Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

wonder woman For a superhero who has outlasted all by Superman, Batman and Captain America, she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves.  She was created to inspire young woman to take up their rightful place in society as her creator William Moultan Marston once stated that in the next 1,000 years, Woman will rule the world.  He wanted a superhero that embody female strength can be just as strong as any man if not stronger. To truly understand Wonder Woman and her place in history, you really have to know who origins and the man (and the women who inspired) who created her.  William Moultan Marston was an heir to a family with a long history.  An only child who was doted on by his mother and four aunts.  His wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, was just as educated as he was and was often the breadwinner of the family and his other wife, Olive Byrne (yep, he had two wives) was once his student and the caretaker.  He was a lawyer and academic.  He invented the lie detector.  He wrote screenplays and worked for Universal Studios during the earlier days of Hollywood.  He was a little bit of everything and a little bit of a mess. He failed as more then he succeeded but all of it culminated in creating Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth was an extension of his life work of seeking truth through his own lie detector machine and research.  Wonder Woman’s bracelets were inspired by his second wife’s, Olive Byrne,bracelet that she wore instead of a wedding ring.  Speaking of Olive she was the niece of Margaret Sanger.  Champion for birth control and founder of Planned Parenthood.  Feminism was strong in the family.  Actually the suffragist movement very much influenced Wonder Woman as the stories and imagery can be seen all over the the early Wonder Woman comic book.  This was a very easy read that goes into the great detail of William Marsters life and highlight moments in his life that he drew upon to create his Amazonian.  It may take a while before you get the actual creation of Wonder Woman but Jill Lepore does a great job of showcasing how people, situations and politics would influence Moultan Marsters and how they ended up in his work.  How an old professor turned into Dr. Psycho.  Or how the art of Lou Rogers inspired story lines.  How the likes of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady shaped Wonder Woman’s character and how his own wives and children breathed life into her as well.  Sadly, it also shows how the Wonder Woman changed after Marster’s death.  Like many women after World War Two, Wonder Woman was forced back into the kitchens even if it went against her origins.  She may have gone completely by the wayside if it wasn’t for Women’s movement in the 60’s and 70’s but even then she wasn’t the same.  It’s sad to see that many of the issues that Wonder Woman faced in the late 30’s and 40’s we are still facing today.  The criticism of her is still charged against many female protagonist of any genre. Progress has been made but we are still so much to go.  You to like this book you don’t know need to know anything about Wonder Woman or even comics to enjoy it.  You just need to have an appreciation for a good story and kick ass woman.

Quick Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Featured imageI’m going to be brief because I don’t want to be spoilery and also want to wait until Kate finishes it to talk in more detail. I will say it was a truly powerful novel.  A dystopian novel set on the African continent.  Onyesonwu is born from rape and because of it is an outcast but she has a destiny that will change the world. I admit that I haven’t ready many books that take place in Africa so this was a new voice for me. At times it confusing and it was also horrifying.  Nnedi Okorafor does not shy away from the ugliest and violent moments of the novel and it’s equal parts terrifying as it is uncomfortable.  It’s an unflinching portrait of racism and sexism and how both corrupt a society.  Onye is not only a woman but also Ewu, a child born of violence from an Okeke women and Nuru man.  She is shunned by most and seen as both worthless by many more.  When it becomes clear that she is more then normal, she repeatedly turned away from the local sorcerer not because she isn’t extraordinary but because she is a woman.  One has to wonder, how differently things would have turned out if she started training when she first asked to but I guess we will never know.  When she finally unleashes her power and saves the day it’s a sight to see.  My favorite part of the novel is the friendship from Onye and Luyu.  At first, they are just two girls who are in the same class, who are forced together thanks to a common experience shall we say but as they grow they become closer.  They give each other strength and support.  They each show bravery and different ways.  I truly don’t believe that Onye would have made it through without her.  Mwita may be the love her life and soulmate, more then a soulmate really but it’s Luyu who is the back bone.  She keeps everyone grounded in a way.  Her bravery is truly inspiring because unlike Onye and Mwita who have varying degree of powers, Luyu is nothing but human but she knows there are bad things happening and will do anything to help Onye stop them.  This isn’t an easy book to read but what the characters go through are not meant to be easy.  If you feel uncomfortable because it’s supposed to be uncomfortable.  You should be horrified at the lengths people will go for an idea and belief.  It truly was a great book.

Highs and Lows of Fandoms by Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater

I’ve actually never really been apart of a fandom per se.  There are a lot of books, movies, TV shows that I love and care about.  Despite my love for Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Magnus Bane, Katniss Everdeen and more, I’ve never signed up to any message boards or read fan fictions.  I may have time to time read other fans blogs and theories about why a certain character did this or what they think will happen next but never really participated in it personally.  Once upon a time, I was very involved in a i guess you could call a  fandom for tennis player, Andy Roddick.  Do athletes have fandoms?  I started posting on a fan site called  Soon, I was a board moderator and then I started writing recaps of Andy’s matches and got more involved from there.  I spent a lot of time on Roddickrocks.  It was the first site I checked in the morning and the last before I went to bed.  It was almost a job, keeping up with the demands.  After a year though, the site splintered.  I have forgotten the exact details but some of us wanted to take the site in one direction and others wanted to keep as is.  Feelings were hurt and relationships severed.  A few of us started a new fan site but it didn’t last very long.  I think the official reason in most of our minds was that we all got too busy. Most of us were in school or had real jobs and that started to take priority but really, as much as we tried, we could never recreate what we used to have.

