Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear by Amber J. Keyser #Review @amberjkeyser @lernerbooks

Underneath it All: A History of Women's Underwear by Amber J. Keyser

I love history, and that includes not only important historical events, but also the history of things and how they evolved over the years. When it pertains to women, as well, I want to learn about it even more, so it’s no surprise this book appealed to me for multiple reasons.

The book is brief (only 96 pages), but it contains a lot of fascinating information. Here are a few examples of things I found particularly interesting:

Bras were presumed invented in the late 19th century, until a 2008 archeological discovery in Austria of four Medieval-era bras, which were radiocarbon dated to sometime between 1390-1485.

  • Upper-class women wore corsets under their clothes, tightly laced in the back. Lower-class women wore jumps—a corset made of leather or thick cloth—which was worn over the clothes and laced in the front. A lower-class woman wearing a corset was often called uppity, vain, or whorish.
  • Two million whales were killed during the 18th and 19th centuries, due to the demand for whale oil and corset stays.
  • Corset stays were made from baleen—a flexible horny substance hanging in fringed plates from the upper jaw of baleen whales—and not actual whale bone.
  • Until the 19th century, women wore loose fitting, open-crotched pants called drawers under their dresses (or nothing at all). The sprung-steel hoopskirt became fashionable in the late 1850’s, but it had the drawback of flying up unexpectedly. The solution was to sew the open crotch of the drawers shut, which sparked a debate over open vs. closed crotch drawers.
  • Bloomers were scandalous attire, and women who dared wear them were accused of being loose, immoral, or “deviant”—a roundabout way of inferring they were lesbians. (The same was said of women who had pockets in their skirts—something women’s clothing had never had until the late 19th century.)
  • Undergarments of any color but white were also highly scandalous in the beginning.

For such a short book, there is a lot of information inside and I really enjoyed reading this book. My only wish is that each section had been more in-depth, with more information, photographs, and drawings.

I’m giving this book a solid 3.5 stars, bumped up from the 3 stars I originally rated it at on Goodreads.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Twenty-First Century Books via Edelweiss.

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Author: Amber J. Keyser

Title: Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear

Genre: History, Nonfiction

Published: January 1st, 2018 by Twenty-First Century Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

About the Book

Throughout history, women’s lingerie garments have played a complex role in women’s lives. Learn how undergarments protected and shaped women’s bodies to fit the ideals of the time, enhanced desire in intimate relationships, made statements about social movements such as women’s suffrage, and provided a way to express individual style and personal empowerment. With each swing of the fashion pendulum, new undergarments forced the body into the preferred shapeflat bust and angular ribcage, lush bosom and high waist, sloped shoulders and ample hips which in turn, affected women’s health and activities. Learn how lingerie has been used as a status symbol, a marker of social class, and an economic driver throughout history.

About the Author

Amber J. Keyser
Amber J. Keyser

Evolutionary biologist-turned-author Amber J. Keyser has a MS in zoology and a PhD in genetics. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for tweens and teens.

Her young adult novels include Pointe, Claw (Carolrhoda Lab, 2017), an explosive story about two girls claiming the territory of their own bodies, and The Way Back from Broken (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), a heart-wrenching novel of loss and survival (and a finalist for the Oregon Book Award). She is the co-author with Kiersi Burkhart of the middle grade series Quartz Creek Ranch (Darby Creek, 2017).

Her nonfiction titles include The V-Word (Beyond Words/SimonTeen, 2016), an anthology of personal essays by women about first-time sexual experiences (Rainbow List, Amelia Bloomer list, New York Public Library Best Book for Teens and Chicago Public Library Best Nonfiction for Teens) and Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes (Twenty-First Century Books, 2015), among numerous other titles.

Her forthcoming books include Tying the Knot: A World History of Marriage (Twenty-First Century Books, 2018) and Underneath It All: The History of Women’s Underwear (Twenty-First Century Books, 2018).

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Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy by Hallie Lieberman #Mini-Review

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy cover

The first person to receive a PhD in the history of sex toys, Hallie Lieberman has written a fascinating book that tells you everything you wanted to know on the subject, and more. For example, did you know that until as recently as 2008, it was illegal to sell sex toys in Texas? Obscenity laws there (and elsewhere) set the stage for decades-worth of headaches and careful maneuvering for anyone involved in selling them. Regardless of the specific topic—whether it’s about manufacturing, advertising, or selling—there is always a story to tell on how things were done, and how they evolved over the years.

If you enjoy learning the history of how commonplace items came to be, this is an interesting read.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Pegasus Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Hallie Lieberman

Title: Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Published: November 7th, 2017 by Pegasus Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

Once only whispered about in clandestine corners, vibrators have become just another accessory for the suburban soccer mom, showing up in all manner of pop culture, from sitcoms to talk shows to the pages of glossy women’s magazines. But how did these once-taboo toys become so socially acceptable? The journey of the devices to the cultural mainstream is a surprisingly stimulating one.

In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman—who holds the world’s first PhD in the history of sex toys—starts at the beginning, tracing the tale from lubricant in Ancient Greece to the very first condom in 1560 to advertisements touting devices as medical equipment in 19th-century magazines. She looks in particular from the period of major change from the 1950s through the present, when sex toys evolved from symbols of female emancipation to tools in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consumerist marital aids to today’s mainstays of pop culture. The story is populated with a cast of vivid and fascinating characters including Dell Williams, founder of the first feminist sex toy store, Eve’s Garden; Betty Dodson, who pioneered “Bodysex” workshops in the 1960s to help women discover vibrators and ran Good Vibrations, a sex toy store and vibrator museum; and Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic engineer who invented the silicone dildo and lobbied Dodson and Williams to sell them in their stores. And these personal dramas are all set against a backdrop of changing American attitudes toward sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues, and more.

