Nov 17, 2017

Review | The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

Title: The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
Series: N/A
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication: June 7, 2016 by Washington Square Press
Format: Paperback
Source: Once Upon A Book Club
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: 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.

Thoughts: I had no idea what this book was about when I signed up for the monthly subscription box of Once Upon a Book Club but I was so excited about the idea. Once Upon a Book Club sends out one book with a few items wrapped up. While reading the book, the reader opens the gifts to the designated page number and has a more interactive reading experience. Even when I decided to finally read this, I didn't read up on the synopsis until later, but was pleasantly surprised with what the book was about.

This book follows Anita Hemmings, a black woman who has passed as white to attend Vassar College. While she deals with a lot of inner conflict about what she's doing and what this means to her family and race, she also has to deal with the fear of being discovered. Instead of being as careful as she should be though, Anita engages in a romantic relationship with young man, and befriends Lottie, an extremely popular and energetic girl who falls for Anita's brother.

Anita is a simple, smart, and likable character and I understood why she did things a certain why. She had to deal with emotional turmoil of her decision, but regardless of how things turned out for her, I don't think she regretted her decisions to pass as a white woman when she felt there was no other option. The story is quite simple and quiet, or so it felt. Not much really happens, but I felt worry the whole time, that Anita's secret would be discovered, so that kept me intrigued with the story.

The ending was predictable, and it is also based off true historical events, so it can easily be looked up. I knew it would turn out that way, but also hoped it didn't. I didn't know of Anita Hemmings before I read this, but I am glad this was the selection for the month and that I finally got myself to read it. It was an informative and interesting read and I recommend it to others who enjoy similar books.

Unboxing Vlog:

1 comment

  1. This story sounds so intriguing! And I absolutely love book subscription boxes.