Now that I think about it, this might be why I’m not much of a joiner online but really just a lurker.  It’s not how I want to spend majority of my time online, these days but also it can get rather negative pretty quickly.  I follow many authors on twitter and tumblr and there I get the gist of what is going on in the fandoms they created.  I can see the other creative things my fellow readers are making and read thoughts and theories without have to truly have to participate.  I’m not sure what that says about me but I do think it has lessens some of my online stress . Fandoms are great at uniting  people from all over the world with like interests but it can also be toxic.  I don’t regret the time I spent on Roddickrocks because it introduced me to some of the best people in the world that I still am friends with but I definitely do miss the negativity that surrounded the ending.

So why am I bringing this up?  An author I follow, Cassandra Clare, decided to take a break from social media after the fandom she inspired sort of turned on her.  Her books, The Mortal Instruments have been turned into a movie and now is being turned into a show.  There was apparently a rift between fans who loved the old cast and fans who love the new cast.  Clare decided not to take sides and was threatened by fans for it.  Recently, she with another favorite author of mine, Maggie Stiefvater did an interview about the good and bad of fandoms and it’s a great read.  They talk about how fandoms have changed.  How twitter and tumblr help and hamper them.  How they both want to accessible to fans but being too assessable comes with a price.  How they are now treated by fans.  They also talk about how that women in general are treated.  It’s a well thought out discussion that I think is very valuable to read.

So please read it here and leave comment below about what you think?  What are experiences in being apart of a fandom?  Are like me and just lurk on the outside or do you actively participate?  Sound off below.

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Featured imageStop what you are doing right now and read this book.  I mean it!   I really wish it had been written when I was a teenager because I could have used this book.  That being said, my 32 year-old self needed this book too.  It works on so many levels.  Taking on feminism, sexism and the unrealistic expectations of beauty on it’s head.  Let’s be honest, no one really expect much from teenage girls.  We expect them to be agreeable, charming, pretty, and happy and not much else. Just like you probably wouldn’t think much about a book about beauty queens stranded on a deserted island either but this is one fine satire.

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RE: Sexism, Twitter and Giant Insects

One last thing on the whole Andrew Smith fiasco.  Maggie Stiefvater said it best on twitter.

The author who said that Maggie was “more familiar with manly car things” was a female author.  It’s also a pretty benign comment that probably wasn’t meant to be sexist but could be taken as that, just as Smith’s comments were.  It goes both ways.  That’s why we have to talk about.  Sexism has become such a part of culture that we don’t even truly realize we do it.

Sexism, Twitter and Giant Insects

Author Andrew Smith is having a good year. His last book, Grasshopper Jungle, won a Printz Honor and he’s been getting good reviews on his new book, The Alex Crow.  He’s been called the Kurt Vonnegurt of YA and Grasshopper Jungle has shades of Slaughterhouse-Five with it’s multi-layered plot lines  that are kinda absurd.  However, he started a controversy after comments he recently made to  Here’s the quote that got him in trouble.

On the flip side, it sometimes seems like there isn’t much of a way into your books for female readers. Where are all the women in your work?
I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though.

So, he’s saying that the reason that his female characters are one dimensional is because he has had no experience with them so he can’t write them.  By that logic, what experience does he have with giant insects that he was able to make them believable? Anyway, it’s not surprisingly, many women in literary circles took to twitter and other social media and called him out on this comment and in response it seems Mr. Smith deleted his twitter page.  In return, many of the women who criticized have been harassed and bullied for speaking up.  Criticizing someone’s work is not bullying them and nor is having a valid point either. This has sadly become all to common on social media.  Let’s not forget that Gamer Gate is still going on. That many women on the internet are threatened with violence for nothing but pointing out sexist practices and trying to start conversations to change them.

I like this tweet by author Shannon Hale.*

but I feel for women author they really don’t have the luxury of creating one dimensional characters the way men authors do at least when it comes to female characters.  I feel like it a female author wrote male characters the way that most female characters are that they would be undoubtedly called on and probably wouldn’t publish another book. But that’s just me.

I liked Grasshopper Jungle. My only beef with it was the fact that the only real female character in it, Shann was a non-entity.   As I wrote in mini-review of the book earlier this year.

Weird. In one way, it was refreshing to have a novel take on bisexuality in such a head on way but on the other hand, the female lead Shann, is pretty one dimensional. So it’s progressive in one way and a step back in another way.

So one one hand, he wrote a compelling story of a boy struggling with his own sexuality against the backdrop of apocalyptic destruction by giant grasshoppers.  On the other hand, the few women in the story were the girlfriend, who is a none issue besides being the main character girlfriend and mom of the main character’s best friend who is promiscuous. So, in Mr Smith’s own words, he is ignorant of all things women so he’s just not going to put the time into writing them.

So this has turned out to be a longer post then I intended but that’s OK.  We need to talk about this.  We need to talk about the lack of diversity in literature, whether it’s adult fiction or young adult fiction.  We need to stop allowing authors get away with lazy opinions that because they are not female or minority that they can’t possibly write those characters so they don’t and when they do, we should call them out on it and not fear being, harassed, threatened or bullied.  Andrew Smith is good author as he was just recently honored with a prestigious award so he should be held to higher standard but then again all authors should be too.

So I ask you, what is your opinion on this or this topic?  Sound off in the comments below.

*Speaking of Shannon Hale.  Here’s an account from a school visit she recently did where only girls were given permission to hear her talk, not the boys.