cover image The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World

The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World

Janice Kaplan. Dutton, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4421-2

Former Parade editor-in-chief Kaplan (The Gratitude Diaries) explores why the accomplishments of so many women have been overlooked and celebrates contemporary women excelling in a wide range of fields in this chatty yet well-researched history. Noting that men have historically determined who gets recognized for extraordinary accomplishments and who doesn’t, Kaplan describes how genius women have been punished or ignored in the past: Hypatia, the first known female mathematician and philosopher, died at the hands of a Christian mob in fifth-century Alexandria; the neglected paintings of 17th-century Dutch artist Clara Peeters skyrocketed in value after a 2016 exhibition; physicist Lise Meitner played a pivotal role in the discovery of nuclear fission, only to see the 1944 Nobel Prize go solely to her male collaborator. Kaplan also profiles dozens of modern-day female overachievers, including biochemist Jennifer Doudna, Broadway director Tina Landau, and MIT robotics expert Cynthia Breazeal, and contends that successful, groundbreaking women share common traits, such as optimism, blindness toward bias, and the ability to multitask. Though Kaplan overloads her writing with superlatives (“amazingly brave”; “enormously talented”) and occasionally drifts into gender stereotypes (actress Maggie Gyllenhaal is “a golden girl in private”), this upbeat work impresses with its broad range and inspirational message. (Feb.)