The Gilded Years
by Karin Tanabe
Publication Date: Jun 07, 2016
List Price: $16.00
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Imprint: Washington Square Press
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation
“The Gilded Years is a historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to graduate from Vassar College in the late 1890s. But because Vassar, at the time, did not admit African Americans, she was able to attend and graduate only by passing as a white woman.
It’s really a page-turner and one that will in large part introduce readers to the life and legacy of Anita Hemmings, who was a real pioneer in her day and beyond. Although Vassar was her dream school and her high degree of intellect alone made her worthy of being a student at the school, her journey was one filled with potential conflict, danger and shame. With each turn of the page, Tanabe leaves the reader brimming with anticipation of whether this will be day that Anita Hemmings is found out? And if so, what next? Is everything she’s worked hard for at Vassar destroyed?
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.