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Just days after the close of World War II, Bess Myerson, the college-educated 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 is 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.