Join Gramercy Books owner Linda Kass for her Columbus book launch of Bessie, an intimate fictional portrait of the early life of Bess Myerson, the daughter of poor Russian Jewish immigrants who, in the bigoted milieu of 1945, remarkably rises to become Miss America. Linda will be in conversation with noted novelist Lee Martin.
Registration for this event is on Eventbrite. The admission fee is waived with the purchase of Bessie.
ADL CLEVELAND (serving Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania), JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER OF GREATER COLUMBUS, MELTON CENTER FOR JEWISH STUDIES AT THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, OHIO STATE’S CREATIVE WRITING PROGRAM, and WOMEN'S PHILANTHROPY AT JEWISHCOLUMBUS are Gramercy’s Community Partners for this author program.
Bessie only has to look in the mirror to see that she is built like a tall, skinny boy, all gangly legs and arms. At twelve, she’s already taller than all of her classmates, even her teachers at P.S. 95 in the Bronx. She lives with her immigrant parents and two sisters in a multibuilding complex among mostly Eastern European Jews, many of them artists and musicians.
Bessie’s life revolves around music. Her nurturing piano teacher, Mrs. Dorothea LaFollette, suggests that Bessie apply to the new High School of Music and Art, the brainchild of New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. It is there where her talent and beauty blossom, where she thirsts to find purpose and to make a difference. By the time Bessie graduates in the spring of 1941, war is imminent. She then spends four years at Hunter College while America’s sons battle across the oceans.
Just days after the close of World War II, Bessie finds herself competing for the Miss New York City title, which she wins, placing her in the Miss America pageant. Beauty is a peripheral quality in Bessie’s world, but at stake is a prize that she believes could change her life: a $5,000 scholarship. Drawing on biographical and historical sources, this tender fictional portrait unveils 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 three historical novels, Tasa’s Song; A Ritchie Boy, the 2021 IPPY Gold Medal Winner in Historical Fiction; and Bessie, 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.
Lee Martin is the Pulitzer Prize finalist author of The Bright Forever, and six other novels, most recently The Glassmaker’s Wife. He has also published three memoirs and two short story collections, most recently The Mutual UFO Network, in addition to the craft book, Telling Stories. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Harper’s, Ms., The Best American Essays, The Best American Mystery Stories, Creative Nonfiction, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, among others. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. A native Midwesterner, he teaches in the MFA Program at The Ohio State University.