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About the Author

Kara Cooney is a professor of Egyptology at UCLA. Her academic work focuses on death preparations, afterlife beliefs, and gender studies. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Includes the names: Kathlyn Cooney, Kathlyn M. Cooney

Disambiguation Notice:

She uses the name Kathlyn for her scholarly work, and her nickname Kara for non-academic work.

Works by Kara Cooney

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Other names
Cooney, Kathlyn
Birthdate
20th c.
Gender
female
Nationality
USA
Birthplace
Houston, Texas, USA
Education
University of Texas at Austin (BA|German and Humanities|1994)
Johns Hopkins University (PhD|Near Eastern Studies|2002)
Occupations
professor
curator
video producer
Relationships
Crawford, Neil (spouse)
Organizations
University of California, Los Angeles
Agent
Marc Gerald
Disambiguation notice
She uses the name Kathlyn for her scholarly work, and her nickname Kara for non-academic work.

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I don't know that I've read a book like this before, both information dense and highly speculative. So little is known about the actual life of Hatshepsut that there isn't enough to write a book on it, but there's plenty of information from the time that one can cobble together a picture at least. And should the women of history fade away because the men decided not to write of them? I don't think so. I think this is excellent for what it does, even though it's not quite enough.
 
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KallieGrace | 71 other reviews | Nov 29, 2023 |
I had to stop reading this, the authors comfort level with sexualizing a child disgusted me and I couldn’t bring myself to continue finishing the book. The speculation around Hatshepsut’s life was tiresome with a lot of ‘perhaps’, ‘maybe’, and ‘possibly’ when detailing what her life might have been like; however, what could have been a thoughtful and empathetic telling of Hatshepsut’s life was thrown out the window when the Cooney felt it necessary to detail the various possibilities of Hatshepsut’s wedding night.

I understand that sexuality was drastically different in ancient Egypt than it is today, but this doesn’t gives the author a free pass to imagine the sexual experiences of Hatshepsut as a 12 year old. Marriages and sex can be discussed frankly, as it is true that these things happened to children in ancient Egypt, but there is zero justification for Cooney to write about Hatshepsut’s curves, breasts, and how a 12 year old girl 'might have' sexually excited her younger brother/husband - it is completely fucked up and gross. Considering that the majority of this biography is speculative, the author's comfort in dreaming up a 12 year olds wedding night and writing down the various scenarios is deeply disturbing.
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pentacat | 71 other reviews | Aug 13, 2023 |
This book has been on my "currently reading" shelf for a long time. No, it didn't take that long to read. I just had some... distractions. I'd pre-ordered it in the summer of 2021 (inscribed, too!) and it arrived in November while I was on a trip to Europe. Between a move and settling, and making the new house compatible (lots of to-dos), I didn't get to it until the following November. I'd gotten through the first two "good" kings when I was hit with the worst Reader's Block I've experienced. Months. Whew. Pulled it back out for flights down to and back from St. Thomas, and ... finished! I'd read Ms. Cooney's When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt and I liked her writing style. This is the same. Easy to read, full of information. And a TON of references. I could fill my reading docket with the many rabbit holes I flagged. So much time, so little to read...

So. What do you do when you find yourself disillusioned with your life's work (She calls herself a "recovering Egyptologist")? Well, you can find a new life's work, or you can look at what you know from a radically different perspective. Ms. Cooney takes on the patriarchy of that ancient world and draws the parallels of her chosen five "good" kings with our patriarchal world. A look at just some of the comments on her threads and you'll see she doesn't endear herself with the current patriarchy, or the wrongwing. Why the scare quotes for "good"? She points out how each of these kings is usually presented as good, if not exactly labeled as such, because they either established Egypt as a power, returned Egypt from disarray, established a new power, returned Egypt yet again to its greatness, or conquered Egypt and assimilated himself by adopting the Egyptian culture. "We Egyptologists often become apologists for a return to good kingship as the only thing that can save people from themselves."

She has fun with her chapter titles:
- Khufu: Size Matters
- Senwosret III: THe King Strikes Back
- Akhenaten: Drinking the Kool-Aid
- Ramses II: The Grand Illusion
- Taharqua: No Zealot Like the Convert

Her opening chapter is titled We Are All Pharaoh's Groupies and she explains her recovering position:
"This book presents an analysis of how we make ourselves easy marks for the next charismatic authoritarian to come along. It's high time we see how fetishism of ancient cultures is used to prop up modern power grabs.I had my own notes on summarizing each, and then in her concluding chapter she does so And we need to admit - somewhere down deep - that we think the powerful patriarch, coolly in control, is superhot. Only then can we figure out how to smash him."
Yep. Endearing.

