When Women Were Dragons

By Kelly Barnhill,

Book cover of When Women Were Dragons

Book description

A KIRKUS BEST BOOK OF 2022 • A rollicking feminist tale set in 1950s America where thousands of women have spontaneously transformed into dragons, exploding notions of a woman’s place in the world and expanding minds about accepting others for who they really are. • The first adult novel by…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked When Women Were Dragons as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I think every woman should read this book. In a time when we need a “movement” to be seen or heard, Dragons reminded me of our strength, of how often the world has its boot on the back of our necks.

I loved the story of 2 sisters-one who desperately wants to be a dragon and the other, who does not. It was my first audiobook and I finished it in 2 days.

This book has it all: negligent parents, explosive femininity, inscrutable magic, government coverups, simmering romance, and the best bildungsroman I’ve ever read.

In it, women are spontaneously turning into dragons, and often destroying homes and offices and lovers in the process. It takes place in 1950s America, during the whole “we’re better than the Soviets, and don’t let anyone tell you different” phase of our history, which is definitely a wink and a nod to the times we’re currently living.

I’ve made up my mind: 2024 will be the year that I dragon.

This is another alternate history with fantastical elements: in the mid-20th-century United States, women begin spontaneously transforming into dragons, sometimes unleashing destruction upon their husbands.

Barnhill’s novel is unapologetically feminist and angry in the best way, and gripping too. Heroine Alex recounts her often stifling girlhood and adolescence and her struggles to understand the divergent choices her mother and beloved aunt make with regard to their children and the siren call of “dragoning.”

Barnhill then pushes the thought experiment of her premise even further, imagining not only how women turning into dragons would shape society but what new…

I promise, my recommendations don’t all contain dragons. This book is for our times, even as it takes place in the 1950s. It’s about the danger of not learning from our past mistakes. It’s about what happens when we suppress who we are and who we are able to be. It’s about being and becoming our fullest selves, even if it goes against societal norms. Most importantly, this story points out the flaws of the patriarchy, of a society that only values a portion of its population. We need more dragons in the world, especially under a government intent on…

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