This month’s wish-list has a mixed theme. I recently read a story set in the Gilded Era and I wanted to get my hands on more titles that takes place during this time period. I’m also interested in southern stories and I have added three titles I want to share with you that I am excited about. -Stephanie M. Hopkins
The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910 by Esther Crain
The drama, expansion, mansions and wealth of New York City’s transformative Gilded Age era, from 1870 to 1910, captured in a magnificently illustrated hardcover.
In forty short years, New York City suddenly became a city of skyscrapers, subways, streetlights, and Central Park, as well as sprawling bridges that connected the once-distant boroughs. In Manhattan, more than a million poor immigrants crammed into tenements, while the half of the millionaires in the entire country lined Fifth Avenue with their opulent mansions.
The Gilded Age in New York captures what is was like to live in Gotham then, to be a daily witness to the city’s rapid evolution.
Newspapers, autobiographies, and personal diaries offer fascinating glimpses into daily life among the rich, the poor, and the surprisingly large middle class.
The use of photography and illustrated periodicals provides astonishing images that document the bigness of New York: the construction of the Statue of Liberty; the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge; the shimmering lights of Luna Park in Coney Island; the mansions of Millionaire’s Row.
Sidebars detail smaller, fleeting moments: Alice Vanderbilt posing proudly in her “Electric Light” ball gown at a society-changing masquerade ball; immigrants stepping off the boat at Ellis Island; a young Theodore Roosevelt witnessing Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.
The Gilded Age in New York is a rare illustrated look at this amazing time in both the city and the country as a whole. Author Esther Crain, the go-to authority on the era, weaves first-hand accounts and fascinating details into a vivid tapestry of American society at the turn of the century.
The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.
Since childhood, 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.
Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.
The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele Richardson
Spanning several decades and written in an authentic voice both lyrical and wise, The Sisters of Glass Ferry is a haunting novel about small-town Southern secrets, loss and atonement, and the unbreakable bond between siblings.
Glass Ferry, Kentucky, is bourbon country. Whiskey has been a way of life for generations, enabling families to provide and survive even in the darkest times. Flannery Butler’s daddy, Beauregard “Honey Bee” Butler, was known for making some of the best whiskey in the state, aged in barrels he’d take by boat up and down the Kentucky River until the rocking waters turned the spirits smooth and golden. Flannery is the only person Honey Bee ever entrusted with his recipes before he passed on, swearing her to secrecy as he did so.
But Flannery is harboring other secrets too, about her twin sister Patsy, older by eight minutes and pretty in a way Flannery knows she’ll never be. Then comes the prom night when Patsy—wearing a yellow chiffon dress and the family pearls—disappears along with her date. Every succeeding year on the twins’ birthday, Flannery’s mother bakes a strawberry cake, convinced that this is the day Patsy will finally come home. But it will be two tumultuous decades until the muddy river yields a clue about what happened that night, compelling Flannery to confront the truth about her sleepy town, her family’s past, and the choices she and those closest to her have made in the name of love and retribution . . .
“Richardson has a knack for layering a landscape with secrets, for slowly revealing what’s hidden until suddenly you find what you’ve been chasing sitting in the palm of your hand. The Sisters of Glass Ferryis bountifully written—a place fully realized and packed with characters you won’t soon forget.” —David Joy, author of The Weight Of This World
“The Sisters of Glass Ferry peels back the layers of a small town to reveal a labyrinth of long-buried secrets and dangerous lies. Richardson delivers a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric Southern Gothic tale that stayed with me long after I turned the last page.” —Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
“This heart-rending, lovely family drama spans sixty years and four generations, peeling back the layers of a small town to reveal a labyrinth of long-buried lies and a wealth of dangerous secrets suspended between three families. The Sisters of Glass Ferry is so fast paced I couldn’t stop turning the pages, but then I’d smash into another jewel-like sentence and have to stop to reread it. Kim Michele Richardson writes with an authentic Southern voice straight out of Kentucky, well graveled, rough with moonshine, and damn near irresistible.” —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of gods in Alabamaand The Almost Sisters
The Road to Bittersweet by Donna Everhart
Set in the Carolinas in the 1940s, The Road to Bittersweet is a beautifully written, evocative account of a young woman reckoning not just with the unforgiving landscape, but with the rocky emotional terrain that leads from innocence to wisdom.
For fourteen-year-old Wallis Ann Stamper and her family, life in the Appalachian Mountains is simple and satisfying, though not for the tenderhearted. While her older sister, Laci—a mute, musically gifted savant—is constantly watched over and protected, Wallis Ann is as practical and sturdy as her name. When the Tuckasegee River bursts its banks, forcing them to flee in the middle of the night, those qualities save her life. But though her family is eventually reunited, the tragedy opens Wallis Ann’s eyes to a world beyond the creek that’s borne their name for generations.
Carrying what’s left of their possessions, the Stampers begin another perilous journey from their ruined home to the hill country of South Carolina. Wallis Ann’s blossoming friendship with Clayton, a high diving performer for a traveling show, sparks a new opportunity, and the family joins as a singing group. But Clayton’s attention to Laci drives a wedge between the two sisters. As jealousy and betrayal threaten to accomplish what hardship never could—divide the family for good—Wallis Ann makes a decision that will transform them all in unforeseeable ways . . .
Careers die. Friendships fade. The music is all that remains. This is the weight of sound.
The Weight of Sound by Peter McDade
The Weight of Sound, a debut novel by writer and musician Peter McDade, carries readers through 25 years in the life of Spider Webb. Spider as a teenager announces to his parents that he will skip high school graduation and move to Athens, Ga. to launch his musical career in the town that gave birth to R.E.M. and the B-52s. A chorus of narrators, including bandmates, roadies, girlfriends, record executives, and fans, reveal what happens behind the music of a touring musician on the rise in an industry whose business model in the 90s is on the decline.
This is not a tell-all memoir about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It is a poignant look at the way that music molds and shapes who we are as people—not just the musicians and artists, but the listeners and fans who make sense of their world through the songs.
As readers follow Spider, they will also follow the trail of the music he makes: from the music of The Beatles that bonded Spider to his father to the music he made with his friends, music produced in studio and played live, music that outlived several bands and relationships. Each chapter of the book corresponds to an original song, co-written by the author and performed by musicians from across the country. Readers will access the music by using a special code found within the book’s pages.
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