The Bohemians

Ballantine. Apr. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780593129425. $28. F
In 1918, Dorrie, a 22-year-old white woman from New Jersey, arrives in San Francisco with only a camera and a few possessions, and no backup plan. She pawns the camera for room and board and befriends Caroline Lee, a Chinese American woman who introduces her to Monkey Block, the bohemian center of San Francisco. Dorrie (now Dorothea) gradually establishes herself as a successful portrait photographer with Caroline’s help, until a scandal changes everything. This historical novel set post–World War I, against the backdrop of the 1918 flu pandemic, chronicles Dorothea Lange’s early years, before her prolific career in documentary photography.
VERDICT Historical fiction readers will treasure this engaging story peppered with notable figures from Lange’s circle of friends, including D. H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Maynard Dixon, and Frida Kahlo. Darznik (Song of a Captive Bird) deftly depicts Lange’s transformation into a renowned photographer, as well as the blatant prejudice that Caroline encounters because of her Chinese lineage.
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