Sunday, April 29, 2018

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

There are a lot of fun graphic novels about feminism coming out lately, like THE LITTLE BOOK OF FEMINIST SAINTS and DEAD FEMINISTS: HISTORIC HEROINES LIVING IN COLOR. I think this is great because graphic novels are a medium that are accessible to a wide range of ages (kids and adults), which makes them an excellent resource for classrooms and libraries. In terms of maturity levels, though, BRAZEN (as befitting its name), definitely seems like it's intended for older audiences, with depictions of nudity and some violence.

One of the best things about BRAZEN is how inclusive it is compared to the other two books of this type I was privileged enough to read. Both of the two former titles I mentioned included women of color, but I would say that a significant portion of the women represented in BRAZEN were not white. One of them was transgender and several were LGBT+.

When you do books like these, there is bound to be overlap with other similar titles, but I felt like Pénélope Bagieu went the extra mile to think about women who might not ordinarily be represented. Some of my favorites were Betty Davis (the singer and wife to Miles Davis - when I Googled her, Google asked me if I meant "Bette Davis," which I found upsetting), the singer who was ahead of her time and vastly underappreciated. There was Agnodice, whose effectiveness in medicine caused the law against women practicing medicine to be revoked in Ancient Greece. And there was Frances Glessner Lee, whose inclusion here delighted me because Vox recently did a video about the forensic dollhouses she built called "The dollhouses of death that changed forensic science."

I liked the vast majority of these stories but some of them were depressing, like the story of Katia and Maurice Krafft, or the Mirabel sisters. Those were thankfully few and far between, because it's sad to think about death being the endgame for exploring your dreams and passions and fighting for your rights, even though that is sometimes (sadly - and far, far too often) the case.

I'm giving this three stars because I wasn't a huge fan of the art style. The colors were interesting and I liked how the splash panels at the end of the chapters managed to pay homage to the women's personalities, achievements, and culture in the aggregate, but the bright colors and small font made it very difficult to read these comics. Also, there was this weird font that looked kind of like size 6 Arial in the panels for dialogue and descriptions which was at odds with the more detailed and elaborate font used outside the panels, and again, also made it very difficult to read.

If, however, you're interested in learning about some cool ladies (and are a fan of bright colors), this book is for you! I can see this being a great tool for classrooms and libraries as it inspires further research.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

3 out of 5 stars

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