Review: Antigone Rising by Helen Morales

Posted December 14, 2021 by Stephanie in 5 Stars, Nonfiction, Review / 12 Comments

Title: Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths
Author: Helen Morales
Publication: April 14th 2020 by Bold Type Books
Genre: Nonfiction
Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Books | Kobo | Waterstones
Rating: 5/5

A witty, inspiring reckoning with the ancient Greek and Roman myths and their legacy, from what they can illuminate about #MeToo to the radical imagery of Beyoncé.

The picture of classical antiquity most of us learned in school is framed in certain ways — glossing over misogyny while omitting the seeds of feminist resistance. Many of today’s harmful practices, like school dress codes, exploitation of the environment, and rape culture, have their roots in the ancient world.
But in Antigone Rising, classicist Helen Morales reminds us that the myths have subversive power because they are told — and read — in different ways. Through these stories, whether it’s Antigone’s courageous stand against tyranny or the indestructible Caeneus, who inspires trans and gender queer people today, Morales uncovers hidden truths about solidarity, empowerment, and catharsis.
Antigone Rising offers a fresh understanding of the stories we take for granted, showing how we can reclaim them to challenge the status quo, spark resistance, and rail against unjust regimes.

I bought this book simply because of the title and cover alone but when I picked it up and started reading I got so much more than that. Classicist Helen Morales goes into issues we have today in our modern world and connects those with ancient history and myths. I absolutely loved this and could not put the book down.

At 203 pages (including the index) it isn’t a very long book so I only picked it up twice before finishing it but still that’s pretty fast for me to finished any book so that only shows how absorbed I was. This is a book with many different topics like toxic diet culture relating to Hippocrates to the women controllers of ancient Greece to modern day schools and principals regulating how teenage girls dress so as to not “distract” the male teachers and students to myth of Caeneus speaking to many transgenders today. And much more like that.

This is by no means an easy book to read. There’s a lot of talk about rape, racism, fatphobia, transphobia and many more hard and distressing content but nontheless it’s also a powerful read. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, things are definitely changing and books like this are a part of that change. I’m really glad I happened to spot it at the bookstore and buy it. It’s for sure one of my favorite books of this year.

Witty as well as personal, Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths is an astute social commentary on the links between ancient mythological stories and current conversations on gender identity, racism, violence, sexuality and much more. Everyone should give it a read!


About the author:

Helen Morales holds the Argyropoulos Chair in Hellenic Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction and Pilgrimage to Dollywood: A Country Music Road Trip Through Tennessee, which inspired an honors history course about Dolly Parton at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Morales has been a guest on BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour, and her work has been cited in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Morales taught previously at the University of Cambridge, where she was a Fellow of Newnham College, and has been a Fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in DC. She is on the editorial board of Eidolon, the popular online journal dedicated to antiquity and feminism. She lives with her family in Santa Barbara.

Twitter | Goodreads | Bold Type Books | UC Santa Barbara


12 responses to “Review: Antigone Rising by Helen Morales

  1. verushka

    Honestly, this sound even more amazing than I thought would be — dark(er) content included. Stuff like this should be standard reading in schools IMO.

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)