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Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?: A Novel
by Smith Crystal Paul

Published: 2023-05-02T00:0
Hardcover : 416 pages
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A multigenerational saga that traverses the glamour of old Hollywood and the seductive draw of modern-day showbiz

When Kitty Karr Tate, a White icon of the silver screen, dies and bequeaths her multimillion-dollar estate to the St. John sisters, three young, wealthy Black women, it ...

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A multigenerational saga that traverses the glamour of old Hollywood and the seductive draw of modern-day showbiz

When Kitty Karr Tate, a White icon of the silver screen, dies and bequeaths her multimillion-dollar estate to the St. John sisters, three young, wealthy Black women, it prompts questions. Lots of questions.

A celebrity in her own right, Elise St. John would rather focus on sorting out Kittyâ??s affairs than deal with the press. But what she discovers in one of Kittyâ??s journals rocks her world harder than any other brewing scandal could?and between a cheating fiancé and the fallout from a controversial social media post, there are plenty.

The truth behind Kitty's ascent to stardom from her beginnings in the segregated South threatens to expose a web of unexpected family ties, debts owed, and debatable crimes that could, with one pull, unravel the all-American fabric of the St. John sisters and those closest to them.

As Elise digs deeper into Kitty's past, she must also turn the lens upon herself, confronting the gifts and burdens of her own choices and the power that the secrets of the dead hold over the living. Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? is a sprawling page-turner set against the backdrop of the Hollywood machine, an insightful and nuanced look at the inheritances of family, race, and gender?and the choices some women make to break free of them.

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Discussion Questions

From the publisher-added by Pauline
**Spoiler Alerts galore**

1. How did you feel when you learned about Hazel’s plan for Kitty? Do you think
Kitty’s and Hazel’s isolation from the larger Black communities influenced their
sense of racial identity? Did this isolation make it easier for Kitty to pass?

2. Many characters in the story, particularly the Blair House women, must put
practicality and circumstances before love when considering marriage—how do
you think that shapes their overall attitudes towards men?

3. What rules and policies would you implement if you were running Blair House? Are
there any practices you would reject?

4. Elise, Giovanni, and Noele all overtly diverge in their approaches to life, but they
maintain an intimate dynamic. What about their bond makes this possible? What
commonalities do you see between the sisters?

5. Sarah scrutinizes all areas of her daughters’ lives from their careers to their choice
of partners and the food on their plates. What impact does this have on each of

6. Kitty and Elise both witness significant moments in America’s ongoing history
of violence and discrimination against Black people. Kitty was impacted by the
murder of Emmett Till and Colin Kaepernick’s NFL protest inspired Elise to
activism. What role do you think celebrities should play in social issues?

7. “He already owned her career, and that night, he showed her he thought he
owned her too.” How do you think Nathan’s sexual assault of Kitty impacted their
marriage? Is the issue of consent in marriage different then vs. today?

8. In many situations throughout the book, legacy implies responsibility—like when
Hazel demands Kitty take advantage of her skin color to gain privileges that would
otherwise be denied to her, or when all of the St. Johns work to figure out what
to do with Kitty’s wealth. To what degree do you believe those in the present are
obligated to follow the expectations of their elders?

9. What do you think the ramifications would have been at different points in time if
Kitty had revealed she was a Black woman? What do you imagine the differences
would be if she had revealed this information right before her death in 2017 versus
if she had done so earlier?

10. How would you have handled Rebecca’s transgression on Elise’s social media
accounts and subsequent attitude if you were in Elise’s position?

11. What are the protections and limits of wealth in the St John’s lives? How does the
incident in which the police arrested James and detained a young Elise highlight

12. Kitty had to learn to be a good “actress” in order to assume a life as a White
woman in addition to building a career. When we meet Elise, she is struggling to
break free of the mask her role as a celebrity demands. Some might argue that we
all wear “masks” to the extent that we might show different parts of ourselves at
work, versus to our friends, family members or to our partners. How do you think
these masks affect intimate relationships?

13. Motherhood is often fraught or disrupted as experienced by characters like
Hazel, Kitty, Nellie, Sarah and even Nora. What does the novel have to say about
motherhood and the choices mothers make depending on their station in life?

14. How does not knowing the truth about her parentage shape Sarah and thus her

15. What impact do you think Kitty’s Oscar win might have had on Hollywood if she’d
revealed herself to be a mixed-race Black woman in her acceptance speech. How
do you imagine Elise’s acceptance speech affects her world?

16. In what ways does Hollywood versus other localized industries that impart fame,
wealth, and influence onto its most successful participants (think Washington
D.C.’s political world and New York’s media arena) uniquely function in this story?

17. Kitty/Mary’s “grandfather three times over” gave a pair of gold ball earrings to an
enslaved ancestor named Elizabeth with whom he had two children. Hazel tells
Kitty/Mary to “Choose the gold-earring life.” How do material consumption and
excess like Sarah’s Ferris wheel show up across generations?

18. What does Kitty’s estate reveal about generational wealth in America?

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Overall rating:
  "Too many characters."by liz p. (see profile) 01/07/24

Kitty Karr was born biracial in the Deep South. She is light enough to “pass” as white. Right after she graduates high school her mother sends her to California so she can begin living ... (read more)

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