The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe – Book Review



This novel is based on the true story of Anita Hemmings who was the first black woman to graduate from Vassar College in 1897.  At that time, Vassar did not accept black woman, so Anita, who looked white was able to “pass”.


Anita Hemmings, Vassar

The novel itself consists of Anita’s fictional last year at Vassar, from her new roommate, a moneyed New York “society girl”, who introduces her to a new world of the extremely rich, to her romance with a wealthy beau.  After three years of fading into the background and trying not to draw any notice to herself, Anita throws caution to the winds and embraces the new adventures that rooming with Lottie Taylor has brought her.  And, it is these very adventures that bring heartache, betrayal and the fear of dismissal to Anita’s life.


Inside of a Gilded Age “home”.

Tanabe writes about the Gilded Age with such attention to detail, that you can see it all in your mind’s eye.  The rich have never lived in the same world as the rest of us, a fact that is made crystal clear in this novel.  Anita is brought into this world while taking the reader along for the ride, and it is quite an enjoyable one at that.

I won’t go into details, since I want you to read this novel.  I enjoyed it very much, and especially the fact that it was based on a true story.  I highly recommend this novel!



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