in conversation with Kristin Harmel
Free Online Event
Tues., September 12th • 5:30pm PT
Just days after the close of World War II, Bess Myerson, the daughter of poor Russian Jewish immigrants living in the Bronx, is competing in the Miss America pageant. At stake: a $5,000 scholarship. The tension and excitement in Atlantic City's Warner Theatre are palpable, especially for traumatized Jews rooting for one of their own. So begins Bessie.
Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Bessie reimagines the early life of Bess Myerson, who, in 1945 at age twenty-one, remarkably rises to become one of the most famous women in America. This intimate fictional portrait reveals the transformation of the nearly six-foot-tall, self-deprecating yet talented preteen into an exemplar of beauty, a peripheral quality in her world, where success is measured by intellectual attainment. Yet it is the focus on her beauty, and the secular world of pageantry, that she must choose to escape her roots and fulfill her fierce desire to achieve and become someone for whom great things happen.
Bessie is a tender study of a bold young woman living at a precarious moment in our cultural history as she searches for love and acceptance, eager to make her mark on the world.
Linda Kass is the author of two historical novels, Tasa’s Song and A Ritchie Boy, the 2021 IPPY Gold Medal Winner in Historical Fiction. Bessie was named A Hasty Book List Most-Anticipated Historical Fiction Title for 2023. Linda began her career as a magazine journalist and correspondent for regional and national publications. She is the founder and owner of Gramercy Books, an independent bookstore in Columbus, Ohio. Find her online at lindakass.com
Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels including The Forest of Vanishing Stars, The Book of Lost Names, The Room on Rue Amélie, and The Sweetness of Forgetting. She is published in more than thirty languages and is the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series, Friends & Fiction. She lives in Orlando, Florida.
Linda Kass photo courtesy of Lorn Spolter. Kristin Harmel photo courtesy of Phil Art Studio Reims France.