Like many kids her age, Julia Taylor Brandus loves dogs, drawing, dolls, and basketball. But as this 11-year-old from Reston starts the sixth grade, she will have accomplished something most people never will. Her book, Girl to Boss! Advice for Girls from 50 of America’s Most Successful Women, comes out September 5.
Julia, who has never been interviewed before, is a touch shy at first but soon opens up. The idea for the 256-page book, published by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster, started when she was 9. She smiles brightly as she recounts how she loves to write in school and wanted to write a book like her dad. Dad is Paul Brandus, a journalist and author who is currently working on his sixth book. He helped out, but Julia did much of the work.
“We just started, kind of, brainstorming,” she says. The two chose a concept that would be informative to young readers while passing along timeless advice: Ask 50 successful women in different fields the same questions. The women range from artificial intelligence engineers to college presidents to venture capitalists to philanthropist Cynthia Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga’s mom. (Julia tracked her down at an awards banquet to give her the questions and get her to autograph Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community, the book her foundation and Lady Gaga wrote.) By email, Zoom, and in person, Julia asked the women about their professions, motivations, setbacks, and, most importantly, what advice they would have for 10-year-old girls.
“For the 50 women, I thought a lot of people with different jobs, they all have different stories. They would all have different advice, but they all would be somewhere similar in the advice they gave. I was expecting ‘persevere,’ which is definitely what they said. And they said a lot of other great stuff that I definitely wouldn’t have expected,” she says.
The story of Stanford University professor and epidemiologist Dr. Seema Yasmin is one of the inspiring interviews, she recounts. A teacher discouraged Yasmin, who came from a working-class family, from applying to medical school. After getting support from world-renowned HIV researcher Joep Lange, Yasmin applied to med school and became a doctor. The takeaway, according to Julia: “to just always keep on going even if someone says you shouldn’t, and to just go your own way.”
A common theme of the advice: “Be kind to others, and don’t ever give up. Don’t take no for an answer.”
It’s guidance Julia is taking. The net profits from her book’s first printing will go to Inova Children’s Hospital.
“I just really thought it would be a good idea to donate to the hospital because people are in need, and they need help,” she says. “If I was in need, I wouldn’t want to be struggling.”
Feature image of Julia and Paul Brandus by Colleen Kelleher