Book Review: Why She Wrote by Hannah K. Chapman and Lauren Burke, Illustrated by Kaley Bales

Book Review: Why She Wrote by Hannah K. Chapman and Lauren Burke, Illustrated by Kaley Bales


Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers by Lauren Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, Chronicle Books, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why She Wrote is not a book I would have stumbled upon without NetGalley, and I would have been missing out. This collection of graphic biographies takes 18 women who wrote and, in sets of three, seeks to illuminate their lives and motivations just the tiniest bit. I really like the way this is presented. Each author gets a page-long bio, followed by a short comic answering the titular question of why she wrote, and finished off with a list of published works and important facts. It reminded me of Rejected Princesses, though I can see where it would have even more in common with Monster, She Wrote, which I have yet to read.

By presenting each writer as part of a loosely linked trio, we see how motivations can bind together even those who never met one another. Whether the wrote to explore the human condition, provide for their families, express themselves through a persona in ways they never could in their real lives, or make their voices heard as they fought for rights and freedoms, all of these women had compelling motivations for setting pen to page that still resonate today.

I don’t believe I have ever read a graphic biography, and I very much enjoyed the ways in which the illustrations brought these women to life. The art was very well done and expressive. I found it incredibly tasteful. Also, the writing itself is lovely, without distracting from the lives and works being discussed. The information included was just enough to make me very interested in all of these women. By the time I read the final pages, I read more about all eighteen, and I wanted to read more of the things they wrote themselves.

Some of the subjects are women I had never heard of, others about whom I thought I knew a good deal. It was interesting to see new facets to the latter and to be introduced to the former. There were motivations I wouldn’t have naturally considered without having read this collection. Some of these women were protecting their sexual identities for various reasons, or fighting the system to protect their rights to their own work. Reading about the drive all of these women had to put pen to page motivated me to write more myself.

Why She Wrote is an insightful, encouraging, and empowering look into the lives of eight incredible female writers. While I truly believe this could be read and enjoyed by both sexes and almost any age bracket, I think this would make an exceptional gift for girl or woman over the age of ten or so. This would be an especially impactful gift for any young girl who dreams of becoming a writer.

Expected publication: April 20, 2021

You can order this book from: Bookshop.org (Support independent bookstores!) | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping worldwide!)

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