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A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a compl A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a complicated past, gives her entrée into Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart of San Francisco. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly--and unwisely--falling in love with Maynard Dixon, a brilliant but troubled painter. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives. The Bohemians captures San Francisco in the glittering and gritty 1920s, with cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and DH Lawrence . At the same time, it is eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and the Spanish flu bring tumult to the city--and as the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.


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A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a compl A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a complicated past, gives her entrée into Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart of San Francisco. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly--and unwisely--falling in love with Maynard Dixon, a brilliant but troubled painter. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives. The Bohemians captures San Francisco in the glittering and gritty 1920s, with cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and DH Lawrence . At the same time, it is eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and the Spanish flu bring tumult to the city--and as the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.

30 review for The Bohemians

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik (Author), Dylan Moore (Narrator) Before I listened to this audiobook, my knowledge of Dorothea Lange was mostly having seen many of her famous Depression era photos. This book mostly focuses on Dorothea's early years in San Francisco, during the 1920s, so I took to the internet to learn all about her entire life and works, those of her one time husband Maynard Dixon, and the other artists that were part of the Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik (Author), Dylan Moore (Narrator) Before I listened to this audiobook, my knowledge of Dorothea Lange was mostly having seen many of her famous Depression era photos. This book mostly focuses on Dorothea's early years in San Francisco, during the 1920s, so I took to the internet to learn all about her entire life and works, those of her one time husband Maynard Dixon, and the other artists that were part of the Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart of San Francisco. We hear about many of the artists and some of the politicians and the politics of the day. Racism, the Spanish flu ravaging the country, corrupt politicians, and riots by various factions, mirror so much of what goes on today. Very little is known about the real life Chinese assistant that Dorothea employed during the time that she opened and ran her portrait studio but the author has turned that assistant into a fictional character named Caroline Lee. Through Caroline's fleshed out story we are able to see deeper into the prejudices towards the Chinese people in San Francisco and Caroline is the means to introducing Dorothea to the Monkey Block world of art, politics, and freedom from the rules of straight laced society.  Dorothea herself felt constricted by the expectations of society. She wanted to make a living with photography but would only ever be able to do the grunt work of a photographer's assistant if she had stayed on the east coast. Instead, she made her way to San Francisco and once she was able to have enough money to feed and house herself, she set her sites on opening her own portrait studio. She was smart, ambitious, and knew a bit about prejudices because of her time being shunned due to childhood polio and the fact that she walked with a limp. I enjoyed this story but it mostly left me wanting to know more about Dorothea and the artists of her world. The book primarily focuses on her early days and it's very interesting to see her history that led to her later work as a famous documentary photographer and photojournalist. Dorothea was a pioneer who put her comfort aside so that she could document the lives of those who suffered the most during the Great Depression. Dorothea also showed the Japanese American internment camps although most of those photos were not seen publicly during the war. Dorothea's life and work at the portrait studio led her to want to freedom of travel and getting to know and show her subjects in a much more personal way and she achieved her goal with great success.  Published April 6th 2021

