In Praise of Difficult Women

From Frida Kahlo and Elizabeth Taylor to Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, and Lena Dunham, this witty narrative explores what we can learn from the imperfect and extraordinary legacies of 29 iconic women who forged their own unique paths in the world.

Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of modern history. Best-selling author Karen Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) spotlights the spirited rule breakers who charted their way with little regard for expectations: Amelia Earhart, Helen Gurley Brown, Edie Sedgwick, Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, and Shonda Rhimes, among others. Their lives–imperfect, elegant, messy, glorious–provide inspiration and instruction for the new age of feminism we have entered. Karbo distills these lessons with wit and humor, examining the universal themes that connect us to each of these mesmerizing personalities today: success and style, love and authenticity, daring and courage. Being “difficult,” Karbo reveals, might not make life easier. But it can make it more fulfilling–whatever that means for you.

“In 29 takes, Karen Karbo catalogs the ways in which a woman rankles: She can be independent, exacting, impatient, persistent, opinionated, angry, unaccommodating, ambitious, restless, confident, brilliant, articulate, or just plain visible. Nothing is lost on Karbo, from Elizabeth Taylor’s double eyelashes to to the contents of Martha Gellhon’s travel bag (two white linen dresses and a volume of Proust) to Amelia Earhart’s homemade rollercoaster. You’ll need two copies.”—Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra and The Witches

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Mary Valvano says:

    I can’t put this down and I can’t stop telling my friends that they have to read it ! When I told them about it they ask with some trepidation “am I a difficult woman“ I responded that “yes one wants to be“. I keep looking up at the top of my chapter to see how many I have yet to go, only 29, I wish this could continue forever I spend choice parts of the day reading these essays and being inspired and reminded of why I have fought such similar battles and proudly think what would my essay look like. Karen amazingly incorporates wonderful observations of the universal battles that strong women have to fight with the historic accomplishments over the past century and weaves them into lovely summaries of the lives of amazing women. I’m so happy to have discovered this author and can’t wait to read everything else she has written ! Having spent decades as the only female physician among so many men, I love how you bring clarity and acknowledgment to the hurdles that are important for women to jump over to maintain themselves and allow their exquisitely valuable contribution to the landscape is success!

  • Karen Karbo says:

    I’m over the moon to read your post, Mary. I bet that as a female physician you’ve become pretty adept at being “difficult.” Thanks for the love!

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