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- ISBN-13: 9781501110450
- ISBN-10: 1501110454
- Publisher: Washington Square Press
- Publish Date: June 2016
- Page Count: 400
- Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.6 pounds
A landmark college career
In 1897, Anita Hemmings was a senior at Vassar College alongside some of the best and brightest girls in the country. She was a member of the Glee Club and a fierce debater, but Hemmings also held a secret that should have banned her from admission: She was an African American. In The Gilded Years, Karin Tanabe fictionalizes the story of the real-life Hemmings, who graduated from Vassar more than 40 years before Vassar allowed African Americans to enroll.
The daughter of a Boston janitor and the descendant of slaves, Hemmings was light complexioned enough to pass as white, and she was even voted class beauty. She kept a distance from her classmates, but in her senior year, Hemmings roomed with wealthy and well-connected Lottie Taylor. As she befriends the adventurous Lottie, Anita finds herself enjoying life as a privileged white woman. But when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Anita’s secret faces a serious threat.
A Vassar graduate, Tanabe first learned about Anita Hemmings from an article in the alumni magazine. This engaging novel, set in a time of conflict between old money and new ideas, captures both the bravery and the heartbreak of Anita’s decision. Though the writing at times lacks nuance, the story is a captivating one. Readers won’t soon forget Anita Hemmings or the choices she made.