READ: The Secret History of Wonder Women by Jill Lepore

The RadioLab podcasts consistently amaze me. This week the episodes Fu-Go and Los Frikis had me saying “Holy Shit” over and over again. If I tell you to much I’ll spoil them…the bare details are that Fu-Go reveals a crazy story about the Japanese during WWII, and Los Frikis tells a story about Cuba, punk, and HIV. These true stories are secret histories that will astound you.

Hidden truths are so much juicier and interesting than the sanitized versions of history most of us know. I loved the shocking, fun, and hilarious details in Jill Lepore’s book, “The Secret History of Wonder Women.” Lepore wrote this book with obvious delight. It is an inherently readable history that reads like a juicy, unputdownable (is that a word?) novel. I know doing all of this research must have been really hard and time-consuming, but it seems like Lepore is having a lot of fun with the material.

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The main character in the book is William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman (and also the lie detector test). Marston was a feminist, a polygamist, a bohemian, a swindler, and an academic. All of the diverse experiences in his life led him to the creation of Wonder Women. The whips, chains, and bondage that are in every single episode of the early comics are partly fetish, but Marston kept them in there to show a strong woman breaking the bonds that were imposed by a male-dominated society.

Lepore goes into great details on the Women’s Rights movement, particularly in regards to Margaret Sanger, the creator of Planned Parenthood. Sanger had connections to Marston through Olive Byrne, the woman who lived with Marston and his wife and bore his children. I’m a little ashamed to admit I had never heard about Ethel Byrne, Margaret’s sister and Olive’s mother. Lots of brave people have contributed to the “liberation” of women. We still have a long way to go  – reading about inspirational women who paved the way for all of us is an important reminder that we need to keep demanding changes because we do not want to allow any of the hard work that all of these women (and men) did go to waste.

Lepore adds great anecdotes to the book which reveal where certain characters in Wonder Women came from. She also provides interesting details about the origins of comics (Read Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” for a great fictionalized version of this). The book includes a fantastic collection of photos, sketches, and snippets of the original comics. Overall, reading this book makes me want to study history all the time – because there are so many great hidden histories out there.

If you think all of this sounds interesting, but don’t want to read the entire book, check out this article in the New Yorker that Lepore wrote. She writes:

“Superman owes a debt to science fiction, Batman to the hardboiled detective. Wonder Woman’s debt is to feminism. She’s the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman-suffrage campaigns of the nineteen-tens and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later. Wonder Woman is so hard to put on film because the fight for women’s rights has gone so badly.”

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Words of Wisdom an excerpt from Wendell Berry’s new book.

These Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwiches are AMAZING. We’ve made them 3x. Delicious.

I read “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson in a few hours last weekend. It won the National Book Award and should be required reading for all 4th and 5th graders. It’s a coming of age book set in the 60’s and 70’s told in a lyrical, rhythmic pattern. Unique, powerful, beautiful.

I also just finished the latest Oprah book club selection, “Ruby” by Cynthia Bond. Of course, I loved the title, but I didn’t love the book. It is brutal and rough and left me disgusted with the human race. Bond uses magical realism and she writes beautifully, but this is a hard, disturbing novel. Be prepared to witness incredible evil if you read this!

Lauren Groff, who wrote one of the BEST books ever, “Arcadia,” has a new book, called “Fates and Furies” coming out in September. If you have not read “Arcadia,” add it to the top of your book pile!

Can’t stop thinking about the poem “Mysteries, Yes” by Mary Oliver. In particular, these lines:

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

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