  2. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) at the beginning of the 20th century is the best painter in San Francisco. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) in 1918 is a new comer to the Bohemian San Francisco, hoping to make a path for herself as a portrait photographer. Today, she is most recognized for influencing journalistic photography. 1918. Dorrie, nearly twenty-three, arrives in San Francisco with a camera and a head full of ideas. As she tries to figure her way around the city, she meets Caroline Lee. Caroline intr Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) at the beginning of the 20th century is the best painter in San Francisco. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) in 1918 is a new comer to the Bohemian San Francisco, hoping to make a path for herself as a portrait photographer. Today, she is most recognized for influencing journalistic photography. 1918. Dorrie, nearly twenty-three, arrives in San Francisco with a camera and a head full of ideas. As she tries to figure her way around the city, she meets Caroline Lee. Caroline introduces Dorrie to Monkey Block. A district full of life and bohemians. Dorrie’s first job in the city is a step-down from what she was doing in New York. But it is a step-up when she sees an opportunity she didn’t see in New York. In New York, she “couldn’t make it any further than somebody’s assistant.” In San Francisco might be different. There are successful women photographers here. Flourishing, because there were no established photographers in the city due to the earthquake of 1906 that not only devastated the city, but also made many artists leave the city. Thus, making a way for a new generation of bohemians, which allowed women to establish themselves. I very much enjoyed the atmosphere of the artistic community. The description of the place where Caroline lives truly brings the meaning of a bohemian community. It’s like a village or a settlement. A building full of rooms, each containing a different person with a different interest. Some rooms were crowded with canvases or a jumble of books or a half-finished sculpture or a dressmaker’s dummy or a grand piano. The historical background is textured with many layers. We get a glimpse of the effects of the 1906 earthquake, the Spanish flue of 1918 reaching the West Coast, and earlier devastating the East Coast. The dimensions of the photography are beautifully explored. What it means to catch the right light, just by moving the camera by 2 inches, the right angle and the right composition. The stiffness of proper attire and straight standing or sitting posture where making space for something more unique. And of course, the bohemian community is phenomenal and the cast of artists is very rich making it a very vibrant story. And a sad part of racism, including The Palmer Raids of 1919-1920. Caroline of Chinese decent knows what it means to be Oriental in early 20th century San Francisco. Not allowed to live outside Chinatown, experiencing discrimination at work, very limited to what she can do and where she can work. And how people view her. The character development is exquisite as well. Dorrie is left with a limp leg after a polio. Her friend helps her to overcome her insecurities. And the love of photography is her gift which she grabs and explores. You can feel her passion. With not an easy childhood, she comes triumphant with making her own path. Through character development, we also see friendship among women and support of each other, to propel each other to success. The prose is grasping from the first pages. You get attached to the characters as quickly and care for them deeply. The plot carries the story forward constantly. Thus, in summary making it a fascinating read. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I was a huge fan of Song of a Captive Bird and was shocked when it didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved. So, I was anxious to read The Bohemians. Darznik did such a good job capturing the life of Forugh Farrokhzhad, I wanted to see how she would handle Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange’s portrait of Florence Thompson is supposedly the most reproduced photo in the world. This book tackles Lange’s early life, her “coming of age story”, starting with her arrival in San Franci I was a huge fan of Song of a Captive Bird and was shocked when it didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved. So, I was anxious to read The Bohemians. Darznik did such a good job capturing the life of Forugh Farrokhzhad, I wanted to see how she would handle Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange’s portrait of Florence Thompson is supposedly the most reproduced photo in the world. This book tackles Lange’s early life, her “coming of age story”, starting with her arrival in San Francisco in 1918. Darznik does a fabulous job of giving us the time and place - the city, the racism, the art world, the social strata. She effortlessly weaves in the after effects of 1906 Earthquake and Fire, WWI, the Spanish Flu and the Palmer Raids. She also blends in Lange’s real life artist friends - Imogen Cunningham, Maynard Dixon and Ansel Adams. Dixon even goes on to become her husband. Once again, she provides the reader with complete character portrayals. She makes a point of explaining Lange’s idea that she was a trades woman, not an artist. By contrast, Dixon believes himself an artist and hates the need for commercial work. As expected, they quickly fall into the traditional marital roles and it’s Lange who suffers. And oh, did I feel for her as she navigated the problems of step-parenthood. The book also does a fabulous job of portraying her friendship with Caroline Lee, who introduces her to the Monkey Block community and helps Dorothea overcome all her insecurities tied to her bad leg. One of my favorite parts of any historical fiction is the author’s note and this is no exception. Darznik goes further than most, outlining her history with the city but also her philosophy about historical fiction. One quote rang especially true -“ in much the same way that every portrait is a self-portrait, every historical novel is to some degree a contemporary novel.” While I didn’t love this the way I did Song of the Captive Bird, I still recommend it for those that love historical fiction. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    I hadn’t heard of Dorothea Lange, the subject of this book. When I Googled her and saw those haunting images of the American Depression, I immediately recognised her work. I looked forward to learning more about her and her experiences during this time. Jasmin Darznik is the author of the excellent Song of a Captive Bird which so movingly portrays the life of the Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad. I loved that book so I was excited to read this one. Sadly, it’s not a repeat performance. At first, I I hadn’t heard of Dorothea Lange, the subject of this book. When I Googled her and saw those haunting images of the American Depression, I immediately recognised her work. I looked forward to learning more about her and her experiences during this time. Jasmin Darznik is the author of the excellent Song of a Captive Bird which so movingly portrays the life of the Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad. I loved that book so I was excited to read this one. Sadly, it’s not a repeat performance. At first, I was intrigued to learn about so many people I hadn’t heard of before such as the photographers Imogen Cunningham and Consuelo Kanaga. Together with Lange, they were successful female photographers in the early decades of the 20th century and I enjoyed exploring their work online. I also learned about Arnold Genthe, Lange’s mentor, and his wonderful photographs of San Francisco’s Chinatown before the 1906 earthquake and fires. We also meet Ansel Adams and learn about Lange’s disastrous marriage to the artist, Maynard Dixon. The storyline is largely about Dorothea’s early career, and her friendship with Caroline who is half-Chinese. Discrimination against the Chinese population at that time was horrific and cruel. Signs saying No Chinese were prevalent and it was impossible for them to rent property outside of Chinatown. Chinese immigration to the USA had been legally banned in the previous century, other than for a few exempted professions, and the law wasn’t completely repealed until 1952. Much of the book is devoted to this subject, perhaps too much overall. It’s interesting but it impacted on Caroline’s life, not on Dorothea’s, other than on their friendship. The reason for Caroline’s eventual disappearance from Dorothea’s life is fictionalised which I was disappointed to learn in the book’s epilogue. Overall, I’m disappointed in this book. It felt dry and longwinded. I didn’t feel any personal connection to Dorothea Lange which I had expected after Song of a Captive Bird. The author’s intention was to explore Dorothea’s early years but I personally feel that it would have been a more satisfying journey if it had concentrated on her later work. I’m pleased I had the opportunity to read it because I learned, through following up references, so much about the early women pioneers in photography, but I’m honestly sorry to say that it didn’t meet my high expectations. With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for a review copy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars ’San Francisco isn’t what it used to be. And it never was.’ - Will Irwin to Herb Cain, San Francisco Chronicle This story captures the aura of this place and time in much the same way that Dorothea Lange captured the plight of the many poverty stricken Americans during the Great Depression. It is at times heartbreaking, eerily relevant to our times, a look at San Francisco as it was in the years leading up to the Great Depression and the War, along with the rise in anti-Asian rhetoric th 4.5 Stars ’San Francisco isn’t what it used to be. And it never was.’ - Will Irwin to Herb Cain, San Francisco Chronicle This story captures the aura of this place and time in much the same way that Dorothea Lange captured the plight of the many poverty stricken Americans during the Great Depression. It is at times heartbreaking, eerily relevant to our times, a look at San Francisco as it was in the years leading up to the Great Depression and the War, along with the rise in anti-Asian rhetoric throughout much of the country, and laws banning Chinese and Japanese immigrants from living in certain areas, the pandemic of 1918, and more. In 1918 Dorothea Lange left her home in Hoboken, New Jersey, not quite yet twenty-three, with just enough clothes for a few days, basic toiletries, and a copy of Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay. She arrived in San Francisco not knowing a soul, with a little over one hundred and forty dollars, cash, to live on for a short time, and her camera. Within hours, she discovers that her money has been stolen by a pickpocket who passes her on the street. Money that took her two years to save, gone. Shortly after, after she meets Caroline, a young elegantly dressed Chinese American woman who befriends her, and will end up not only being a lifeline for Dorothea, but a lifelong friend. Through her, Dorothea Lange will meet many influential people, D. H. Lawrence, Frida Kahlo, Mabel Dodge Luhan. Some are influential to her career - like Ansel Adams - and others whose influence is more political. There is a lot in this story that is relevant to our current days, a pandemic, corruption in politics, racism and anti-immigration attitudes taking on a more threatening tone. It’s not difficult to see that her ability to see the good in people influenced her photography, especially after she closes her studio doors and travels the country, sharing her heartbreaking, iconic photographs taken during the Great Depression. Ones like her best known photograph, Migrant Mother, that most people recognize when they see it, even if they don’t recall the name. While this is primarily about Dorothea Lange, this also is about an iconic era, the years that follow the pandemic - San Francisco in the early 1920’s. Lange meets people who will help her set up her first studio with Caroline as her assistant, as well as, eventually, the man who will become her husband, Maynard Dixon. She is swept up in the nonconformist, bohemian life of the era and, like a butterfly, she slips off the cocoon of her old life and spreads her wings, finally believing in herself. An awakening by a woman who recognized her calling early on, and lived an incredibly rewarding life when she realized how she could make others more aware of the pain these people were enduring. Sharing this message with the world through her eyes and her camera was her gift and her legacy. Published: 06 Apr 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine / Ballantine Books

