Dorothea Lange has had her share of pain in her life. Surviving polio was a major one. Left with little to no self-confidence and a limp, she finds her passion in a small photography shop in New York.
In 1918 she arrives in San Francisco. A city still rebuilding itself and full of men returning from war and the hideous behavior of the people toward the Chinese. She is way out of her comfort zone until she meets Caroline Lee, a mixed-race woman with a mysterious past who has also known her share of sorrow.
Caroline introduces Dorothea to the Monkey Block, a large colony of artists of every medium. Caroline is an expert seamstress and clothing designer and it is her dream to open her own salon. Dorothea wants to open her own photography studio.
Caroline introduces her to all the names we know and love, such as Maynard Dixon, Ansel Adams, Mabel Dodge, Frida Kahlo, and more. Dorothea falls hard for Dixon, a brilliant artist but a horrible lover.
Dorothea and Caroline open the photography studio and do very well. Things are going well, they are making money and Dorothea is neck-deep into this new world of art and political upheaval as many see the Chinese as less than human and want them out of the country. Sound familiar?
I so enjoyed reading about how Dorrie got to San Francisco. The 1920s were not kind to minorities or women but Dorrie pushed a lot of boundaries. Everything in her life is changed with an act so horrendous it sends Caroline far away and Dorrie is on her own.
In the first half of the book, I was really interested. Then there came the part about her feeling guilty for being gone from her sons for so long while taking pictures documenting internment camps and the people suffering during the depression. Wait…she had children? When? With who? Not another thing was mentioned about it and it felt unfinished. The rest really made no sense.
The people in this book are real and the author kindly elaborates on them in the end. All in all, I was rather confused by the end.
NetGalley/ Expected publication: April 6th, 2021 by Ballantine Books