Tuesday, July 28, 2009

DAY 2 of Pope Joan Week: Giveaway, Author Guest Post...

Hello Everyone. Today, I’m delighted to have Donna Woolfolk Cross, author of the fantastic novel: Pope Joan, to grace us with her presence here at Enchanted by Josephine.

And now please welcome Donna Woolfolk Cross with her insight on Misogyny.

My novel Pope Joan is set in the ninth century--an especially difficult time in which to live. One contemporary chronicler called it "a sword age, a wind age, a wolf age". And as is so often the case when times are hard, they were hardest of all on women. From pulpits all over Europe, women were denounced with anti-female diatribes like the following:

"And do you not know that you are Eve--the gate of the devil, the traitor of the tree, the first deserter of Divine Law...on account of the death you deserved, even the Son of God had to die."

You can see where women might have had a bit of trouble with "self-esteem" in the ninth century!

Back then menstrual blood was believed to make crops barren, to blunt warrior's swords, to infect dog bites with an incurable poison. Women were not allowed in Church for thirty days after they had given birth, for they were considered to be "unclean". Make that sixty days if the child they birthed was a girl! Rape was considered a form of minor theft. By law, women could be beaten by their men; the only law on the books was one regulating the size of the club that their husband or father could use. Above all, learning in women was discouraged, for a learned woman was considered to be "unnatural".

One theory of the day was that the size of a woman's brain and of her uterus were inversely proportional--that is, the more a woman learned, the less likely she would ever bear children. (and if only that were true, wouldn't birth control be a snap? You don't want to have a baby--read a book!).

Joan's triumph over these obstacles is truly inspirational, as I often hear from readers in countries less fortunate than ours. Though Joan's story is a very ancient one, it is strangely new--and deeply relevant to the world we live in today. Many of you will have heard about the brave young Afgani girls who loved learning (as Joan did) and kept going to school despite warnings to stay away. One day, while on their way to school, acid was thrown in their faces, permanently disfiguring (and in one case, half-blinding) them. This was their punishment for the "crime" of wanting to learn. In an act of raw human courage, these young girls (no more than 12-14 years old) have continued to attend school. The spirit of Pope Joan lives on in such brave young women!

The newly released Three Rivers Press edition of my novel has a list of "Best of the Best" reading group questions in the back, garnered from my many years of chatting by speakphone with book groups (to find out how to set up such a conversation, go to www.popejoan.com).

One of my favorites is this:
7. What causes any society to oppress womankind? What are the root causes of misogyny? Are they based in religion or in society? Both? Neither?
This leads to a lot of lively discussion, believe me! And don't look to me for the answers, for I don't have them. I do know that it's important to raise such questions and to consider them--for the veneer of civilization is very thinly applied; scratch it only a little, and all kinds of human barbarism emerges. We should never make the mistake of thinking that "the bad old days" can never come again!

Thanks so much Donna for this most interesting post.

To enter the Pope Joan Giveaway of this fabulous author autographed-with-inscription-read; this is what you have to do:

1 chance: Post your comment and leave me your email address
2 chances:
Become a follower and let me know (if you already follow, you automatically get this
**Get an EXTRA CHANCE for every day of this week you come by and leave me your comment.



Roberta said...

Great post...tried to get your "button" and the link is not working for the code..can you please email me the button "code" so I can add same to my sidebar...thanks, Roberta

Book Bird Dog said...

Would love to read the book. Wise or smart women have always been scary to others, and still are, it seems.


Am a follower.

Lucy said...

Hi Roberta, please send me your email:) The link to my button sems to be working..wonder what happened, anyway here it is: http://enchantedbyjosephine.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

no need to enter me in this contest Lucy, I have this on hold at the library. I read an excerpt on amazon and it was so fascinating! I can't wait to get it into my little grubby hands :D lol.

Awesome post by Ms Woolfolk Cross. History has been so hard on women and yet we persevere and become stronger.

I can't wait to read this.

Lauren said...

This book sounds great! I will certainly be added to my list of 'must reads' Thanks Donna & Lucy for this post


i got a copy when this book was first released. i loved it. it raised so many questions. i shared it with a friend who never shared it back so i assume it is being shared still.

i thank you for this posting which reawakens thoughts of the roles of women in history.

i would love the chance to reread this exceptional novel.

i follow you as hodgepodgespv.

spvaughan yahoo com

Anonymous said...

I love books about strong and fearless women. I have read other about Joan, and am always curious for different perpectives.

Cindy Orischuk

BurtonReview said...

Thanks for the wonderful guest post!
As far as "We should never make the mistake of thinking that "the bad old days" can never come again" I believe that we never learn from our mistakes. We evolve, but our understanding for others still wanes.
And of course, enter me :)
MarieBurton2004 at yahoo dot com

Valorie said...

I'd love to win! I have been wanting to read this book for a long, long time. I loved reading all of those facts about women. I can't believe they actually thought you would make a woman unlikely to give birth if you taught her.


Valorie said...

I follow.


Sheila (bookjourney) said...

I too am reading this book and I am finishing it in just a bit here. How exciting! Glad to see you really enjoyed it too! great post. When I put mine up I will link to yours as well.

sharon54220 said...

I would love a chance to win this. I normally don't read this genre, but the book sounds very interesting.


sharon54220 said...

I am a new follwer.


Kirsten Steen said...

Hi Ms. Lucy~ Still have not read this yet but looking forward to it even more now after reading your guest post. I got my copy and entered the Red Carpet giveaway!
Thanks for sharing this! And happy week to you!

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

My post is up. Glad to have experienced this read with you too! I am just still pumped about it!

Ingrid Mida said...

I always find it fascinating to hear about a book from the author's point of view. Thanks for hosting this Lucy. I'd love to read this book as I am very interested in women from history!

Mirella Patzer said...

I never read a book more than once. Pope Joan is the exception. I am currently 1/2 through the book. I read it several years ago, but am currently re-reading it again because I enjoyed it so much. It's a well written, engrossing true tale of a woman who overcame gender biases in a time when women were highly oppressed. I'll be writing a review of the book too. If you haven't read this book, then I highly recommend it. I would love to have an autographed copy since this is one of my all time favourite books!

This is one of my favourite blogs and I'm a follower.