In this historical novel, noted writer Carolyn Meyer deftly captures the daring and passionate life of photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Growing up, young Peggy White was interested in snakes and caterpillars and other unfeminine things. She intended to become a herpetologist, but while she was still in college, her interest in nature changed to a fascination with photography. As her skill with a camera grew, her focus widened from landscapes architecture to shots of factories, trains, and bridges. Her artist’s eye sharpened to see patterns and harsh beauty where others saw only chaos and ugliness. Totally dedicated to her work, and driven by her ambition to succeed, Margaret Bourke-White became a well-known and sought after photographer, traveling all over the United States and Europe. She was the first female war photojournalist in World War II and the first female photographer for Life magazine, which featured one of her photographs on its very first cover. A comprehensive author’s note provides additional information to round out readers’ understanding of this fascinating and inspiring historical figure.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes; Antisemitism; Racism and racist epithets; Extramarital affair
Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Historical novelist Meyer introduces readers to groundbreaking American photographer and photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White. The middle child of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father (her father’s background was kept a secret from her until after his death), Margaret was a wallflower with high ambitions. At Barnard College, she took a photography class with Clarence H. White; from that point, her destiny was set. Noted for her fearlessness and innovation, her gender did not seem to present a huge barrier to her ambition, although a husband nearly derailed her dreams. Her work for Life, which featured one of her photographs on the cover of its very first issue, established her credentials as a storyteller with a camera. The novel spans 1916–42 and is written from Margaret’s point of view, giving it the feel of an autobiography. An author’s note provides details of Bourke-White’s later life. There are photographs throughout; more would have made the book even better. This solid fictionalized biography should prompt readers to seek out Bourke-White’s work.
Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) was a well-known professional photographer at a time when most other women aspired to homemaking if they were not doing menial labor.Meyer has crafted an intimate biographical novel that mostly follows the facts of Bourke-White’s life but embellishes them with fictional details to flesh out the story. Bourke-White’s father was a nonpracticing Jew; references to contemporaneous negative perceptions of Jews are—realistically—included, as is use of the word “Negro.” The story begins with the most exciting episode, when the troopship Bourke-White was onboard in 1942 while working as a rare female war correspondent was torpedoed and sunk. Bourke-White’s quiet, first-person voice sounds authentic as she relates the minutiae, sometimes mundane, of the first 38 years of her life, including her unpopularity in school, failed marriages, and the bumpy beginnings of her photography career, peppered with encounters with the condescension of a largely male workforce. A smattering of her black-and-white photographs is included. Readers steeped in the process she used to craft them may wish for more. As with Meyer’s Diary of a Waitress (2015), this effort may appeal to those who have outgrown Dear America, but others may simply lose interest with the inclusion of too many minor details for engaging fiction. An insightful but sometimes (like life itself) bland story that is likely to hold appeal for a limited audience. (Historical fiction. 11-18)
About the Author
Her website is www.readcarolyn.com.
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