This review is for Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers by Burke, Chapman, and Bales, released April 2021 and published by Chronicle Books.


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. 

My Thoughts

I received an electronic ARC of this book from the publisher on NetGalley. Just wanted to say thanks to the publisher, authors, and illustrator for this copy. I think that this book is a gorgeously illustrated overview of some interesting women authors. There are some great graphics and the layout is done so that is entertaining, while also being informative and educational. The range of authors covered in this graphic nonfiction novel is considerably valuable for the reader. The considerable amount of research that went into this book is quite obvious. While there are plenty of books out there about women authors, as well as the individual people included, this one was able to combine info without rehashing too much and collate into a beautiful collection.

Ultimately, this book touches on a central theme of “why she wrote,” which suggests that there are themes throughout these classic authors’ experiences. To explain their reasoning for “why she wrote,” the authors and illustrators convey their research through different mediums such as illustrations, comics, fun facts/biographical info, etc.

Overall, I would suggest this book to anyone, really. Of course, the amount of information that a reader will gain depends on how much they already know about the authors. Considering it covers 18 authors and isn’t a tome, the amount of information is limited. So, if you’re already overly familiar with an author, you may already know some of this stuff. Despite this, the added benefit of the cool illustrations and graphics prove the value of the book aside from its “text” content.

I think that this sort of book would be PERFECT as a gift for a bookish friend or loved one.

Here are some links to checking out this book.