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GROUP READS > February NONFICTION selection THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN

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message 1: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
We will be reading Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman for the month of February.

Who will be joining us in this read this month? Has anyone read anything else by Lepore? Looks like she has published quite a lot more than I originally realized, and I even have another one of her books already marked To-Read that I didn't even realize. :)


message 2: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
I managed to get a copy of this book over the holidays at my office gift swap party. For some reason no one wanted the books that kept floating around! I gladly gave up the bottle of wine that I thought I was going home with when I realized there was an option for a couple of books. This was one of the books, so I'm eager to get started reading - hopefully this evening. I know February is a short month, so I hope people have a chance to read this with us.

(Though of course the threads remain open if you can't get to it this month - please do stop back whenever you do read it and share your thoughts.)


message 3: by Viv (new)

Viv JM | 11 comments I have a copy of this book from the library and it looks fascinating. I'll start reading in the next few days and look forward to discussing it with the group.


message 4: by CD (new)

CD  | 103 comments My local library Book Club is reading this as our February selection. I've 'finished' it, but haven't reviewed yet. (I usually don't until after our meeting)

Wonderful selection!

Let's hope they don't screw up the movie come out later this year . . .


message 5: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
CD wrote: "Let's hope they don't screw up the movie come out later this year . . .",

I'm always a bit more wary of DC movies (as opposed to Marvel movies which I almost always watch without too much reservation). I still haven't watched Batman vs. Superman which is where the Wonder Woman character was introduced prior to her own movie, right? (I've also heard the Wonder Woman scenes were the best of all of the B v. S...)

I'll be reading this with another group on GR this month, so apparently this is a hot book for the month of February. :)


message 6: by Viv (new)

Viv JM | 11 comments El wrote: "CD wrote: "Let's hope they don't screw up the movie come out later this year . . .",

I'm always a bit more wary of DC movies (as opposed to Marvel movies which I almost always watch without too mu..."


I think Batman vs Superman was the worst movie I've ever seen! Wonderwoman was the only redeeming feature. If they'd have brought her in at the start it would have saved B&S a whole lot of angst :-)


message 7: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 384 comments Mod
Oh I read this book a year or two ago and absolutely loved it. I thought it was a great feminist compilation and it offered doorways to more reading. I would love to reread this with the group and hope I can work it in this month


message 8: by Viv (new)

Viv JM | 11 comments I've read the first couple of chapters and think it's going to be a great book!

I was really struck by the quote in the first chapter from Emmeline Pankhurst, and how depressing that it could still stand now: "The most ignorant young man, who knows nothing of the needs of women, thinks himself a competent legislator, because he is a man" :-(


message 9: by CD (new)

CD  | 103 comments The 'real world' Book Club I am a member of meets in about 24 hours.

Looking for good discussion questions, topics, or general comments re: The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

Thanks and I'll report back as is or not :) warranted!


message 10: by Candace (new)

Candace | 35 comments While I was not very impressed with Lepore's writing or the editing of the book, I have a deep appreciation for what she seemed to want to do with the book. As the first person with access to the family's private papers, she has the monumental task of presenting the information in a cohesive fashion to the public. Not so easy, I'd guess.

I was glad when she pointed out herself how Marston, who publicly claimed to be a huge supporter of women and that women would be running the world someday soon, he did not seem to practice this much in his private life. Lots of interesting details about the family's private life, but I would have appreciated more connection to events going on in the world at the same time.


message 11: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
I'm here, I'm finally here! I started reading this last night, and am already thoroughly enjoying it, though I'm not terribly far along yet.

This part stood out to me already, though:
The word "feminism", hardly ever used before 1910, was everywhere by 1913. It meant advocacy of women's rights and freedom and a vision of equality markedly different from that embraced by the "woman movement" of the nineteenth century, which, nostalgic for a prehistoric, matriarchal "mother-age", had been founded less on a principle of equality than on a set of ideas about women's moral superiority. "All feminists are suffragists, but not all suffragists are feminists," as one feminist explained. Feminists rejected the idea of women as reformers whose moral authority came from their differentness from men - women were supposedly, by nature, more tender and loving and chaste and pure - and advocated instead women's full and equal participation in politics, work, and the arts, on the grounds that women were in every way equal to men.

Suffrage was a single political goal. Feminism's demand for equality was broader, both more radical and more difficult.
(p 18-19)

It made me think of how frequently I still hear comments, especially from women, like "I wouldn't call myself a feminist, but... I do believe women should get paid the same as a man for the same work..." That's feminism!!

