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The Personal Librarian

Authors: Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Started: Jul. 13, 2021

Finished: Jul. 16, 2021

New York in the early 1900s is a man's world...a white man's world. Belle de Costa Greene has dreams of changing that but there are barriers in her way...she is a woman, to be exact she is a light-skinned African-American woman. There was no place for women of any color in the business world.

Belle is hired by J.P. Morgan to be his personal librarian in the creation of his private library. Belle does everything in her power to ensure that the Morgan Library houses the best artwork and manuscripts anywhere. Over time, Belle becomes Morgan's closest confidant and trusted curator. He gives Belle financial autonomy when purchasing items for his library whether at home or abroad. As Belle slowly climbs the social ladder in New York City, she must always be aware of keeping her secret or suffer a devastating fall.

The premise of this book automatically caught my eye. I had never heard of Belle prior to this book nor had I heard of The Morgan Library and Museum despite growing up in New York. Belle was a courageous woman who lived day to day as a white woman while trying to ensure that she remembered who she was and where she came from. I will be making a visit to the library to get a true feeling for the museum that Belle helped built.

I appreciated the fact that Marie Benedict knew that she could not properly tell Belle's story as she had no knowledge of being an African-American woman and knew that in order to tell Belle's story she would need help. Victoria Christopher Murray was the best choice for co-author and added to the telling of this story.


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