Friday, January 15, 2016

"Suffering Sappho!" Resolve to read The [awesome] Secret History of Wonder Woman this year

Comic book nerds? Book nerds? History nerds? Pop culture nerds? Nerd nerds? Not a nerd? Or are you one of those persnickety, tough-to-please folks who sniff at my recommendations? Have I got a book for all of you.

It is the 2015-2016 selection for Virginia Commonwealth University's  Common Book Program: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. The idea of the Common Book Program at VCU is to "support and stimulate the academic and intellectual culture of VCU through a common reading experience". This is why people seek out book clubs--for that wonderful feeling that comes from sharing a reading experience with others, and the opportunity to discuss ideas and what we learned, what may have challenged us to think in new ways. When a book thrills you, don't you immediately want other people to read it too? Wouldn't it be great if we had a huge, city-wide book discussion? A Super Book Club, perhaps? This book has something in it for everyone. Let's join in on the conversation happening at VCU about this marvelously compelling, thought-provoking book.

This story is fun and outrageous, almost unbelievable, and bawdy at times. Jill Lepore stays true to her subject by styling the book as a superhero origin story. The heroes in this case are many and the personalities are huge. Among the heroes are Margaret Sanger and her sister, Sanger's niece Olive Byrne, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, Wonder Woman of course, and at the center of our story is the fantastic and flawed hero William Moulton Marston, a fascinating and complicated man and a study in contradictions. He was a champion of women's rights (before it was cool), inventor of the lie detector test, charlatan, and polygamist. Lepore deftly uses Wonder Woman and Marston as the narrative connection between the Suffragists in the beginning of the 20th century and the women's movement decades later, making for an all around thrilling history of popular culture and American heroes.

There is something for everyone in this swift, engaging read. To be honest, I hadn't thought much one way or the other about Wonder Woman before reading this, certainly not much about her creator. I found the women behind the man behind The Woman to be especially intriguing, and although I've never really read superhero comics, I could not get enough of Wonder Woman's story. I found so much in the book to talk about that I want you all to read it too.

Run to your local library (or independent bookstore if you simply must own it) and check this one out. Join in on the conversation!

Another of Marston's contributions.

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