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I absolutely LOVE historical fiction when the author has done their homework and accurately based the story on a timeline and events that actually happened. Jasmin Darznik definitely completed her thesis before putting pen to paper for this enthralling read about a woman who was light-years ahead of her time. I never knew the foundation of Dorothea Lange, I’ve always been enamored by the eye she had for extremely moving photography, her bravery to go into the masses with her huge and bulky camera I absolutely LOVE historical fiction when the author has done their homework and accurately based the story on a timeline and events that actually happened. Jasmin Darznik definitely completed her thesis before putting pen to paper for this enthralling read about a woman who was light-years ahead of her time. I never knew the foundation of Dorothea Lange, I’ve always been enamored by the eye she had for extremely moving photography, her bravery to go into the masses with her huge and bulky camera strapped around her neck. This is such an informative book, bringing to life the “Monkey Block” that existed in San Francisco. And Dorothea’s first studio, created with the help of her hardworking assistant, Caroline, a Chinese-American. The year was 1918 and the American public felt threatened by anyone who looked slightly Asian. That aspect isn’t hard to believe, especially today with hate crimes against Asian Americans soaring, an absolutely disgusting side of human nature. The plot centers on the close relationship between Dorothea and Caroline. Ms. Darznik brings 1918 San Francisco to life with her lyrical yet fact-based descriptions. We meet numerous budding artists, years before they had any clue what their future held. But we know, and that adds so much to this story. I’ve always honored Dorothea Lange, she was an amazing person. This book added to my understanding of her, the struggles, her loves, and how her beautiful talent became a legendary work of art. Sincere thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is April 6, 2021.

