Review: Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers

Title: Why She Wrote A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers
Author: Lauren Burke, Hannah K. Chapman, Kaley Bales (illustrator)
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

In Why She Wrote, dive into the fascinating, unexpected, and inspiring stories behind the greatest women writers in the English language.

This compelling graphic collection features 18 women—including Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Anne Lister, and more—and asks a simple question: in a time when being a woman writer often meant being undervalued, overlooked, or pigeonholed, why did she write?

Why did Jane Austen struggle to write for five years before her first novel was ever published? How did Edith Maude Eaton’s writing change the narrative around Chinese immigrant workers in North America? Why did the Brontë sisters choose to write under male pennames, and Anne Lister write her personal diaries in code?

Learn about women writers from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, from familiar favorites to those who have undeservedly fallen into obscurity, and their often untold histories, including:

• The forgotten mother of the gothic genre
• The unexpected success of Little Women
• The diaries of the “first modern lesbian”
• The lawsuit to protect Little Lord Fauntleroy
• The personal account of a mastectomy in 1811
• Austen’s struggles with writer’s block
• And much, much more!

Why She Wrote highlights a significant moment from each writer’s life and retells it through engaging and accessible comics, along with biographical text, bibliographies, and fun facts. For aspiring writers, literary enthusiasts, and the Janeite who has everything, this new collection highlights these incredible women’s hardships, their influence, and the spark that called them to write.

• GREAT GRAPHIC NOVEL FOR ALL AGES: Librarians and teachers recommend graphic novels for readers of all ages, especially beloved nonfiction titles like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, Sisters, and Guts. Immerse yourself in the stories of these fascinating women through the fun, approachable, and dynamic medium of the graphic novel!
• CELEBRATION OF WOMEN WRITERS: Want to read more books by historical women writers, but aren’t sure where to start? The stories and bibliographies of the women featured in Why She Wrote is an inspirational deep dive.
• OVERVIEW OF WOMEN’S HISTORY: Add it to the shelf alongside other collections of women’s history, including Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky, Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu, and Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico.


This nonfiction book tells the stories of 18 famous women writers, including Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Beatrix Potter, and Louisa May Alcott. Every section had written biographies which were followed by a graphic novel depiction of part of the author’s life. Each little biography described their writing careers. These included why they started writing and any controversy that their books caused.

Feminism was a popular theme in these biographies. Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the featured authors, and she was one of the first women who was called a feminist. Their status as women was often what drove their passion for writing. Some authors, such as Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote to bring her family out of poverty. Others, such as Anne Lister, weren’t popular in their time but became famous years after their death.

As a writer, I found the publishing history of these authors fascinating. Jane Austen sold her first novel for £10, which was a fortune to her. Louisa May Alcott received a percentage of royalties from Little Women, which made her and her family famous. After Beatrix Potter published her books, she spent her time searching for the bootleg merchandise that was sold with her characters names on them to protect her brand. These women all had such different publishing experiences, but they all had to work very hard to have their voices heard.

This was such a fun set of author biographies!

Thank you Chronicle Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, Júlia Sardà (illustrator)

The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell

Have you read Why She Wrote? What did you think of it?


Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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