flappersBy the 1920s, women were on the verge of something huge. Jazz, racy fashions, eyebrow-raising new attitudes about art and sex – all of this pointed to a sleek, modern world, one that could shake off the grimness of the Great War and stride into the future in one deft, stylized gesture. The women who defined this age – Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka – would presage the sexual revolution by nearly half a century and would shape the role of women for generations to come. In Flappers, acclaimed biographer Judith Mackrell renders these women with all the color that marked their lives and their era.

Both sensuous and sympathetic, her biography lays bare the private lives of her heroines. These women came from vastly different backgrounds, but all ended up passing through Paris, the mecca of the avant-garde. Before she was the toast of Parisian society, Josephine Baker was a poor black girl from the slums of Saint Louis. Tamara de Lempicka fled the Russian Revolution only to struggle to scrape together a life for herself and her family. A committed painter, her portraits were indicative of the age’s art deco sensibility and sexual daring. The Brits in the group – Nancy Cunard and Diana Cooper –  came from pinkie-raising aristocratic families but soon descended into the salacious delights of the vanguard. Tallulah Bankhead and Zelda Fitzgerald were two Alabama girls driven across the Atlantic by a thirst for adventure and artistic validation.

But beneath the flamboyance and excess of the 1920s lay age-old prejudices about gender, race, and sexuality. These flappers weren’t just dancing and carousing; they were fighting for recognition and dignity in a male-dominated world. They were more than mere lovers or muses to the modernist masters – in their pursuit of fame and intense experience, we see a generation of women taking bold steps toward something burgeoning, undefined, maybe dangerous: a New Woman. (description from publisher)

Liza Klaussmann’s debut novel, Tigers in Red Weather, follows two cousins, Nick and Helena, throughout the decades after World War II and chronicles the twists and turns in their lives.  The girls grew up spending much of their time together on the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard and return over the years with husbands, children and family secrets galore.

Told from the point of view of five characters (with each character’s version of reality differing greatly), Tigers in Red Weather’s concludes with a stunning twist, which was just slightly evident  throughout the novel.  I enjoyed Tigers in Red Weather for the banter between the characters on life pre and post World War II but when I began to see the true nature of one of the characters, the book moved in an entirely different direction – a direction that is as much frightening as it is shocking.

submitted by Georgann

I was stunned by this movie, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It is a documentary, telling the story of the 20-year-long civil war in Liberia, and how a group of women brought in peace. The women were sick and tired of the atrocities and human rights abuses caused by both sides of the war. Their villages, their families and their children suffered horribly. The civilians were constantly on the run, hungry, jobless and in constant danger from death and worse.

Finally, one woman could take it no longer. She tells of her breaking point and how she began the woman’s peace movement in Liberia. Christian and Muslim women banded together to bring peace to their devastated nation. They did not use arms or politics, but by non-aggressive measures gave their all to demanding peace from both sides.

Although I knew how the movie would end, it was still a suspenseful story. I just watched, still in disbelief that this movement could possibly work, knowing that somehow, it did. This is an amazing sotyr and well worth your time to watch!

s-history-monthMarch is National Women’s History Month, celebrated every year since 1978. This years theme is Women: Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet and spotlights Rachel Carson, author of A Silent Spring.

Of course, the library has the expected biographies about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but how about Billie Jean King, Sally Ride or Betty Friedan? Setting individuals aside, I found these two titles very interesting:

Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladiesby Autumn Stephens.

Cowgirls by Candace Savage

And, for today’s history makers, don’t forget  Ms. Magazine.

virtuous-victorian1 cowgirls ms