As a librarian and fan of historical fiction, it was my pleasure to read Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray’s novel, The Personal Librarian. On Tuesday, March 29, Ms. Benedict will participate in a virtual author event to discuss her latest book, Her Hidden Genius. The event is hosted by the Valley Stream Book Club and co-hosted by seven Nassau County, Long Island libraries including mine.
Marie Benedict, noted for her historical fiction, has co-written an excellent fictional, semi-biographical account of Belle da Costa Greene, the personal librarian for J. P. Morgan, who pretended to be white to secure her position as a successful businesswoman during the time that being both female and black were strong strikes against you.
Belle’s story is one of racial inequality through the ages. Due to her lighter skin, she was able to keep up the pretense of her race. But what it gained her in professional success, she lost in other areas.
Benedict and Murray, the co-authors, of the book, researched Greene’s life and included notes describing how they worked together during the pandemic and how writing Belle’s story changed their lives. Benedict stated that it made her more aware of the injustices against blacks, known and referred to as “colored” people to reflect the language of the period.
How Greene helped establish the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City is an absorbing tale of courage and determination that is an extraordinary read.