“The Secret History of Wonder Woman” book response and February selection!

IMG_3021.JPG

Our group decided to go with a non-fiction book for January, and boy did we pick something unexpected. Libby, Steph and I nominated three books and then had our new facebook group vote on which to read. The group chose The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. What a doozy!

Shifting from easy fiction to a book like this was a bit of a jolt for me and it look a little while to get my brain back in the academic game. My first issue with this book is that the title and cover are misleading. Aside from little sneak peeks, illustrations, and clips from comic strips, the creation of Wonder Woman does not happen until almost page 200!

The book is, actually, a detailed biography of WW creator William Moulton Marston, starting his first year in undergrad at Harvard. There are many interesting parts to the book, most of which do not concern Marston himself. His wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston was an amazing go-getter, especially for the 1920s and 30s. She earned as many degrees as she could, matching her husband one-for-one. She was actually the breadwinner for most of their relationship, which is really saying something considering the family was made of 8 (and a half) people, when one adds live-in mistress Olive Byrne, four children (two from each lover) and a sometime-roommate (and probable lover) who at times lived in the attic.

fullsizerender
I mean …

Olive Byrne was Margaret Sanger’s niece so there was a nice deviation off of the main story about the advent of the birth control movement. Sanger’s sister (Olive’s mother) was Ethel Byrne who was arrested in 1917 for talking about the fact that pregnancy could be prevented, and whose hunger strike in prison brought the nation’s eyes to this topic. I love that Jill Lepore included prints of the newspapers distributed by birth control advocates and feminists back in the 19-teens. I was also saddened that we are often rehashing the same arguments 100 years later. “In the end, the judge ruled that no woman has ‘the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception’: if a woman isn’t willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn’t have sex.” Yes, I see this argument in facebook arguments daily.

img_3022

Changing the topic, I have this minor fascination with the turn of the century and some of the kooky stuff that happened pre-Great Depression. People had so many ideas then. I feel that rich white people were always up to something strange. Global exploration, countless inventions, the birth of Psychology as a science (which was explored a bit in this book), the beginnings of science fiction (Verne, Wells), and even political explorations, like Russia’s communist revolution! My work campus sits on the former site of a utopian cult so I have been down that rabbit hole many times. The past is often sanitized, so the idea of free love experimentation before the 1960s really surprised me, but at the same time, totally made sense. What I really didn’t get was—what did these women see in Marston? Was it simply the desire to be different? In my eyes he was an entitled, semi-successful psychologist who routinely borrowed his women’s ideas and passed them off as his own, usually blatantly denying them credit. Not much going for him, but he certainly was different from men of the day.

There is a lot to get into with this book, but writing about it one-sided is not doing the topic justice. Our virtual book club had an online discussion group last night and I very thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad that others had the same reactions as I did to aspects like, what did all these women see in Marston? What is he bringing to the table here? 

More reading:

The Free-Love Experiment That Created Wonder Woman, Noah Berlatsy, The Atlantic

The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore, Smithsonian Magazine

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


Virtual Book ClubA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

For February, our group fittingly picked a light rom-com by queen of the genre Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, etc). Heartburn promises to be less cumbersome than January’s book, so please join along with Libby, Steph, and the rest of our group as we read together.

“A Man Called Ove” book response and January selection!

Virtual Book ClubTo finish out the year we picked A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a book that has been making its way around many book club circles especially in the latter part of this year. The blurbs on the cover of this book pitched it as touching and heartwarming. I am generally a fan of Swedish things, so I was looking forward to reading this Swedish best-seller.

I will admit that this book did not win me over until the last couple of chapters. I’m not one to not finish books, but if I wasn’t reading it for book club, I might have set this one down and moved on to something more exciting. I found that Ove reminded me too much of people in my life who’ve let the process of following rules to the letter, and sticking to rigid principles instead of practicing flexibility, rob them of so much joy. I understand that is the point of the book, the word “curmudgeon” is right there on the cover, and yet when I dove in I really underestimated Ove’s curmudgeonliness.

[Spoilers in the next two paragraphs, I guess]
Ove’s preoccupation with ending his life really rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, his wife died and he doesn’t know how to adjust to the world at large without her. Suicidal tendencies are not out of the question when the most important person in the world is taken away. I know that depression is a crushing and inescapable feeling and I think the author treated the protagonist’s three failed suicide efforts (one serious, two more half-hearted) too lightly, as “day in the life” episodes instead of life-shattering moments which they would be.

