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Publisher's Summary

A rollicking feminist tale set in 1950s America where thousands of women have spontaneously transformed into dragons, exploding notions of a woman’s place in the world and expanding minds about accepting others for who they really are. • The first adult novel by the Newbery award-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours, except for its most seminal event: the Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales, and talons; left a trail of fiery destruction in their path; and took to the skies. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex’s beloved aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn’t know. It’s taboo to speak of.

Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of this astonishing event: a mother more protective than ever; an absentee father; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and watching her beloved cousin Bea become dangerously obsessed with the forbidden.

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, award-winning author Kelly Barnhill boldly explores rage, memory, and the tyranny of forced limitations. When Women Were Dragons exposes a world that wants to keep women small—their lives and their prospects—and examines what happens when they rise en masse and take up the space they deserve.

©2022 Kelly Barnhill (P)2022 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"Ferociously imagined, incandescent with feeling, this book is urgent and necessary and as exhilarating as a ride on dragonback."—Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians Trilogy

"Completely fierce, unmistakably feminist, and subversively funny, When Women Were Dragons brings the heat to misogyny with glorious imagination and talon-sharp prose. Check the skies tonight—you might just see your mother."—Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry 

"A complex, heartfelt story about following your heart and opening your mind to new possibilities. This novel’s magic goes far beyond the dragons."—Kirkus (starred review)  

What listeners say about When Women Were Dragons

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Worth it for the ending!

This is not an overly exciting listen, but it was definitely a book I will be recommending to my friends. Listen to the memoir of a girl growing up in the 50’s with a dragon twist, where she learns about true family, loss, love and sisterhood. The ending was so sweet and well concluded.

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  • James R.
  • 2022-05-15

Definitely a good listen

Excellent storyline. touches on all aspects of human nature along with the deep love and compassion shared be women and their notorious anger.

With all the talk nowadays about overturning Roe v Wade, it is a deeply moving story of our human plight and hope for the return of the Divine Feminine.

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  • beatrice h rauch
  • 2022-05-23

Book, when women were dragons

If this book was making a statement I really don’t know what it was. The book held my interest but when I got to the end I was disappointed because I still didn’t understand what the author was trying to say.

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  • Terry B
  • 2022-05-14

A wonderful tale

A coming of age tale, that's equal parts reality and magic, masterfully narrated! From tragedy to triumph, love infuses this story - love of self, romantic love, familial love... All are challenged, and all triumph in the end. Kimberly Farr's narration set the scene for me in a way that my mind couldn't even approach from reading the written word.

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  • Jennifer Torres
  • 2022-05-08

Beautiful

I loved this book. It resonated on so many levels. It made me laugh, cry, scream and cheer. I come from a long line of dragons. I am happily a dragon 🐉

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  • Morgan
  • 2022-05-08

A Fairy Tale for our time

Great book
I would love to read more books set in this world. Looking for my inner dragon.

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  • Billiekai
  • 2022-06-23

A Masterpiece of love and acceptance

This is a marvelous manifesto! A how-to manual for all people to consume, a cosmic display of the power of acceptance and unconditional love. Kelly, thank you. <3

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  • M. Lombardo
  • 2022-06-16

Slow going

Lots of back story. My attention was not kept until chapter 30. Had really high hopes for this book.

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  • Mar A
  • 2022-06-15

Fantastic

The story, the narration, the emotions, the dragons. One of the best creations of Kelly Barnhill.

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  • J. Drake
  • 2022-06-11

Dragoning

Very enjoyable! It’s a story that can be read on multiple levels. The relationships were the strongest element, and there were a few moments of being hit over the head with the point, but ultimately not a big deal.

More about dragon culture and what they got up to after the mass metamorphosis would have been welcomed - most of the book is from a muggle perspective. Honestly, if that book gets written, I’d be first in line!

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  • Mrs. Ryan
  • 2022-06-05

My heart feels full….

As we get to know Alex and her story I found myself drawn into her growth, emotions and her desires to grow into the woman she chooses to be. There is so much symbolism and description in this book that makes my mind spin from the book to our world since the 1950s and our own social mores and changes. I’m still digesting this book and plan to read it for at least one more time to really tuck into the symbolism that she threads a knots throughout this book. I suppose it can just be a fairytale but it strikes me as so much more. Truthfully, it is one of my favorite books.