#FridayReads: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

SecretHistoryofWonderWomanJillLeporeA few of you may have been dragged to see the debacle that was Batman vs Superman this year. And most would agree that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the best 20 minutes of the film. We’re all hoping for a terrific movie of this beloved character in 2017 but might we suggest getting ready for it with this excellent history by Harvard historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore.

Now sure we’ve been doing biographies of real women for our fall FridayReads but we think a recounting of one of our most famous female icons counts even if she is fictional. A quick synopsis calls it riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism. A few reasons to read below.
Carla Kaplan, New York Times Book Review
“Few historians handle weirdness as deftly or  thoughtfully as Lepore….[her] brilliance lies in knowing what to do with the material she has. In her hands, the Wonder Woman story unpacks not only a new cultural history of feminism, but a theory of history as well.”

Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home (and inventor of the Bechdel test)
The Secret History of Wonder Woman is as racy, as improbable, as awesomely righteous, and as filled with curious devices as an episode of the comic book itself. In the nexus of feminism and popular culture, Jill Lepore has found a revelatory chapter of American history. I will never look at Wonder Woman’s bracelets the same way again.”

Carol Tavris, The Wall Street Journal
“Ms. Lepore’s lively, surprising and occasionally salacious history is far more than the story of a comic strip. The author, a professor of history at Harvard, places Wonder Woman squarely in the story of women’s rights in America—a cycle of rights won, lost and endlessly fought for again. Like many illuminating histories, this one shows how issues we debate today were under contention just as vigorously decades ago, including birth control, sex education, the ways in which women can combine work and family, and the effects of “violent entertainment” on children. “The tragedy of feminism in the twentieth century is the way its history seemed to be forever disappearing,” Ms. Lepore writes. Her superb narrative brings that history vividly into the present, weaving individual lives into the sweeping changes of the century.”

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