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The Personal Librarian Bets On...

The Personal Librarian

July 2021

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray is a book that you immediately want to talk about once you finish it. Like the subject of other novels that Marie has written, I wondered how I did not know the story of Belle da Costa Greene.

Belle was J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian. She had an eye for collecting art and treasured manuscripts, along with the funds to pursue buying them in the United States and Europe. But as renowned as she was in these circles, she had a secret. Her name was really Belle Marion Greener. She was dark-skinned not because she was Portuguese, but because she was Black passing as white. Her father was Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard, who lobbied for equal justice for Black people. Her mother, estranged from Richard, chose to raise the children as white, knowing that they could pass and get the equal education and opportunities that she wanted for them. Belle went through life with a fear that her secret would be discovered.

There is so much here concerning Belle and the collection, and the world in which she entrenched herself, but also about race and class. Written and edited during the past year when we began to take a deeper look at the Black Lives Matter movement, the themes in the book are deeply resonant. This is Victoria’s first historical novel, and she was selected by Marie to work on this project with her. Marie knew this was a story that needed Victoria’s eyes as a Black woman.

I interviewed them, and it is clear that teaming up to write this book has brought them a friendship and partnership, as well as a collaboration. They are working together on another project.

Book groups, this is one to pick and discuss. My group is reading it for our August meeting, and I cannot wait to talk to them about it.

The Personal Librarian
by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

  • Publication Date: June 29, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0593101537
  • ISBN-13: 9780593101537