  7. 5 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    It’s 1918 and the almost twenty-three year old Dorothea Lange has traveled west to San Francisco with dreams of becoming a professional photographer. As she arrives, she has her life savings stolen from her. She is alone and penniless. Luckily she meets Caroline Lee who helps her find a place to live and takes her to the bohemian artist community called Monkey Block which is the area’s hub of creativity. The Bohemians is a fictionalize account of the early days of the life and career of Lange, w It’s 1918 and the almost twenty-three year old Dorothea Lange has traveled west to San Francisco with dreams of becoming a professional photographer. As she arrives, she has her life savings stolen from her. She is alone and penniless. Luckily she meets Caroline Lee who helps her find a place to live and takes her to the bohemian artist community called Monkey Block which is the area’s hub of creativity. The Bohemians is a fictionalize account of the early days of the life and career of Lange, who is now heralded as a great American documentary photographer. But before she developed her now famous style, we learn how she developed local fame as a portrait photographer for the wealthy. She meets many popular and emerging artists including painter Maynard Dixon, who she eventually marries. While Dorothea becomes established and is able to make a living, Caroline has to continually deal with horrible anti-Asian discrimination. Their friendship is the heart of the book. Author Jasmin Darznik’s beautifully descriptive writing takes us through the final days of World War I, the devastation of the Spanish flu and the start of the Great Depression. Whether you are familiar with the work of Dorothea Lange or not, this is a fascinating story which provides good insight not only to a talented woman’s journey but a time of social change. Women were starting to rise up and seek new freedoms and opportunities while others were held back due to racial fear and hatred. This is a quick read but you’ll want to stop at times and look up the referenced artists and artwork mentioned. Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books / Random House for the opportunity to read The Bohemians in advance of its April 6, 2021 publication. Rated 4.25 stars. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a great historical fiction that focusses on the early years of Dorothea Lange, one of the women pioneers in photography. Sadly, I had not heard of Ms Lange and it was fascinating to learn not only about her, but about a whole group of famous and exceptional photographers that were in the thick of it during the early 20th century. I also got to learn about her personal life as well as her professional life. I also was introduced to her close friend, Caroline Lee The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a great historical fiction that focusses on the early years of Dorothea Lange, one of the women pioneers in photography. Sadly, I had not heard of Ms Lange and it was fascinating to learn not only about her, but about a whole group of famous and exceptional photographers that were in the thick of it during the early 20th century. I also got to learn about her personal life as well as her professional life. I also was introduced to her close friend, Caroline Lee and her volatile marriage to painter, Manyard Dixon. It was so exciting to learn about so many fascinating artists, and reading this fictional story based on real people, as well as the informative Author’s Note has spurned plenty of research already on my part to find out even more. 4/5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Debbi

    Thank you Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an early reader copy! I literally could not put this book down! Beautifully researched and written, The Bohemians takes us into the early life of Dorothea Lange, renowned photographer, and follows her through early successes and challenges to show us how she became the amazing woman that she was. Dorothea arrives in San Francisco in 1918 from New Jersey, exhausted and broke. She meets Chinese American Caroline Lee and a friendship forms that will take Thank you Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an early reader copy! I literally could not put this book down! Beautifully researched and written, The Bohemians takes us into the early life of Dorothea Lange, renowned photographer, and follows her through early successes and challenges to show us how she became the amazing woman that she was. Dorothea arrives in San Francisco in 1918 from New Jersey, exhausted and broke. She meets Chinese American Caroline Lee and a friendship forms that will take Dorothea into the so-called Bohemian scene in San Francisco, and deep into all the ugly sides of American at the time. The Spanish flu is on the East Coast and there is a sense of invincibility in San Francisco, but buried down the side streets are the stains of racism, prostitution, corruption, poverty and more. Dorothea tells us her story from that painful arrival to early successes and later failures, personal and professional. It's so compelling that its as if we are walking with her through the streets and alleys of San Francisco. Absolutely awesome read, store up your sleep because you'll want to read this straight through!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kati Berman

