Ep. 81 - A History-Making Librarian with a Lifelong Secret, with Victoria Christopher Murray and Marie Benedict


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Belle da Costa Greene. Morgan Library visionary. One of the most prominent and influential librarians in history. Democratizer of museums. And, until two decades after her death, no one outside her family knew she was passing as white.

We know a lot about public-facing Belle: she was JP Morgan's personal librarian from 1905 until his death in 1913, and she continued to build and direct The Morgan Library until shortly before her own death in 1950. She was responsible for shaping the museum’s collections, and her vision was no less than to tell the history and importance of the early printed word. One of the most powerful people in the art world, she traveled the globe, buying art and manuscripts at auction and socializing with Astors and Vanderbilts. Constantly featured in newspapers and magazines, she was widely known for her gorgeous clothes and her glittering personality. But that extravagant personal style life was a mask meant to distract the public from the real Belle who was in fact the daughter of Richard T. Greener, one of the most prominent Black civil rights activists of his day.

In this episode of Book Dreams, Julie and Eve talk about Belle with Victoria Christopher Murray and Marie Benedict, co-authors of the novel The Personal Librarian–a New York Times bestseller and Good Morning America Book Club Pick–which gives us a fully formed sense of inner Belle. They discuss Belle's upbringing, her intimate relationship with JP Morgan, her motivations and struggles, and the sacrifices she made in order to conceal her identity.

Victoria Christopher Murray is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 novels. Her novel Stand Your Ground won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction. Two of her novels, Lust and Envy, have been made into TV movies for Lifetime.

Marie Benedict is a novelist dedicated to unearthing the hidden historical stories of women. She's the author of the USA Today bestselling Carnegie's Maid; the New York Times bestseller The Only Woman in the Room; the international bestseller Lady Clementine; and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling The Mystery of Mrs. Christie.

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