HISTORY

Let Me Be Frank: A Book About Women Who Dressed Like Men To Do Shit They Weren’t Supposed To Do

Harper Design May 2022. 224p. ISBN 9780063061064. $29.99. HIST
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Covering a lot of history in a comedic, sometimes overly conversational way, writer/actor Dawson profiles 20 women who disguised themselves as men “to get shit done” and an additional dozen tangential cases, such as women authors who used male pseudonyms and Iranian women breaking gender bans. Each chapter regales readers with wild stories of women overcoming their circumstances, triumphing in their chosen fields, and often dealing with tragedy. Dawson has quips for any situation. The stories that shine are the ones that focus on lesser-known figures such as judo champion Rena “Rusty” Kanokogi and Cathay Williams (the only woman to serve in the US Army as a Buffalo Soldier). Tina Berning’s dynamic illustrations bring life to the colorful women. The book includes a fairly extensive bibliography for readers looking for more information. Dawson purposely declines to write about the gender identities of her book’s subjects (a decision she explains in the introduction), but this discussion’s absence is felt at times, considering Dawson’s topic.
VERDICT A quirky volume that brings together stories of many interesting women for readers looking for a laugh and an education.
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