The Personal Librarian

Picture of the book The Personal Librarian

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murry

I really enjoy this type of historical fiction (you know, the kind that isn’t about WWII). In all seriousness, I love many WWII historical fiction books, but sometimes find the topic depressing and I feel like the market is flooded with these stories. However, I love historical fiction about some little known fact or little known person; and The Personal Librarian fits the bill!

The Premise: We meet Belle da Costa Greene who is hired by J.P. Moran to help him build and curate the Pierpont Morgan Library. She is hugely knowledgeable and also a skillful negotiator. As a woman, she is in an unusual position of power, working closely with J.P. Morgan (and his wallet) to negotiate with wealthy and powerful men. That in itself is impressive. However, we learn very early in the book that Belle is actually black. Her family is very light skinned and she and several members of her family are living as white!

While reading this and for some time after, I spent a lot of time contemplating all that it means (now, but especially at that time) to live inauthentically in order to have certain rights, to be respected and to be considered employable. Belle never would have had this opportunity if she had been living as a black woman.

The Personal Librarian would be a great book club pick as there is so much to talk about. If you haven’t read this yet, run out and get a copy from you local library or bookstore.

The buy it on Amazon:

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