Books Magazine

Book Review: How to Hepburn by Karen Karbo

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

Book: How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great by Karen Karbo
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: 2007
Pages: 193

Source: Library


cover of How to Hepburn by Karen Karbo

About my birthday twin, Katharine Hepburn.

Summary: Katharine Hepburn changed the way the world viewed women by changing the way we view ourselves. From her trademark slacks to her brash personality, she refused to go along with the Hollywood norms of the day, providing a standard then and now of how to be oneself without apology. In How to Hepburn, Karen Karbo looks at the ways that Katharine Hepburn’s life can provide clues to the 21st century woman for how to live well and long.

Thoughts: How to Hepburn is the first of the books that became known as the Kick Ass Women series. I read all four of them in 2013:

Of all these women, Katharine Hepburn was my first love, since about age 10. I loved her before I knew who she was because she and I and Florence Nightingale share a birthday (May 12). This was back in the days when pursuing a passion for an actor required years of patience. No streaming video, no DVDs mailed from Netflix, no videos rented from Blockbuster. To see an actor, one had to wait until she had a movie in the theater or the TV station that played old movies on Saturday afternoons chose to show a Hepburn film.

The first time I saw Hepburn in something other than a still photo was Rooster Cogburn, when I was 13. My mother had a life-long crush on John Wayne, so the whole family drove to the next town over for a rare movie night. I got to see a woman strong enough to get John Wayne to do what she wanted — go after the bad guys who killed her father and stole a shipment of nitroglycerin.

Another reason the movie intrigued our family was that the explosives were labeled with the Hercules logo — the company where my dad worked.

In college, fortunately, the Classic Film Festival frequently chose to show Katharine Hepburn movies, so I got caught up on my viewing. As a young woman, I found in Katharine Hepburn a model for confidence, forthrightness, and the appropriateness of pants for many of life’s activities. These traits, when I could manage to display them, served me well. With How to Hepburn, and my 50-something stage of life, I’m noticing how Katharine Hepburn forged a path for meaningful work and relationships throughout a long life.

Appeal: How to Hepburn will appeal to women who want to think deeply, but in a fun way, about what it means to be strong, original, and independent. All good thoughts as we come into a New Year.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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