book-and-paper-strewn dining table she uses as her writing station for a couple of hours every evening after putting her 7-year-old son Elliott to sleep and spending some quality time with her musician and printshop worker husband Kevin, is a copy of the first book the D.C. native and Bellaire High School English teacher ever wrote. It’s a slender, time-worn novella titled Mystery at Grandma’s that Mathieu, now 40, dreamed up as a fifth grader for a school writing competition.


In some sort of clairvoyant, future-career foreshadowing, Mathieu won that competition, and, due to the prudence of her mother, who had the presence of mind to save a copy of the book as a keepsake, it now gets to reside next to copies of the four highly praised novels Mathieu has written since. With its cutesy pre-teen author portrait and its fantastical plot, Mystery at Grandma’s is a constant, chuckle-inducing reminder to the author of just how far she has come.

The author’s fourth novel, Moxie, which tells the story of a feminist uprising at a small-town Texas high school, will be released this month. And, ahead of its release, it’s already garnering quite a bit of national attention. Nearly a year ago, actress Amy Poehler’s production company, Paper Kite — the force behind Comedy Central’s critically acclaimed Broad City and Hulu’s popular Difficult People series — obtained an early copy of the book and, seeing its big-screen potential, acquired the feature rights to the novel. The last time Mathieu checked in with the Paper Kite team, they had started interviewing screenwriters for the movie version of the book. “I trust them because they’re so great at what they do,” says Mathieu of Poehler and her staff. “I couldn’t have picked a better group of people to do it.”

What sets Mathieu apart from many other young-adult authors, and perhaps what won Paper Kite over, is her honest approach to the heavy topics she is known to explore in her books, which in the past have addressed the likes of sexism, abortion and molestation. “I’m a big believer that teenagers can smell hypocrisy really quickly and can tell when someone is trying to preach or lecture to them,” says Matthieu. “So I try to write books that tell the truth. And even if that truth isn’t always pleasant, I believe that it should always still be told.”

In Moxie, Mathieu, who considers herself a staunch yet approachable feminist, explores the topic of gender inequality through the lens of 16-year-old protagonist Vivian Carter, who leads a rebellion at her school after stumbling upon some feminist zines and cassettes her mother, a former “riot girl,” had hidden away in a closet at their home. While the book tackles some serious subject matter, Matheiu considers it the most joyful and fun book she has written thus far. She’s eager to see how it’s received by her young fans.

“I wanted to write a book where girls — and guys, too — could see that being a feminist is not about hating men or about women being better than men,” she says. “I want young people to know that feminism is about liberation from all of these really restrictive gender roles that tell boys that they can’t cry or that they should be good at sports, or that tell girls that they have to be thin, quiet and super pretty to be of any value.

“There’s a really negative stereotype about what it means to be a feminist, and I love smashing that stereotype. My hope is that my new book will do just that.”

Art+Culture

SOUTH FLORIDA-BASED Italian shoe line Concetto Limone will make its Texas debut at a cocktail reception at Valobra Master Jewelers (2150 Westheimer Rd.) on Thursday, April 29 from 5-7pm. The evening of "All Things Italian" will transport guests immediately to the coast of southern Italian as they sip on Italian wines, Aperol Spritzes, Negronis and Limoncellos while feasting on an assortment of Italian hors d'oeuvres from Houston's beloved Tony's. Invited guests will have the first glance in Texas on the Concetto Limone line and the opportunity to purchase unisex styles on Thursday evening and all day Friday at a trunk show at Valobra.

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Pastries at Cafe Leonelli

CAFE LEONELLI IS now open inside the MFAH's Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, the stunning new wing that first opened in November.

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Abbie Preston Edmonson gives a special presentation this weekend

DESPITE SOME APRIL showers, there's still plenty of fun to be had! From art-centric and Earth Day activities to family-friendly fests, check out a rundown of the weekend's best bets.

LEARN FROM AN ARTIST Tune in tonight for an hour-long talk by ceramicist and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft resident artist Abbie Preston Edmonson about her creative process. She'll give a virtual presentation about her work and a special demonstration in her studio space.

Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez (photo by Kimberly Park)

TAKE A VIRTUAL PAINTING LESSON OR COOKING CLASS Be inspired by the great state of Texas during a virtual painting lesson hosted by Honey Art Cafe on Friday night. For only $20, stream a two-hour virtual lesson and make a series of stylized mini paintings inspired by West Texas and Big Bend National Park. Honey Art Cafe also has supply kits available for purchase for beginners or artists low on supplies.

And if painting isn't quite your speed, see what you can cook up in the kitchen! Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez leads a "date night" cooking lesson for couples on Friday at 6:30pm. Hosted at the restaurant, the socially distanced demonstration, which costs $150, includes a reception, followed by an interactive demonstration and seated dinner.

CELEBRATE EARTH DAY! Join the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center from 10am-4pm on Saturday for a fun- and information-filled day! Explore informative booths, nature hikes, fun displays in the Discovery Room, and Earth-friendly take-home activities. Or join Discovery Green on Sunday from 12-5pm, when the park will screen a series of short films about Houston's environment, host a panel about February's freeze, and showcase a live painting demo by local artists working on murals to decorate the park.

GO ON AN OUT-OF-THIS WORLD ADVENTURE Fifty-one years ago, the Apollo 13 crew splashed down safely back on Earth after their famously harrowing mission to the moon and back. Space Center Houston is celebrating that anniversary on Saturday, hosting two livestreamed panel discussions with current NASA experts as well as Apollo-era legends.And now through May 2, local NASA and Apollo 13 fans can check out the center's new spring exhibition, titled "Apollo: When We Went to the Moon," that looks at the legacy of the Apollo era through the lens of the engineers and astronauts who actually lived the experience.

FIND FUN AT THE INTERNATIONAL KIDS FEST Traders Village hosts Kids Fest on Sunday, with games, activities, interactive shows, live music, acrobats, magicians, clowns and more. Parking is $5, but the event itself is free, sure to keep the whole family entertained from 12-4pm.

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