I'd tried to summarize myself the character of each king, or king's rule. Khufu - too big to fail, but Egypt did after him. Senwosret II - hard ass. Akhenaten took a wild tangent in his religion shift, but raised Nefertiri to co-king with him. Rameses II, maybe most famous for all the wrong reasons, hung on too long and left a diminished Egypt. Taharqa, least familiar to me, inherited a reestablished authority from his father and then interpreted "history" to justify his rule (I had a thought of the "lineage" of Jesus, one coming from his non biological father Joseph!). And then I read three excellent summaries of hers:
1) "The kings of ancient Egypt can help us decode the tactics of the patriarchal system under which we all live. There was Khufu, the tax-and-spend creator of pyramid propaganda; Senwosret and his absolutist crackdowns; Akhenaten, the evangelical king; Ramses, the needy populist; and Taharqa, the colonized imperialist. Those rulers were all products of their time. Today, we create our own kings (perhaps at a faster clip, because technology speeds up our political development.)" And,
2) If we were to categorize the Egyptian rulers in modern terms - as in Breakfast Club with a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal - then our story consists of a builder, a bully, a zealot, a narcissist, and a missionary." And,
3) "But whether it was Khufu's monarchical divination, Senwosret's absolutism, Akhenaten's fanaticism, Ramses' populism, or Taharqa's pious orthodoxy. Egyptian pharaonic history was largely a patriarchal rinse and repeat with approximately the same result."

This might change your perspective on the veneration of the ancients. Or it might not. If Andrew Tate is your god, don't read this. If you like ancient Egypt (and think for yourself), I recommend it.

My marginalia, as usual, needs curating for this, and I'm only selecting a few highlights:

[p174, on the beginnings of Amenhotep/Akhenaten's religious shift not showing "outright monotheism", but having economic designs, which helped lead cultural change]
Nothing is ever purely religious, least of all religion.
{There is always a financial, political, control facet of pretty much every religion.}

[p175] In this brave new world, you were either with the Aten or you were against it, understanding that this new binary religion was a choice between light and dark.
{Sound familiar? Extremists today would have you think the same.}

[p191, on the possibility that only a certain few - royals and highest priests - had access to the most exclusive area of the new temple] Withholding wealth and displaying excess are still associated with behemoth religions, authoritarian regimes, dictatorships, and cults. The Pantheon in Rome, St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and Slat Lake Temple in Utah all represent massive displays of wealth, because money implicitly means the blessings of God.
{Don't forget the evangelical megachurches and their celebrity con artist ministers.}

[p205, part of Akhenaten's Hymn to the Aten] O sole god beside whom there is none! You made the earth as you wished, you alone, all peoples, herds, and flocks...
{Too long to quote here, even if it was abandoned on his death, it doesn't take too much brain to see what preceded another not too original, yet far more lasting monotheistic religion.}

[p209] I'm not saying that every practicing monotheist is an authoritarian. I am saying that monotheism was specifically invented to support authoritarianism.
{That'll chap some whyte males. And as I noted above, given some of the comments of threads about this book, they are chapped hard.}

[p287] In effect, the ancient Egyptians have hoodwinked us into believing that those periods of monarchical centralization were exactly the times when most ancient Egyptians themselves would have preferred to live.
The ideology of authoritarianism is so seductive that it continues to work on us from thousands of years in the past, making us believe that uniformity, monumentalism, and job creation were preferred - even if freedoms and fairer distributions of wealth were taken away even if the jobs paid the ancient version of minimum wage.
{Whether this is the actual case or not, it presents an unpleasant possibility.}
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1 vote
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Razinha | 3 other reviews | Mar 24, 2023 |
I learned about Hatshepsut many moons ago when i was going thru an Egyptian phase. I saw this book in the gift shop of the Mummies exhibit at the LA Natural History Museum. From what i remember, Its a fascinating story. I am listening to the audiobook. Im bored. If this were historical fiction it would've been a thousand times better. As speculative non fiction (& a monotonic narrator) it sucks all the life out of the story. Thats too bad!
 
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Hamptot71 | 71 other reviews | Jul 18, 2022 |

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