Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance

Overview

Winner, Julia Ward Howe Prize
New York Times Notable Book
Publishers Weekly, "Ten Best" Books of 2013
NPR, "Best of 2013"
Los Angeles Times bestseller
"Must Read" Book, Massachusetts Book Awards

New York City in the Jazz Age was host to a pulsating artistic and social revolution. Uptown, an unprecedented ...

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Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance

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Overview

Winner, Julia Ward Howe Prize
New York Times Notable Book
Publishers Weekly, "Ten Best" Books of 2013
NPR, "Best of 2013"
Los Angeles Times bestseller
"Must Read" Book, Massachusetts Book Awards

New York City in the Jazz Age was host to a pulsating artistic and social revolution. Uptown, an unprecedented explosion in black music, literature, dance, and art sparked the Harlem Renaissance. While the history of this African-American awakening has been widely explored, one chapter remains untold: the story of a group of women collectively dubbed "Miss Anne."

Sexualized and sensationalized in the mainstream press—portrayed as monstrous or insane—Miss Anne was sometimes derided within her chosen community of Harlem as well. While it was socially acceptable for white men to head uptown for "exotic" dancers and "hot" jazz, white women who were enthralled by life on West 125th Street took chances. Miss Anne in Harlem introduces these women—many from New York's wealthiest social echelons—who became patrons of, and romantic participants in, the Harlem Renaissance. They include Barnard College founder Annie Nathan Meyer, Texas heiress Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, British activist Nancy Cunard, philanthropist Charlotte Osgood Mason, educator Lillian E. Wood, and novelist Fannie Hurst—all women of accomplishment and renown in their day. Yet their contributions as hostesses, editors, activists, patrons, writers, friends, and lovers often went unacknowledged and have been lost to history until now.

In a vibrant blend of social history and biography, award-winning writer Carla Kaplan offers a joint portrait of six iconoclastic women who risked ostracism to follow their inclinations—and raised hot-button issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality in the bargain. Returning Miss Anne to her rightful place in the interracial history of the Harlem Renaissance, Kaplan's formidable work remaps the landscape of the 1920s, alters our perception of this historical moment, and brings Miss Anne to vivid life.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Martha A. Sandweiss
In this remarkable work of historical recovery, Carla Kaplan…does well by a group of women who got so much wrong. She resurrects Miss Anne as a cultural figure and explores the messy contradictions of her life, moving her from the periphery of a story about white patronage and boundary-testing interracial liaisons to the center. With a focus on six of the roughly 60 white women active in the Harlem Renaissance, Kaplan delineates Miss Anne as a counterpart to the better known flapper or "new woman" of the Roaring Twenties. But this is really a collection of individual stories, a group biography that lets the idiosyncrasies of the individual women shine through…The book is full of fresh discoveries.
Publishers Weekly
Northeastern University literature and gender studies scholar Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters) shares the previously untold story of a group of notable white women who embraced black culture—and life—in Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s. Collectively known as “Miss Anne,” these women served as hostesses, patrons, activists, comrades, lovers, writers, and editors at a time when the Ku Klux Klan was at its height, and when a white woman who became intimate with a “Negro” faced almost certain ostracism. A captivating group biography and social history, the book focuses on six women: Lillian Wood (Let My People Go), a teacher at a small black college; Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, a Texan heiress who married black journalist George Schuyler and became a writer herself, yet had to keep her interracial marriage hidden from her family; Barnard college founder Annie Nathan Meyer; influential patron Charlotte Osgood Mason; novelist Fannie Hurst; and English heiress Nancy Cunard. An empathetic and skillful writer, Kaplan has produced a valuable addition to the history of the period. As she shows, Miss Anne defied categorization, transcending her race, class, and gender, and introducing many of the ideas we hold today about inclusiveness and self-reinvention. 54 b&w photos and two 8-page color inserts. Agent: Brettne Bloom, Kneerim & Williams. (Sept.)
Gilbert King
“Endlessly fascinating, Miss Anne in Harlem reveals a whole new perspective on the Harlem Renaissance, and Carla Kaplan delivers an essential and absorbing portrait of race and sex in 20th century America.”
Arnold Rampersad
“With superb, exhaustive research and finely dramatic writing, Carla Kaplan’s brilliant Miss Anne in Harlem fills an aching void in our knowledge of the Harlem Renaissance. It also significantly deepens our understanding of American culture in the 1920s and American feminism in general.”
Megan Marshall
“A work of meticulous and far-ranging scholarship, Miss Anne in Harlem matches its characters’ shocking and subversive lives with explosive revelations and subtle insights. . . . Kaplan’s haunting narrative forces a rethinking of race and gender.”
Nell Irvin Painter
“[An] utterly fascinating and deeply insightful account. . . . This fine book takes the Misses Anne seriously and goes further, to reveal the workings of interracial networks in one of the most important cultural phenomena in American history.”
Debby Applegate
“The fact that white women played a pivotal role in creating the Harlem Renaissance was a secret hiding in plain sight, but it took Carla Kaplan’s keen eye, rigorous research, and crystal clear prose to reveal it. A surprising, delightful book.”
Diane McWhorter
“Carla Kaplan has taken on a dauntingly liminal topic and by force of scholarly rigor and narrative compassion rendered it central to our understanding of an era. Lush, original, and vigorously argued....”
Boston Globe
“[R]ichly researched, thoughtful new book.”
NPR's Fresh Air
“[A] revelatory book. . . . Aside from its significance as cultural history, Miss Anne in Harlem is packed with amazing life stories.”
Daily Beast
“In her clear-sighted, empathetic assessment of a half-dozen of these women, Carla Kaplan casts a fresh eye over people and relationships too often reduced to stereotypes.”
Washington Post Book World
“[An] intriguing new book.”
New York Journal of Books
“Carla Kaplan has given us and history a great gift.”
New York Times
“Professor Kaplan, a biographer of the writer Zora Neale Hurston, captivatingly illuminates and places in overdue perspective.”
Hilton Als
“Kaplan always writes from inside her characters, and with a novelist’s sense of scope—and compassion.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Kaplan’s meticulously documented and intrepid history of Miss Anne encompasses a unique vantage on the complexities of race and gender and a dramatic study in paradox.”
New York Times Book Review
“In this remarkable work of historical recovery . . . [Kaplan] resurrects Miss Anne as a cultural figure and explores the messy contradictions of her life . . . deeply researched.”
NPR.org
“(Kaplan’s) extensive research has given life to a critical period in black American history-and given credit to the white women who, for various reasons, helped the Harlem Renaissance flourish.”
Library Journal
Miss Anne refers collectively to the white women who participated in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, generally upper-crust types considered scandalous by whites and disdained by some blacks. An authority on modernism, women's and African American history, and race relations, Kaplan is surely the woman to write this book. With a 50,000-copy first printing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060882372
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/2/2014
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 1,105,575
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Carla Kaplan is an award-winning professor and writer who holds the Stanton W. and Elisabeth K. Davis Distinguished Professorship in American Literature at Northeastern University. She is the author of The Erotics of Talk and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. A recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, Kaplan has been a fellow in residence at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the W. E. B. DuBois Institute and is a fellow of the Society of American Historians.

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