    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. What a perfect time to read this book about photographer Dorothea Lange’s life. Her early career in San Francisco during the years of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, unrest in the streets, the animosity against immigrants ring true today 100 years later during the Covid pandemic and political unrest . Historical fiction is my favorite genre, I always learn something I didn’t know before. I was familiar with the picture Migrant I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. What a perfect time to read this book about photographer Dorothea Lange’s life. Her early career in San Francisco during the years of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, unrest in the streets, the animosity against immigrants ring true today 100 years later during the Covid pandemic and political unrest . Historical fiction is my favorite genre, I always learn something I didn’t know before. I was familiar with the picture Migrant Mother, but I couldn’t have named the photographer who took the picture. I googled her life before starting the book. I loved Song of a Captive Bird by this author and I was excited to read this new book, and I was not disappointed. The book kept my attention from the first page, I was drawn to the characters . Reading the historical notes at the end of the book made me appreciate how much research went into writing this book. The title Bohemians refers to the group of artists, painters, photographers, journalists in San Francisco living in the early 20th century, as the city had been rebuilt after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fires. Many of the characters in the book are real historical figures, others are fictional characters based on real people. Dorothea’s assistant Caroline Lee is such a character, and according to the author’s note, much of her life was the author’s imagination. Dorothea’s marriage to Maynard Dixon is mentioned, including the ups and downs in their marriage. I was disappointed though that the two sons born of this marriage are barely mentioned. I realize this novel concentrated on Dorothea’s early Bohemian years, but I still felt the rest of her career was squeezed into the last chapter without too much detail. Overall a 4.5 star book, rounded up yo five. Thanks NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the advanced copy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sean Reiter

    Jasmin Darznik’s excellent The Bohemians offers a well-crafted escape from the current zombie apocalypse with a young Dorothea Lange’s journey into energetic early 20th century San Francisco. At the same time, it provides a great reminder of how 100 years later, many faults of those times remain far from repaired. Darznik paints beautiful portraits of captivating women in vivid scenes. Strongly recommend!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia Artayet Shepherd

    I love reading about persistent and resilient women like Dorothea Lange and went down a rabbit hole to look at her photography, realizing I knew her works but not her life. This novel was needed and I highly respect it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    This is a fictionalized biography of Dorothea Lange's youth, her beginnings as a photographer. We know her for her the portraits of the Great Depression, but she started photographing the social elite in San Francisco. Its 1918, Dorothea Lange just arrives to San Francisco, soon she meets Caroline Lee, a friend, confidant and colleague. Caroline will introduce her the Bohemian society of the city: photographers, painters, and writers. San Francisco in the 20s is unique. After the earthquake, there This is a fictionalized biography of Dorothea Lange's youth, her beginnings as a photographer. We know her for her the portraits of the Great Depression, but she started photographing the social elite in San Francisco. Its 1918, Dorothea Lange just arrives to San Francisco, soon she meets Caroline Lee, a friend, confidant and colleague. Caroline will introduce her the Bohemian society of the city: photographers, painters, and writers. San Francisco in the 20s is unique. After the earthquake, there are opportunities for women, they can be artists and be successful. Dorothea's passion are portraits and her talent will allow her to open her own studio. I loved this novel, the writing style its very vivid and can transport you. It feels like you can walk for the streets of San Francisco and maybe be part of the Bohemian society. I want to mention, this is Dorothea Lange´s story, but Caroline it's a very important character, her character is fiction, based on a real person, Ah-Yee (Her name and that she worked with Lange is the only information we have about her).Through her eyes we will witness the racism of the time, Chinese people could not live outside of Chinatown, there were acts of aggression against them and it was difficult to find work. Thank you Netgalley and Ballantine Books for the ARC.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    Jasmin Darznik has pulled off the feat all writers hope to accomplish. With this book in hand we are transported and returned so very satisfied. From the opening pages of The Bohemians, our narrator Dorothea Lange, reflects on her start in 1918 San Francisco and takes us there. The subtle and particular details completely immerse the reader in another time and dare us not to care about these characters. Dorothea Lange created a career as a photographer with her talent and grit. In this exquisite Jasmin Darznik has pulled off the feat all writers hope to accomplish. With this book in hand we are transported and returned so very satisfied. From the opening pages of The Bohemians, our narrator Dorothea Lange, reflects on her start in 1918 San Francisco and takes us there. The subtle and particular details completely immerse the reader in another time and dare us not to care about these characters. Dorothea Lange created a career as a photographer with her talent and grit. In this exquisitely imagined book, Darznik creates a reading experience not soon to be forgotten.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Viscosi

