Author Shannon Hale just posted a great piece on her tumblr. She writes about how at a recent school visit to promote her new book Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, the school administration had only given permission for the female students to leave class for her talk.

Let’s be clear: I do not talk about “girl” stuff. I do not talk about body parts. I do not do  a “Your Menstrual Cycle and You!” presentation. I talk about books and writing, reading, rejections and moving through them, how to come up with story ideas. But because I’m a woman, because some of my books have pictures of girls on the cover, because some of my books have “princess” in the title, I’m stamped as “for girls only.” However, the male writers who have boys on their covers speak to the entire school.

Hale says that this is not the first time that this has ever happened. And I’m willing to bet that other female authors have had similarly bizarre experiences.

She also comments on how this tendency to gender books can be damaging, but I want to weigh in.

This situation is ridiculous. Anyone presented with it can see it is ridiculous. And yet so often people try to classify something as a “girl book” or “boy book.”

Studies have shown that it’s harder to get boys to read after a certain age, which may account for some of the targeted marketing, but does not account for all of the discrepancies. People don’t give boys enough credit — they think that if the protagonist of a book is a girl (or the author is female — ask Joanne why she published as JK), then boys won’t be able to relate and won’t want to read the book. Those factors didn’t seem to stop girls from enjoying Harry Potter (or any number of “classic” works of fiction with male protagonists) or boys from enjoying The Hunger Games or His Dark Materials.

By labeling books as “boy” and “girl” books, we’re signaling to kids that certain books aren’t for them. There will be the outliers who will read them anyway, but so many will hold back out of fear or embarrassment, while others simply won’t have those books on their radar.

Reading is important because we see ourselves, but we also see others. We relate to characters and learn how other people see and experience the world. This is why we need diverse books and why we need to read diversely. It’s why boys should be allowed to read “girl” books (and attend assemblies about them).

Advertisements

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a book that I actually pre-ordered because I was so intrigued by the story Jill Lepore was telling and it holds up. The book is incredibly interesting. It was great to see how the character of Wonder Woman in many ways grew from the women’s suffrage and women’s liberation movements.

My main complaint is that this book felt like three stories in one. All of the stories are connected and I understand Lepore’s motivation in spending time introducing the readers to Sanger and Byrne and their struggles wight he beginnings of the birth control movement, as well as Marston’s early research, but at a certain point it feels like that’s not what I was really promised and not what I started reading the book to learn about (especially all the stuff about Marston’s research. I get that it’s kind of his “origin story,” but…yeah).

I’m still getting my feet wet with comics and so I learned a lot about the early days of comics and Wonder Woman from this book. It wasn’t quite the scandalous history I’d been hoping for (and maybe lead to believe) — I think Marston comes off more as delusional and mercenary than truly forward-thinking — but it was certainly an interesting read.

If I’m being picky, I would have liked to see a bit more of a discussion of what a resurgence of interest in comic books and Wonder Woman means, especially for her place as a feminist icon. The book is kind of front-loaded; we get a lot of examination of the groundwork the came before Marston created Wonder Woman, then it seems like we trot right through most of her hey-day and positively speed through the decades after Marston’s death and Wonder Woman’s weakening and revival. But really, as a whole, I enjoyed this book. It was interesting and informative and I now know way more about Wonder Woman and early comic books than I ever expected.

If you’ve been on social media in the last 24 hours then you’re probably aware that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and famous for staying out of the spotlight has a new book coming out in July.

Bookish circles have long wondered why Harper Lee never wrote another novel (a question never satisfactorily answered, despite hints, in the contested memoir The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills), and now we have a sequel. Go Set a Watchman is a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird (though it was written first) and takes place when Scout is a young woman returning to Maycomb.

There is so much excitement about this book that I’m worried it might be drowning out some important questions. Lee’s sister Alice was in many ways Harper’s protecter. She shielded her from people who tried to get too close and take advantage of her or gain power over her estate after her stroke. Alice died last year and Lee’s lawyer seems to be the main line of defense now. From what I gather, it seems the lawyer is also the person who found the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman.

So I’m worried. I’m worried that the release of this book is not necessarily what a Harper Lee with her full capacities wanted.

At the same time, I desperately want to read that book. The publisher is planning a print run of two million copies (that’s a ton, trust me) and I’ve already pre-ordered my copy (fun-fact: as of now, Go Set a Watchman is ranked #1 on Amazon. The AP broke the news at 7:05 this morning.)

For more info, check out Book Riot, Jezebel, and the NYT.