Hey hey! So it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and whatever. But if you’re into holidays, then it is the perfect time for me to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes-From Cleopatra to Camus, a new book by Kelly Murphy with Hallie Fryd. It is about why you should think dead people are sexy. I am totes on board with this, because Heath Ledger.
I’m pretty sure the title told you everything you needed to know, which means you are intrigued but also utterly confused, right? So was I. And even after having this book, I am utterly confused. Its existence makes zero sense, and I can’t figure out how someone had the idea for it. There are four pages for each person appearing in it, and there are 50 historical figures in it. That’s it. That’s the common thread. People who existed is the common thread.
What’s baffling, then, is that it’s totally adorable and really interesting, even though it makes no sense.
To break it down: this book is snippet biographies with fast facts and trivia, packaged in a full-color hardcover that is very pretty and nice to touch. There are also cute things, like an arrow pointing to Josephine Baker’s banana skirts and a caption that says “the bananas.” Because.
To give it points: where this “let’s get to know history and make you want to learn more about at least one person here” could get very cliché and like everything else ever (because really, it’s Black History Month, so I keep thinking about how we are presented with like three options for heroes ever and that’s it), there are actually some interesting people here that you don’t really learn about in regular history classes. Or you learn about them through something they wrote or did, but you don’t learn about their lives. There’s actually some radicalism lite in here, and I give Murphy and Fryd major props for not shying away from the potential backlash that could come from telling teenagers that they should fantasize about Malcolm X, Fidel Castro and Leni Riefenstahl. There are also people that you might legitimately have never heard of, like Ada Lovelace (Lord Byron’s daughter AND the mother of computing), Maya Deren (I actually had not heard of her) and Huey P. Newton (“gotta fight back/that’s what Huey said/two shots in the dark/now Huey’s dead” – thanks, 2Pac, for getting me ahead of the curve on that one).
What this book gets right is the voice. It’s wry and sarcastic and irreverent. All aspects of a person’s life have basically the same weight, whether it’s children who died in a car crash or growing up in the countryside. In biographies that take up the space of maybe six paragraphs, you get actual information and at least something or the way something is said will make you giggle. Or smile, at least. The sex life section that follows each biography varies from person to person as far as how interesting or titillating it is, but that’s unsurprising. I also want to say that this book is pretty sex positive and body positive, and that’s awesome. Like, the hotness scale is completely arbitrary and ridiculous, and I sincerely doubt many of the people in this book were objectively hot (because let’s be honest, there IS such a thing as objective attractiveness, in addition to and distinctly different from subjective attraction we feel for individuals), but I will let it slide, because the authors say things like, “She was hot because she thought she was. She had swagger.” (Isadora Duncan, whom I don’t even care for, but now I love her, because this book.) BAM.
To be all librarian about it: I am torn about whether my girls would like this or not. They would certainly pick it up, because the title and cover are great. They would probably browse, because it’s definitely not something you have to read from start to finish. But I wonder about the age it’s best suited for. As far as getting people excited about a certain person and wanting to learn more about them is concerned, I’d say my middle schoolers are at a point where it’s still cool to be excited and inspired to learn. As far as reading about the sex lives of the rich, famous, and dead, that’s titillating (lite) for early high schoolers. But they might be too cool to admit it.
I like it. It’s fun.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can enter to win your very own Historical Heartthrobs prize package. Look at what’s in it! An autographed copy of the book and treats! WordPress hates Rafflecopter, so click here to enter the giveaway. It closes on February 23. One winner will be chosen. If the winner doesn’t respond within a week with their address, a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!