Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert

Every day Dorothy takes photographs of the C-17 transport planes as they land at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, full of dead soldiers from the Iraq War. For this she is repeatedly arrested. The security guards who arrest her, the policemen who process her, even her own daughter think she is just a batty old lady. “What is the point?” they ask her. Her actions won’t stop the war. She doesn’t even do anything with the photographs. Sometimes her compulsion mystifies even Dorothy herself. But what we know from reading A Short History of Women is that Dorothy comes from a long line of women who feel compelled to take action in order to be heard.

The most extreme example of such a woman is Dorothy’s grandmother, also named Dorothy, who goes on a hunger strike for women’s suffrage in London in 1914 and dies of starvation. Her daughter Evelyn abandons all ties with her past to become a chemistry professor at Barnard College. This book tells the stories of all three of these women and the ways they struggle to get people to listen to them, and what must be sacrificed in order to do so.

The title of the book comes from the title of a lecture attended by the first Dorothy, a lecture (by a man) which, in its condescension and failure to grasp even the slightest nuance about actual women’s issues, inspires Dorothy to embark on her drastic course of action.

Like Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, which I read a few months ago, this is a book about women searching for authentic lives for themselves and their daughters and the prices they pay (willingly or unwillingly) to accomplish this. I am thinking of assembling a list of books about this topic for Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations, but I haven’t gotten very far. Also like Loving Frank, A Short History of Women is beautifully written and very moving. I am adding it to my list of 2010 Favorites.

(Book 19, 2010)


Amused said...

I've had this on my shelf for awhile now so I am so happy to see you liked it so much! Any book that chronicles generations of women usually makes me want to go out and pick it up!

Jeanne Foster Kuyper said...

Hi! I am a recent follower of your blog... love it. Regarding your plans to compile a list (women and authentic lives) for Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations, a few come to mind. 'An Inconvenient Wife', and 'Revolutionary Road' along with 'Loving Frank' to me have consistent themes.

Savvyworkinggal said...

Loving Frank was an amazing book; I can’t stop thinking about it. I will have to add this one to my reading list. I’m looking forward to your women and authentic lives book list.

Melissa said...

I haven't heard of this one yet, which is surprising since DAFB is not all that far from here. I'm going to have to look for this one. Thanks for the review!

Lydia said...

This looks like an intriguing book. The search for authenticity is a difficult but fascinating subject, especially in our modern society

Dorothee said...

Thanks for this review! Sounded so interesting that i ordered it, and today it arrived, second-hand, with a souvenir inlcuded - i just blogged with a linkback to the starting point = your post:

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