It is revealed bit by bit that Ove has had a hard life. Growing up very poor, losing his house, his wife’s accident, losing his wife: these are all things that can make a person’s heart hard. However, the way the story is presented, it seems like Ove’s heart has always been hard even from childhood. In this way it is not like Ove’s diverse group of neighbors are helping him rediscover a version of himself that was lost long ago, but instead totally change his whole personality. Of course, the end where he does change himself to being open to his new neighbors and knits himself into the lives of those in his cul-de-sac is the best part of the book, and once we reach that point, it feels more like an epilogue than part of the story itself. So, aside from the fact that an elderly man changing his whole personality seems far-fetched, the end is by far the best part of the book and it does live up to the “touching” and “heartwarming” blurbs on the back. But it’s kind of too little, too late.

A Man Called Ove

There have been one or two book club reads that I’ve been “meh” about but this was the first one I actively disliked as I was reading it. Looking forward to what my fellow readers have to say in their responses! I know Libby will be posting one up and Steph might be posting one too so make sure to check out their blogs.

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


The Secret History of Wonder WomanA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

To start the new year, we decided to read a non-fiction book since the majority of what we tackled in 2016 was fiction work. Our facebook group voted on three choices and picked The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Havard professor and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore. This book was Steph’s choice, which I voted for over my own nomination! The Amazon synopsis sounds really great so I am very much looking forward to this glimpse of feminism in the comic book industry.

“Someday, Someday Maybe” Book Review and December Selection!

Virtual Book ClubGreat news! We made a facebook group for the Virtual Book Club. We are going to be doing some discussion over there regarding the monthly book and other books that we happen to be reading, too. It’s currently a closed group, but if you are interested in joining, let me know and I will be happy to add you.


Hey guys! I can’t believe November went by so fast. I feel like I just finished writing my response to The Graveyard Book but here we are. We picked something light to read, since as the holiday season gears up, time somehow becomes more scarce. Someday, Someday Maybe definitely was light. I finished out in about five or six hours, which was nice.

The book is written in the first person. Through the eyes of our heroine, Franny, we get a glimpse of what it may have been like to be a struggling actress in New York city in 1995. The author, Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood) has a lot of personal experience to draw on, I’m sure.

Someday, Someday Maybe

A really cute thing in the book were these little pages from Franny’s day planner. Some weeks were meticulous and full; others were dust and tumbleweeds. It reminded me of my own planner. Another cute thing was the use of the answering machine. I totally remember the days before I had a cell phone and the only way to get important information was to hunt someone down or leave them a message. Sometimes I think it would be really freeing to only check my phone messages (and email) once or twice a day instead of constantly.

Franny has a lot of self-doubt, something that doesn’t come in handy for an actress, I’m sure. We all have self-doubt, but we don’t all work in industries where the goal is to stand out or face total failure. As a result of these insecure feelings, she makes a bunch of questionable life choices. She picks the sleazy agent over the friendly agent, she picks the superficial and pretentious dude over the nice guy, etc. She tries to derive her strength from others instead of from herself. Her strongest moment of personal growth comes when she turns down a job that (after lots and lots—too much—hemming and hawing) she decides compromises her values. I guess that was the point of the book! Pull your strength from within instead of trying to attach yourself to others that seem successful.

There were a few points in the book that I found pretty meta, particularly the conversation between Dan and Franny about love triangles as a tired trope. I think it was the author’s way of winking at us readers, “yeah, love triangles are a bit tired but still cute and compelling, so I’m using one anyway.” Franny was a little annoying, but I saw some of myself in her immature, rambling inner monologues. We can’t all be perfect. ;)

Actually, Lauren Graham came out with another book this week, Talking As Fast as I Can, which is about herself. It would be interesting to read it and compare her stories of breaking out as an actress to the fictionalized version in Someday, Someday Maybe.


Our final book of 2016 will be A Man Called Ove. It’s supposed to be a “feel-good” story and my coworker compared it to the movie Up, which I haven’t seen but everyone seems to like. Lately I have been getting into all things Scandinavian so I’m looking forward to reading this (a movie adaptation is coming out, too).

As always, hop over to Libby’s blog to read her take on our monthly book (spoiler alert: she didn’t like it)! And again, let me know if you want to join our facebook group!