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Friday, October 19, 2018

Why You Need To Read and Promote Marie Benedict

Yesterday, I got to have breakfast with Marie Benedict an author many of you know well because her books are huge hits with our library patrons. But just in case she's new to you, here are the links to her Goodreads page and her website. Benedict writes compelling, well researched, and absorbing historical fiction that focuses on the stories of women and their important but ignored place in some of history's most important events/people.

All of her books are library and book club favorites,  but personally, I think her newest one, out in January is her best yet- The Other Woman in the Room [out in January]. From Goodreads:
She was beautiful. She was a genius. Could the world handle both? A powerful, illuminating novel about Hedy Lamarr.  
Hedy Kiesler is lucky. Her beauty leads to a starring role in a controversial film and marriage to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, allowing her to evade Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But Hedy is also intelligent. At lavish Vienna dinner parties, she overhears the Third Reich's plans. One night in 1937, desperate to escape her controlling husband and the rise of the Nazis, she disguises herself and flees her husband's castle. 
She lands in Hollywood, where she becomes Hedy Lamarr, screen star. But Hedy is keeping a secret even more shocking than her Jewish heritage: she is a scientist. She has an idea that might help the country and that might ease her guilt for escaping alone -- if anyone will listen to her. A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece.
Hedy's story spoke to me because my grandmother lived a similar story. In fact, Marie and I discussed that  at breakfast. But this story is still a must read for people without a shared background.

There are aspect of the Hollywood #MeToo movement here. The technology Hedy invented is directly tied to the WiFi we use and take for granted every day and the government turned down her offer for them to use the patent for free because surely a beautiful woman couldn't come up with something useful. This is a WWII adjacent story that book clubs will love. There is so much here for readers both casual in in book clubs. Men and women.

All of Benedict's books are the perfect length and have great pacing. Benedict spends enough time giving you the details and crafting the character, but she also keeps you turning the pages. Most importantly, she ends her books before you feel like the subject was exhausted. There are not too long, things are resolved, and you are satisfied after finishing, but you still might want to learn a bit more. That's what good historical fiction does; it makes you want to read a biography or seek out a documentary, to learn more.

While Benedict talked about this specific new book, she also talked about her process. She sees herself as much of an archeologist as a writer. She has to dig deep into the history that we know to uncover the untold stories of the women who were forced into the shadows. She unearths them and gives them voice in her novels.

I asked her how she chooses a subject. She said she has a list of about 30 possible subjects. Women she heard about, read something in passing about, or someone passed on to her. While working on a current book, she takes small breaks by "putting one foot, and then the other into the rabbit hole," researching a bit more about a few of these women. She cannot allow herself to dive fully down the rabbit hole, but as she dips in and out of a few, she feels the pull and knows what her next project will be even before she finishes the current book.

You can see how much she truly loves the work she does- telling these stories that honor the women who have contributed so much to the world we live in today but whose stories have never been told.

Benedict is a talented writer of historical fiction who takes the "history" part of her work very seriously. In libraries we know this. We buy and hand out her books frequently, however, I also know many don't take her excellent books seriously precisely because they are about women.

Don't forget about Marie Benedict; don't dismiss these as "women's book." These are everybody books. Make sure you order and promote The Only Woman in the Room. History from the point of view of those who were marginalized is something our culture is sorely missing. Filling in the blanks behind the white-male version of history that everyone has been told is important for all people to know and understand. And putting it into fiction form, making it accessible and fun...the perfect way to start the conversations we all need to be having as humans.

Benedict is committed to doing this for a long time; remember she said she has over 30 women in a list. These are books we need. If she keeps selling a lot of copies, other historical fiction and history books about those left out of history will also get more book deals. And all of us will be the winners in a world where all stories get a chance to be told.

Oh and news that I got official permission to announce-- Clementine Churchill is her next subject for January 2020!

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