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a recounting of the life of Dorothea Lange, a famous documentary photographer. Dorothea travels from the East Coast to San Francisco. She hasn't been exposed to the big world and after she is pickpocketed, things look grim. A chance encounter on a trolley leads her to a new friend, Caroline Lee. Together they explore life in the artists' colony called Monkey Block. Making new friends opens Dorothea's eyes up to the variety of lifestyles in the up and coming tow The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a recounting of the life of Dorothea Lange, a famous documentary photographer. Dorothea travels from the East Coast to San Francisco. She hasn't been exposed to the big world and after she is pickpocketed, things look grim. A chance encounter on a trolley leads her to a new friend, Caroline Lee. Together they explore life in the artists' colony called Monkey Block. Making new friends opens Dorothea's eyes up to the variety of lifestyles in the up and coming town. Dorothea works hard and is fortunate enough to find a sponsor to help her open a portrait studio. Her portraits are the talk of high society and she enjoys doing what she loves. She marries Maynard Dixon and works hard to balance married life and the demands of a career. Her marriage flounders. The Great Depression begins and the demand for portraits ends. She closes her portrait studio. The changing times show Dorothea another side of life and spark her creativity. She begins photographing the impact of The Great Depression, these are the photographs that make her famous. In covering Dorothea Lange's life, Jasmin Darznik details life in 1920s San Francisco. The myriad of styles and attitudes illustrate the rapidly changing times. It is a wonderful opportunity to look at the life experiences that have shaped such a prominent artist.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I am drawn to novels featuring women in the early-to mid 20 th century. More often than not, they faced a future with no options, or very limited ones. And, their challenges often involved putting aside their true self . THE BOHEMIANS takes us on such a journey through the fictional story of noted photographer Dorothea Lange in early San Francisco. The artist’s name was known to me, but I was not familiar with her work, or her life story. Jasmin Darznik’s fictional account both inspired and daunt I am drawn to novels featuring women in the early-to mid 20 th century. More often than not, they faced a future with no options, or very limited ones. And, their challenges often involved putting aside their true self . THE BOHEMIANS takes us on such a journey through the fictional story of noted photographer Dorothea Lange in early San Francisco. The artist’s name was known to me, but I was not familiar with her work, or her life story. Jasmin Darznik’s fictional account both inspired and daunted me. The story brought out her conundrum of choosing professional fulfillment or love. It was too much of a challenge to hold on to both. I loved the author’s ability to immerse the reader in the creative circle that included Lange, Maynard Dixon, Ansel Adams and other free spirits of San Francisco around 1920. The dark cloud that also hovers throughout the novel is the vicious prejudice against Chinese immigrants. This issue was central to the story and a painful reminder of this dark chapter in our history. THE BOHEMIANS was a compelling story about a brave and talented woman, but perhaps the element that will stick with me the longest is the reminder of the power of friendships to influence the course of our lives. NetGalley provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a candid review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    sylvie

    Review coming close to the publishing date. I highly recommend this book, its beautiful writing...a must read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael McGuire

