The Personal Librarian
by Christopher Victoria Murray Marie; Benedict
Hardcover- $27.00

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/16/21

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/19/21

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/08/21

 
  "" by pjrossman (see profile) 11/14/21

 
  "Emotive and thought provoking!!!" by Jyford (see profile) 11/15/21

As a senior citizen African American, I have known about people passing since I was in high school. I have family members who could have decided to pass but didn’t. There have been color issues within the black race and in society since slavery. The authors of this book are brilliant. Belle was brilliant but mentally unhealthy and conflicted though out her life. Racism is seriously damaging for all, including racists. Do we keep hope alive?

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/15/21

 
  "" by Nancybee1974 (see profile) 11/16/21

Fascinating read based on a true story which allows you to imagine being Belle, a black woman living as white in a racist world.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 01/21/22

 
  " A new woman to honor" by momster90 (see profile) 02/02/22

This woman's history was news to me. I felt that they story was insightful and realistically portrayed.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/01/22

 
  "Belle da Costa Greene proved to the world that race is unimportant" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 03/11/22

The Personal Librarian, Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray, authors, Robin Miles, narrator
“The Personal Librarian”, is a well-written story, but that is what it is, a story. Using what little facts they could gather, the authors created an interesting novel about a woman who successfully passed as white and was responsible for working with J.P. Morgan, as his personal librarian, creating his dream of a library to memorialize his collections of documents, manuscripts, bibles and various pieces of priceless art.
Born Belle Marion Greener, a woman of color, she became Belle da Costa Greene, a white woman, under her mother’s tutelage, in order to afford her far more advantages than she would have been able to access, had she been known as a woman of color. Racism would have prevented her from achieving most of her dreams. Instead, she successfully guided Morgan’s dreams to fruition and helped to create the Pierpont Morgan Library to keep his vision alive.
Her father was an accomplished man as well, as the first man of color to graduate from Harvard College. He was an activist, as perhaps her mother was a realist, who understood that as a woman of color, Belle could never become the woman her father knew she was capable of becoming. It went against his beliefs, as an activist against racism, for her to pass as white; but he was proud of her, in this fictional version of Belle. In this book, which is largely made up from whole cloth, since there are so few written records of her life, many relationships are insinuated, but her accomplishments are well documented, even if her personal life is not.
In the end, I was left with the feeling that the book was written more to promote the idea of systemic racism and white supremacy, rather than the idea that regardless of color, great achievements are possible for all people. It seemed to want to add to the modern day complaints, that are so prevalent today, creating a feeling of guilt and false responsibility for racist behavior, rather than to encourage a course correction to hopefully nullify the voices and efforts of those who are the true racists. I found that a bit disingenuous, since I do not believe in condemning an entire country for what I call racism, in the same way that I do not condemn the entire country for being anti-Semitic, a subject the author brings up, nor do I say there is systemic anti-Semitism in the country or in the world, though it has existed for thousands, not hundreds of years, since I believe that there are only anti-Semites and only racists, but not that everyone belongs in either of those two categories.
In the book, the authors cite Richard Greener, as he tells Belle that he sided with Booker T. Washington and not W. E. B. DuBois, who was currently leading the movement for equality. Therefore, he fell out of favor. In the same way, I do not completely side with the authors of this book when it comes to “White Supremacy” or “White Privilege”, but prefer to side with those who believe that most of us are not inherently racist, simply because we are white, people like the civil rights activist, Robert Leon Woodson, Sr., who believes in empowering the community rather than blaming the entire country and its white population. I hope I do not fall out of favor. As a former teacher, in a special service school with mostly people of color and Hispanics, and also a lily-white school, with the odd “other” person, I witnessed first-hand the ability of all students to achieve, a prospect most of us, but not all, in the profession supported. The community’s location was not the problem, what the community promoted affected what the people achieved. The idea of education being a priority was important.
I did enjoy the book, as a mostly fictional description of Belle’s life, a life of tremendous accomplishment which should be measured by her achievements, her brilliance, her intuition and her character, rather than her race, something all people should agree upon. Anyone who has learned anything about history knows how slavery began, how it ended, and how the abuse continued, and does until today, in some quarters. The book is a wonderful book for book groups as it does afford the opportunity for an honest and open discussion about issues that are difficult to be honest about, and in that way, perhaps will bring about change rather than reinforcing the idea that everyone is a racist. Many questions were raised. Is passing for white justified? Why was it necessary? If she had told who she was, after all of her accomplishments, would she have helped the cause of racial justice or hindered it? Why was the first Civil Rights Act reversed? If her father approved of what she had done, but not of how she did it, was he a hypocrite?
This book was read with perfect tone and expression, by Robin Miles. She enhanced the book completely by creating a stage with performers for the reader to visualize.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/18/22

 
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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/06/22

Thank Oio

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/08/22

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/29/22

I was very caught up in the details of her life and was attached to what might happen to her.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/02/22

 
  "" by lsanderoff (see profile) 07/30/22

 
  "" by sballard (see profile) 08/07/22

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/30/22

I couldn’t even finish the book. Didn’t hold my attention not to mention, that same story has basically been written about a lot! Nothing original about it.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/30/22

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/31/22

@

 
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  "" by joy2all (see profile) 03/03/23

 
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  "JP Morgan's Personal Librarian" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/06/23

A story that needed to be told. JP Morgan hired a personal librarian, Bella da Costa Greene who helped build and manage his extensive collection. A women who hide her true identity but managed to become one off the most influential women of the 1900's.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/14/23

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/15/23

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/17/23

 
  "The Personal Librarian" by akela (see profile) 03/21/23

An historical novel based on a woman who was black and passed for white. She entered the world of NY high society as the perssonal librarian for J. P. Morgan. At the time she could have been lynched if discovered. It deals with issues of race and her decision not to have a child becausse of the danger of revealing her closely kept secret. She led her entire life projecting a persona that she created to mask who she really was. She had an incredibly successful career, at the same time wrestling with her relationship with her family. It has romance, loss, and suspense.

 
  "" by ccoyne (see profile) 03/23/23

 
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  "" by Chris@JAX (see profile) 05/11/23

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/18/23

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/21/23

Loved this book. I liked how strong Belle was during an era when so much could have gone wrong and had a totally different outcome for her and her family. I enjoy learning about history/individuals I knew nothing about until reading the book.

 
  "" by rachkrum (see profile) 05/31/23

 
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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/17/23

 
  "The choices we make" by lpollinger (see profile) 10/09/23

When Belle da Costa Greene is only in her twenties she is given an unbelievable opportunity to become the person librarian to J. P. Morgan. Over the years she become invaluable to him, the toast of NY Society and one of the most powerful people in the art world. However, Belle has a secret, that if it comes out will destroy her reputation and everything she has worked for.
This is historical fiction and most of the book was quite enjoyable, but in some parts it was very slow moving.

 
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  "" by mileyk (see profile) 06/13/24

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