The difference in definition between "suffrage" and "feminism" is an interesting one. As many of us know, feminism as a whole struggles with intersectionality in many circles, but suffragists had the one political goal of women having the right to vote. Important, absolutely, but the goal was primarily for white women. Full equality was not exactly what suffragists of the early 20th century were striving for.


message 12: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
According to the behavioralist John B. Watson, feminism itself was a form of deviance: a feminist was a woman unable to accept that she wasn't a man. "Most of the terrible women one must meet, women with the blatant views and voices, women who have to be noticed, who shoulder one about, who can't take life quietly," Watson wrote in the Nation, "belong to this large percentage of of women who have never made a sex adjustment."
(p 110)

I am proud to say I don't 'take life quietly.'


message 13: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
Interesting comparison to Marilyn Monroe, Sisa. I hadn't thought of that initially, but there are definitely similarities in what it means to be an icon.

I finished reading this book last night but haven't had a chance to write up my review. I liked the book and didn't like it. I felt that Lepore did have a lot of great information to share, but maybe all of it shouldn't have been all in one book. Marston and his life could be an interesting book all on its own. I had hoped this book would focus primarily on Wonder Woman and the history of feminism (or WW's role in feminism, or feminism in WW). Lepore touches on those details, but it's almost overlooked because of all the talk about Marston.

Plus I felt she was making a lot of stretches with her information. Lots of information about Marston and the lie detector, and then one second to say something about WW's Lasso of Truth (which I don't even think Lepore called it the Lasso of Truth at all in her text, now that I think of it... though I could be wrong).

Right now I'm leaning towards a 3-star rating when I write up my review, though the more I think about it and the choppiness of Lepore's writing, the more I want to drop that to a 2-star rating.

It's a shame, though, because I have long been a WW fan, so I did really hope for something more out of this. While reading this book I've been going through stuff in my basement to do some purging of my things before we move in a couple of weeks, and found my WW deck of cards I've had from childhood, a pad of WW stationery, and a WW Filofax that I loved and used probably about 10 years ago and yet completely forgot about. (Unfortunately the binder is no longer usable since it got crushed in the tubs, but I could at least remove the WW tabbed dividers to use in my current Filofax.)

Finding those things just made me remember how important WW has been to me over the years.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Finally my name came up on the library's waiting list. Sure is popular. Starting it today.


message 15: by LadyNymm (new)

LadyNymm | 2 comments I've started reading this a couple of days ago and so far enjoying, though I am finding the writing a bit choppy. I had to read the chapter in the beginning about Olive Byrne twice because Lepore jumped suddenly to talking about her aunt Margaret Sanger and her mother Ethel Byrne.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) I'm enjoying the book, but it is choppy!


message 18: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Noble (outsmartyourshelf) I'm late to the party, I know! Not knowing much about Wonder Woman, except for loving the TV series when I was a kid, I was looking forward to this book.

I felt it was more a biography of the creator than the history of the character (although there is some of that too) which wasn't what I was expecting. The book gave me the impression of William Moulton Marston as an odd mix of early feminist and sexual chauvinist. He was ahead of his time in certain views such as women being the equal of men and working outside the home, but basically gave his wife the ultimatum of either accepting his mistress or he would leave her.

It does seem to have worked out fairly well, but I got the feeling that the women deserved better. Marston seemed to have been a bit of a coaster in life and his wife supported them all financially for years.

I agree with others that the historical parts about suffrage, birth control, etc could have done with expanding and linking more to the central theme. So, the book was not what I was expecting to read but interesting enough.


message 19: by Candace (new)

Candace | 35 comments Gayle wrote: "I'm late to the party, I know! Not knowing much about Wonder Woman, except for loving the TV series when I was a kid, I was looking forward to this book.

I felt it was more a biography of the cre..."


Wasn't it weird, how he was ahead of the times but also a conservative when it came to gender roles?! It kind of drove me crazy throughout the book, though I did try to imagine life in the early 1900s and how to those feminists he may have seemed like a progressive man. Maybe.


message 20: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Noble (outsmartyourshelf) Wasn't it weird, how he was ahead of the times but also a conservative when it came to gender roles?! It kind of drove me crazy throughout the book, though I did try to imagine life in the early 1900s and how to those feminists he may have seemed like a progressive man. Maybe.

Yes it was very weird. He must have been very charismatic in person, because on paper I struggled to see why three women were so enamoured.


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