Both educational and titillating, Buzz will make readers think quite differently about those secret items hiding in bedside drawers across the nation.

About the Author

Hallie Lieberman
Hallie Lieberman

Lieberman obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2014, with a dissertation on Sex Toy History. Her writing has been published in Bitch, Bust, Eater, The Forward, and Inside Higher Ed, among others. She is often featured on podcasts such as “In Bed With Susie Bright” and Bitch Magazine’s “Popaganda.” She has given talks at many university events and conferences. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Author photo and bio via author’s website.

5 Nonfiction Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading

Nicki at Secret Library Blog did a post about some nonfiction books she added to her Goodreads TBR shelf, and I really enjoyed reading it. I thought it was a fabulous idea, so I’m borrowing her idea and writing up a post of my own. Thanks, Nicki!

In no particular order, here are some of the nonfiction books I’m looking forward to reading over the next few months:

(If any of these books interest you, just click the covers to add them to your Goodreads.)

Underneath it All: A History of Women's Underwear by Amber J. Keyser

Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear by Amber J. Keyser

ebook ARC, 96 pages

Expected publication: January 1st, 2018 by Twenty-First Century Book

Throughout history, women’s lingerie garments have played a complex role in women’s lives. Learn how undergarments protected and shaped women’s bodies to fit the ideals of the time, enhanced desire in intimate relationships, made statements about social movements such as women’s suffrage, and provided a way to express individual style and personal empowerment. With each swing of the fashion pendulum, new undergarments forced the body into the preferred shapeflat bust and angular ribcage, lush bosom and high waist, sloped shoulders and ample hipswhich in turn, affected women’s health and activities. Learn how lingerie has been used as a status symbol, a marker of social class, and an economic driver throughout history.

This book seriously appeals to my inner history geek. The evolution of women’s fashions over the centuries never ceases to fascinate me, so when I saw this title on Edelweiss, I was instantly intrigued. I’m curious to see what I will learn!

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir cover

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele

Paperback ARC, 257 pages

Expected publication: January 16th, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

The emotional and powerful story of one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter and how the movement was born.

From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.

The Black Lives Matter movement shines a much-needed light on the continuing systemic racism faced by African-American in the United States. Social injustice, racism,  and inequality are issues I’ve been paying close attention to (especially over the past few years), so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it.

Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment cover

Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

ebook ARC, 176 pages

Expected publication: January 9th, 2018 by City Lights Publishers

America loves guns. From Daniel Boone and Jesse James to the NRA and Seal Team 6, gun culture has colored the lore, shaped the law, and protected the market that arms the nation. In Loaded, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz peels away the myths of gun culture to expose the true historical origins of the Second Amendment, exposing the racial undercurrents connecting the earliest Anglo setters with contemporary gun proliferation, modern-day policing, and the consolidation of influence of armed white nationalists. From the enslavement of Blacks and the conquest of Native America, to the arsenal of institutions that constitute the “gun lobby,” Loaded presents “a people’s history of the Second Amendment” as seen through the lens of those who have been most targeted by guns: people of color. Meticulously researched and thought-provoking throughout, this is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the historical connections between racism and gun violence in the United States.

Kirkus Reviews describes Loaded as a “provocative cultural analysis arguing that the Second Amendment and white supremacy are inextricably bound.” With white supremacists boldly taking their hatred to the streets more and more, I’m even more eager to read this book and what it leads me to ponder upon.

Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America cover

Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America by Peter Edelman

ebook ARC, 320 pages

Published October 31st, 2017 by The New Press

In addition to exposing racially biased policing, the Justice Department’s Ferguson Report exposed to the world a system of fines and fees levied for minor crimes in Ferguson, Missouri, that, when they proved too expensive for Ferguson’s largely poor, African American population, resulted in jail sentences for thousands of people.

As former staffer to Robert F. Kennedy and current Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman explains in Not a Crime to Be Poor, Ferguson is everywhere in America today. Through money bail systems, fees and fines, strictly enforced laws and regulations against behavior including trespassing and public urination that largely affect the homeless, and the substitution of prisons and jails for the mental hospitals that have traditionally served the impoverished, in one of the richest countries on Earth we have effectively made it a crime to be poor.

Edelman, who famously resigned from the administration of Bill Clinton over welfare “reform,” connects the dots between these policies and others including school discipline in poor communities, child support policies affecting the poor, public housing ordinances, addiction treatment, and the specter of public benefits fraud to paint a picture of a mean-spirited, retributive system that seals whole communities into inescapable cycles of poverty.

Poverty and the treatment of those who are less fortunate is another high-interest topic for me. I expect this book—much like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City—will likely leave me angry and upset by the time I reach the end. But like other matters of social injustice, these are important things to know about… no matter how upsetting it may be.

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s cover

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the ’70s and ’80s by Grady Hendrix

ebook ARC, 256 pages

Published September 19th, 2017 by Quirk Books

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

I spent my teen years reading a LOT of horror novels. Some good, some bad, and at least one that was so utterly terrifying, I had to throw it out the front door in order to be able to sleep. I wonder how many books I will recognize as I read Paperbacks from Hell? This should prove to be a fun trip down memory lane!

(If you’re curious, the book I tossed was The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Creepiest book EVER!)

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Most of these books deal with heavy topics, but I’m looking forward to reading them all. Do any of my nonfiction reads interest you? Leave a comment and tell me which one(s)!