SMASH: The Origin Story

SMASH: Tearing Down Gender Rules was born when a radioactive spider–Wait.

One day, SMASH was exposed to gamma rays–Hold on.

SMASH grew up on the planet Krypton–No.

Although SMASH used to be a Russian secret agent and assassin–Um, that’s not it.

SMASH left the island of Themyscria to fight–

Picture of LEGO Avengers. Yes, I know Wonder Woman is DC, not Marvel.

You know what? The origin story of SMASH isn’t nearly that exciting. But maybe you’d like to hear it anyway?

Late last spring I heard through a writing group that Irene Goodman–THE Irene Goodman, founder of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, did you hear me? Irene Goodman!–was looking for someone to write an approachable, snarky-yet-grounded book about the history of misogyny.

Hey! I write things. And I’ve taught gender studies for 18 years. And I know some things about misogyny. And I’m approachable. And, well, definitely snarky. Kind of funny. McSweeney’s published me, so I must be kinda funny.

A picture of Lin Manuel Miranda in a blue suit in front of a portrait of Hamilton, looking happy & proud & awesome as usual.


“I am not throwing away my shot!”

I took some deep breaths and emailed her. She emailed right back! We talked on the phone and connected well–she liked my vision and wanted to know more, even though she’d originally been looking for someone more, well, famous–a big name already.

I’m not a big name. YET. But she was intrigued by my ideas, so I wrote some sample pages and sent them to her.

Then came the real shocker. She emailed, told me she loved the pages, AND THEN asked if I’d ever considered writing middle-grade non-fiction.


No, actually…I hadn’t ever considered it.

But the more we talked, the more I saw it. And the more I wrote, the more the words poured out of me, the more the project took shape in my mind, the more I realized OF COURSE this was a middle-grade book.

SMASH shows middle-graders how to decipher culture’s messages culture about gender. We can’t fight what we don’t even name. We can’t think critically about things we assume are just “natural” and “normal.” Once we see that gender is CONSTRUCTED, then? Then we have the chance to decide which messages we believe, which we question, and which we resist. Then we have the chance to figure out how to be our best, most authentic selves.

Knowledge is empowerment.


I love this book so very much.

As I’ve been writing SMASH, I feel like I’m talking to my own kids. I’m talking to YOUR kids. I’m talking to ALL kids about things I wish I knew when I was their age. I’m talking to all kids about things they need to know–the earlier, the better.

I never want to talk down to kids–they’re capable of understanding SO MUCH MORE than adults often give them credit for. Instead, I break down complex concepts and explain them in simple terms, with clear examples.

Irene’s talking about SMASH with editors now. We’ve sent out a proposal including the first four chapters.

Next blog post? I’m gonna talk about how SMASH got its name.

Unless its name changes before then.

Which could happen, because we’ve had about seven million and three title iterations at this point.

So stay tuned!




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