Title: The Gilded Years
Author: Karin Tanabe
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publish Date: June 7, 2016
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "
Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school
for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class
of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from
admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend
Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a
janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but
now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one
of New York’s most prominent families.
Though Anita has kept
herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence
is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast
friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be
treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes
her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed
Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s
brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that
the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college
graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously
threaten her secret."
My Two Cents:
"The Gilded Years" is the story of college senior, Anita. The year is 1915 and it is still quite rare for women to go to college in the first place. Anita is incredibly unique though. She is a black woman passing for a white woman so that she can attend the prestigious Vassar. For the first three years of college, Anita has been incredibly careful not to reveal her true background in order to be allowed to stay at school. Things are threatened by a new roommate and a new love.
I was drawn to this book by the idea of what it meant to pass as another race. Anita realizes the importance of a good education and so she is willing to hide her true self in order to do so. We see how she has to compromise some of her character in order to "pass." One powerful scene in the beginning of the book talks about how Anita is forced to defend Plessy vs. Ferguson, one of the most famous segregation related court cases, in her debate club. It's a hard road to go but education is paramount to her! I was so nervous for her throughout the book as she continued to run into situations that could unmask her.
The writing of the book is good. The author takes a very important subject and infuses characters into the situation to help modern day readers to understand what perils those trying to pass as another race faced every day. The flow of the story works well. There were a few places sprinkled throughout the book where the author did more telling than showing but overall, the story kept me engaged and entertained!