Guardian Princesses Welcome Fans to Launch Party

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Aug. 2 event celebrates new educational media alliance formed around children’s book series

By on July 30, 2014

book illustrations of Guardian Princesses

The Guardian Princess Alliance is a new educational media organization that embodies the ideals of the diverse superheroines.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Fans of the Guardian Princesses books and characters will celebrate the launch of a new educational media organization embodying the ideals of the superheroines at a party on Saturday, Aug. 2, at UCLA. The Guardian Princesses stories and Guardian Princess Alliance are the creation of Setsu Shigematsu, associate professor of media and cultural studies at UC Riverside.

The launch party is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Room 314. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is in Lot 5 and costs $12 for an all-day pass. To buy a parking permit, go to the parking information booth at the Westwood Plaza on Westwood Boulevard. The program will include readings from Guardian Princesses books, an author book-signing, princess photo opportunities, and the debut of a new music video, “My Heart is True.” Children are invited to come dressed as royalty. Light refreshments will be served. Reservations are requested and may be made at guardianprincesses.com/buygpbooks/.

Sponsors of the launch party are the UC Riverside Department of Media and Cultural Studies, and the UCLA Department of Gender Studies and Asian American Studies Center.

Shigematsu wrote the first Guardian Princesses book as a birthday gift for her daughter as a way of transforming an overwhelming princess culture into a tale of an independent, environmentally aware superheroine. “Princess Terra” was so popular with other children and parents who attended her daughter’s 5th birthday that the scholar began working with family and UCR students and alumni to develop a series of stories featuring seven diverse princesses.

seven Guardian Princesses illustration

UCR professor Setsu Shigematsu created the Guardian Princesses series of books as an alternative to a powerful princess culture.

“When we performed ‘Princess Terra’ at my daughter’s 5th birthday party the parents in attendance said that I had to publish the stories because the existing traditional princess stories were ‘brainwashing’ their daughters into thinking that they just have to look pretty and would one day be rescued by a prince,” she recalled. “These parents were not other UCR professors whom I would expect to be highly critical of the existing princess culture. They were working parents concerned about the effects of the media and toy industry on our kids.”

The stories have been popular with young boys as well as girls because the Guardian Princesses are more like action heroes, Shigematsu said.

“If we want to counter current social problems, whether it’s bullying or racism or the environment, we need to identify different kinds of storytelling,” she said.  “We want these stories to be inspiring, but not fantasy to the point of escapism.”

The Guardian Princess Alliance is committed to educating and empowering children to make a difference in the world, she said. UC Riverside alumni figure prominently among its members, who include a diverse group of parents, educators, students, artists and professionals.

“This began with the aim to transform the traditional representation of princesses into superheroines who are agents of social justice,” she said. “Its mission is to promote racial, cultural and gender inclusivity through media beginning with the book series. My vision for the alliance is to be a hybrid nonprofit business and an educational media organization.”

Shigematsu said she has been overwhelmed by demand for the books, which “makes me realize there is such a need for this. Never in my life did I think I would be producing children’s books. I am amazed that there aren’t more cultural and mainstream things like this. I want to be someone who shapes a better society and influences what children are being read.”

The Guardian Princesses books support the new Common Core State Standards for Language Arts, and include glossaries of scientific terms defined in child-friendly terms. The stories also will be used in a UC Riverside study of how race and gender influence children’s acquisition of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

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