    A total delight. I was hooked on Jasmin Darznik's "The Bohemians" from the moment the protagonist, photographer Dorothea Lange, caught her first glimpse of San Francisco Bay: "splendid and sparkling, the low angle of the sun catching it and setting it aglow." The book was my first introduction to Lange's life story and my first "trip" to San Francisco. Darznik's account of Lange's polio--"My crippled foot was the place I lived.... there was no world beyond it"--was heartbreaking. Her determinati A total delight. I was hooked on Jasmin Darznik's "The Bohemians" from the moment the protagonist, photographer Dorothea Lange, caught her first glimpse of San Francisco Bay: "splendid and sparkling, the low angle of the sun catching it and setting it aglow." The book was my first introduction to Lange's life story and my first "trip" to San Francisco. Darznik's account of Lange's polio--"My crippled foot was the place I lived.... there was no world beyond it"--was heartbreaking. Her determination to knock down that barrier and so many others is what drives the story. Though the novel is set a hundred years ago, it doesn't feel so distant. The Spanish Flu has just made its way to the West Coast. ("Half the time you couldn't bring yourself to think what it meant, and the other half you couldn't think of anything else.") A shameless politician is campaigning to "Keep California White." ("It was a time when nativism wasn't just tolerated or sanctioned; it was law.") Darznik firmly roots the book in its historical context; I learned a lot. There are smaller parts played by other historical figures, some well-known (like Ansel Adams and Maynard Dixon, Lange's husband) and others less so. There's an excursion to the Southwest ("with its scent of piñon, sage, clementine, and dried leather") and another, many years later, across the Atlantic (I won't say where). But the heart of the book is Lange's development as a photographer, her coming-of-age and the friendship she forms with, Caroline Lee, Lange's assistant (friend first), whose own work behind a Singer sewing machine rivals Lange's work behind the camera. Much of Lee's story is of the author's invention, but it is through Lee that the readers confront some of the harshest realities of the time. Because of Darznik's skillful character development, I came to care for both women quickly, and I rooted for them both until the very last page.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate Baxter

    Some years ago, while viewing an history of photography exhibit, I came face to face with countenances held in Dorothea Lange's photographs. At that time I wondered how was it that this woman was capable of capturing the sitter's soul in a picture. This story written by accomplished author Jasmin Darznik, has put to pen a life's story which helped me better understand the creative genius of Dorothea Lange. Ms. Darznik has deftly created the atmosphere of early 20th century San Francisco, the cit Some years ago, while viewing an history of photography exhibit, I came face to face with countenances held in Dorothea Lange's photographs. At that time I wondered how was it that this woman was capable of capturing the sitter's soul in a picture. This story written by accomplished author Jasmin Darznik, has put to pen a life's story which helped me better understand the creative genius of Dorothea Lange. Ms. Darznik has deftly created the atmosphere of early 20th century San Francisco, the city east-cost raised Dorothea is drawn to in her journey of self-discovery. One can easily imagine the walk through the cobbled streets, the tang of the nearby ocean and the heavy blanket of fog wrapped around the city. Her writing of the bohemian community was colorful and at times amusing. Her character development was rich and the relationships among these characters well fleshed out. The research which went into the telling of this story was Herculean and the retelling spot on. Through Ms. Darznik's beautifully rendered story, the life of the amazing "documentary photographer" Dorothea Lange lives on alongside her iconic photographs. Well done Ms. Darznik! I am grateful to author Jasmin Darznik and her publisher, Ballantine Books for having provided an uncorrected proof of this book through NetGalley. Their generosity, however, has not influenced this review - the words of which are mine alone. Publication Date: April 6, 2021 Pages: 304 Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 9780593129425

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    I loved this piece of historical fiction set mainly in San Francisco, and introducing us to the life of Dorothea Lange and many other artist she befriended while there. Dorothea or Dottie as many called her moved from the East coast to California in 1918 with her camera and a small bit of cash, to try and make it as a photographer. Soon after she got there she was robbed of all of her money and ended up having to pawn her camera in order to survive. While trying to find a place to stay and get he I loved this piece of historical fiction set mainly in San Francisco, and introducing us to the life of Dorothea Lange and many other artist she befriended while there. Dorothea or Dottie as many called her moved from the East coast to California in 1918 with her camera and a small bit of cash, to try and make it as a photographer. Soon after she got there she was robbed of all of her money and ended up having to pawn her camera in order to survive. While trying to find a place to stay and get her feel for the city, she meets Caroline Lee, who soon becomes her friend and confidant. Caroline's story is mainly a made up , but is based on a assistant to Dorothea, who was part Chinese. This book has so many interesting people in it and a lot of what happened throughout the book, with the Spanish flu, fires, anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians etc gave this story a very contemporary feel as well. I knew of Dorothea Lange, through her Depression-era work when she became a documentary photographer, but had little knowledge of her personal life or beyond.. Beautifully told and so interesting to read. I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for a copy of this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Foust

    This luminous book opens the aperture onto one remarkable woman’s life at a remarkable point in time. Dorothea Lange comes alive in these pages, as a young artist struggling with her craft at a time when women barely had the vote, much less any clout in the art world. Her story is set in early twentieth century San Francisco, a time and place shaped by momentous historical events—the 1917 Spanish Flu Pandemic is one—with eerie and often very moving resonance to our world of the present. The Bohe This luminous book opens the aperture onto one remarkable woman’s life at a remarkable point in time. Dorothea Lange comes alive in these pages, as a young artist struggling with her craft at a time when women barely had the vote, much less any clout in the art world. Her story is set in early twentieth century San Francisco, a time and place shaped by momentous historical events—the 1917 Spanish Flu Pandemic is one—with eerie and often very moving resonance to our world of the present. The Bohemians is a rich portrait of a photographer known—not as a “portrait artist” but as an artist whose photographs create a portrait of what it is to be human.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jon Ballard

