Written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu
Published by First Second
Review by Stephanie Cooke
This comic book is a fabulous compilation that details (in brief) the lives of extraordinary women in our history. Some of the women featured within the collection are Clémentine Delait (aka the Bearded Lady), Nzinga: Queen of Ndongo and Matamba, Josephine Baker, Temple Grandin, and more. There was an amazing mix of women that I had previously heard of (and maybe didn’t know a lot about) and a mix of women I had never heard of which was exciting, fun, and empowering. It may be weird to use the word empowering in the context of discovering new incredible women but it was– I loved reading about the things that they fought for and accomplished and almost every single story made me want to strive for greater things in my life.
Basically each of the segments went through each woman’s life, chronicling it like a mini-bio but then hyper focusing on the stuff that made a lasting impact on the world. Some of the stories had a lot more detail to them which I suspect was because there was just a lot more information on those women, while others were a little more vague in what they outlined. Nonetheless, they were chosen to be featured in the book because of the unique challenges they faced and how they overcame them to be the people they were.
Pénélope Bagieu’s art style reminds me a little bit of Kate Beaton’s work that’s featured in her books, Hark! A Vagrant and Step Aside Pops but definitely had it’s own distinct look to it. It’s almost a mix of Beaton’s storytelling with someone like Lisa Hanawalt’s cartoonist colouring style. I loved it. It worked so well for each tale and Bagieu’s imagined internal monologue for some of the women within the stories was delightful and fun to read. As women, we put up with so much BS in our lives and I can’t even imagine trying to get by in a time when women had virtually no rights at all. What women accomplished before our modern times is baffling to me.
Anyways, as mentioned, there were so many women that I didn’t know anything about. Of course, as mentioned, the stories were relatively short and summed up their lives in a few pages (in most cases) so it was hard to really get a grasp on the person but it gives you enough to intrigue you into looking them up further on your own.
I made a list in my phone of women I wanted to look up later on and research thoroughly. A few of my favourites included Nzinga, Annette Kellerman, Agnodice, Wu Zetian, Sonita Alizadeh, Hedy LaMarr, and Frances Glessner-Lee. I don’t really want to give away their stories and why they were amazing to me, but aside from Hedy LaMarr, I had never heard of the others before and I loved reading about them. It took me quite a while to get through all of Brazen because I kept stopping to look up more information on each of the women along the way – it’s that kind of book… one that encourages further education and research.
There were also stunning illustrations after each story wrapped up that I honestly stared at for ages before moving on. They were so lovely and I wanted to take in all of the details of them! They were each a great way to end the story and sum up something that made that particular woman unique and special.
Buy it! I absolutely adored Brazen and I really believe it’s a book that should be on the shelf of every woman. Heck, it should be on everyone’s shelf because men need to understand that women have always been here overcoming adversity and making names for themselves and when we’re let loose on the world, we’re capable of extraordinary things.
Brazen is out on March 6, 2018. You can pre-order your copy here.