Inventing Victoria

Tonya Bolden. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-68119-807-1
This captivating historical novel, set in rapidly changing post–Civil War Savannah, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., traces a young African-American woman’s transformation as she moves from service into high society. With evocative flashbacks and richly layered narrative, Bolden deftly sketches Essie’s early years in a brothel, where she is neglected by her prostitute mother in favor of “uncles” and laudanum, and she aches “to be somebody else’s child.” Essie’s “first rescue, first refuge” comes at 14, when sympathetic house cleaner Ma Clara helps her find a service job in a boarding house. Tension mounts when a stratospheric opportunity arises: the benevolent Dorcas Vashon, an elegant African-American patron who seeks out “young women of promise,” offers to make 16-year-old Essie her companion, at which point Essie renames herself Victoria. Bolden (Crossing Ebenezer Creek) offers a compelling, complex look at the African-American social elite as Victoria receives a rigorous education in how to be a lady after launching into D.C. society amid such luminaries as Frederick Douglass. Though romance beckons, the true star here is Victoria herself. Ages 13–up. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2018
Release date: 01/08/2019
Genre: Children's
Ebook - 978-1-68119-808-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-79970-079-1
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-5476-0317-6
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