A GOODREADS BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR • A fiery feminist fantasy 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.
"Ferociously imagined…and as exhilarating as a ride on dragonback." —Lev Grossman, bestselling author of The Magicians Trilogy
"Completely fierce, unmistakably feminist, and subversively funny." —Bonnie Garmus, bestselling author of Lessons in Chemistry
In the first adult novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Ogress and The Orphans, Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours, except for its most seminal event: the Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales, and talons; left a trail of fiery destruction in their path; and took to the skies. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex’s beloved aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn’t know. It’s taboo to speak of.
Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of this astonishing event: a mother more protective than ever; an absentee father; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and
watching her beloved cousin Bea become dangerously obsessed with the forbidden.
In this timely and timeless speculative novel, award-winning author Kelly Barnhill boldly explores rage, memory, and the tyranny of forced limitations. When Women Were Dragons exposes a world that wants to keep women small—their lives and their prospects—and examines what happens when they rise en masse and take up the space they deserve.
Newbery winner Barnhill (The Girl Who Drank the Moon) makes her adult debut with a deeply felt exploration of feminism in an alternate fantastical history. Alex Green was a child in Wisconsin in 1955 when over 600,000 American women spontaneously turned into dragons, including her beloved Aunt Marla, and flew away. Alex's mother brings Marla's daughter Beatrice to live with them and, like the rest of American society, refuses to even discuss dragons. Alex grows up adoring her younger cousin, and their close friendship assuages the stress she feels from her mother's pressure to succeed at school, as well as from her chauvinist father. After Alex's mother dies of cancer, her father moves the girls into a tiny apartment where he offers meager financial support and forbids Alex from shopping at the grocery store, afraid people will think he can't provide for them. Determined to get to college, Alex plows through high school with the help of a librarian; she also cautions Beatrice over her "dangerous" attraction to images of angry dragons. Meanwhile, flyers promising the truth about the "Great Dragoning" begin to appear around town, and scientists try to determine the cause of the women's metamorphosis. Barnhill makes palpable Alex's sense of loss as well as the strictures of mid-century American life. This allegory packs a punch.
Best book I read in years
I loved this book. It’s very special and should be cherished for generations of women to come.
Poignant and powerful
Very moving story that reflects life in a fantastic way yet feels real at the same time.
All I can say is wow…
I am forever changed.