The Tuesday Afternoon Book Club discussed their January selection “The Personal Librarian”
by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. “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 preserve her carefully crafted white identity.
Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts,
books and artwork for his newly build Pierpont Morgan Library. As curator, Belle becomes a
fixture in New York City Society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book
world. She was a shrewd negotiator obtaining critical works to create a world-class collection.
The book is based on the true story of Belle. The authors have well researched her story.
But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born Belle Marion
Greener, 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 – but her complexion is dark because she is African
American. From a family of well educated people Belle must protect her secret as it affects
not only her but her family as well.
The book was the basis for a great discussion, not only of race but women in the early 1900’s,
- the time of the book – and their place in the work world. Book Club members enjoyed the
book and would highly recommend it. Call or stop by the library to reserve your copy.