The Personal Librarian

  • Type: Books
  • By: Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
  • Age Category: Adults
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Recommended by: Kat W.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9780593101537
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File this one away under Very Cool People We Don't Learn About In School!

Trust me, you want to know about the amazing woman who built herself a lasting legacy, in spite of both her gender and her race, on her unmatched professional sense and sheer force of will. Belle da Costa Greene, bankrolled by none other than J.P. Morgan himself, was an African American woman who passed as white and turned the Pierpont Morgan Library into an unparalleled archive of precious art and manuscripts. Though the book is a fictionalization, the authors took great pains to depict everything within a strong factual framework, and I think their extrapolations of the toll it takes for a person to bury their own heritage to survive in a prejudiced world was done with thoughtfulness and care. As a main character in a novel Belle is nuanced and likable, and as a historical figure she becomes fully realized as a force of nature.
The Personal Librarian is a great read for readers who enjoy a feminist view of history, stories about strong historical women like The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, or books that explore the finer points of being Black in America like The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.