    An intriguing read delving into an exceptional woman’s journey through turbulent times. Young artist Dorothea Lange is found fighting to establish herself in an art world shaped by the tumultuous events of a reborn early 20th century San Francisco. Reflecting similar challenges of the present day, The Bohemians provides a generous portrait of a photographer who was able to not only craft striking imagery but bring out the humanity of her subjects as well. Highly recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pumpkina

    This is a beautifully written page-turner of a book. I absolutely loved the focus on female friendship. While the characters of Dorothea and Caroline are different in many ways, they're each fascinating and they support each other through many trials. The picture of San Francisco in the 1920s is so vivid and compelling--it makes you feel that you're INSIDE the story. I loved this novel! This is a beautifully written page-turner of a book. I absolutely loved the focus on female friendship. While the characters of Dorothea and Caroline are different in many ways, they're each fascinating and they support each other through many trials. The picture of San Francisco in the 1920s is so vivid and compelling--it makes you feel that you're INSIDE the story. I loved this novel!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Joulwan

    Beautifully written. Fascinating story of 1920s San Francisco and the photographer Dorothea Lange. The parallels between 1920 and 2020 will stop you in your tracks: sexism, racism, flu pandemic, wealth inequality.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Buchta

    I didn’t know who Dorothea Lange was until I googled her as I began this book. Of course I recognized her most famous portrait of the Great Depression mother, but I knew nothing else about this rather famous female photographer. I enjoyed the first 3/4 of the novel, as Dorrie makes her way toward owning her own studio in San Francisco. What disappointed me was the rushed and oversimplification of the story’s final chapters. Dorothea’s life was far from over once Caroline moved on, yet we are giv I didn’t know who Dorothea Lange was until I googled her as I began this book. Of course I recognized her most famous portrait of the Great Depression mother, but I knew nothing else about this rather famous female photographer. I enjoyed the first 3/4 of the novel, as Dorrie makes her way toward owning her own studio in San Francisco. What disappointed me was the rushed and oversimplification of the story’s final chapters. Dorothea’s life was far from over once Caroline moved on, yet we are given scant details about, really, the most poignant years of her life. I want a sequel!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Romero

    Dorothea Lange has had her share of pain in her life. Surviving polio was a major one. Left with little to no self-confidence and a limp, she finds her passion in a small photography shop in New York. In 1918 she arrives in San Francisco. A city still rebuilding itself and full of men returning from war and the hideous behavior of the people toward the Chinese. She is way out of her comfort zone until she meets Caroline Lee, a mixed-race woman with a mysterious past who has also known her share o Dorothea Lange has had her share of pain in her life. Surviving polio was a major one. Left with little to no self-confidence and a limp, she finds her passion in a small photography shop in New York. In 1918 she arrives in San Francisco. A city still rebuilding itself and full of men returning from war and the hideous behavior of the people toward the Chinese. She is way out of her comfort zone until she meets Caroline Lee, a mixed-race woman with a mysterious past who has also known her share of sorrow. Caroline introduces Dorothea to the Monkey Block, a large colony of artists of every medium. Caroline is an expert seamstress and clothing designer and it is her dream to open her own salon. Dorothea wants to open her own photography studio. Caroline introduces her to all the names we know and love, such as Maynard Dixon, Ansel Adams, Mabel Dodge, Frida Kahlo, and more. Dorothea falls hard for Dixon, a brilliant artist but a horrible lover. Dorothea and Caroline open the photography studio and do very well. Things are going well, they are making money and Dorothea is neck-deep into this new world of art and political upheaval as many see the Chinese as less than human and want them out of the country. Sound familiar? I so enjoyed reading about how Dorrie got to San Francisco. The 1920s were not kind to minorities or women but Dorrie pushed a lot of boundaries. Everything in her life is changed with an act so horrendous it sends Caroline far away and Dorrie is on her own. In the first half of the book, I was really interested. Then there came the part about her feeling guilty for being gone from her sons for so long while taking pictures documenting internment camps and the people suffering during the depression. Wait…she had children? When? With who? Not another thing was mentioned about it and it felt unfinished. The rest really made no sense. The people in this book are real and the author kindly elaborates on them in the end. All in all, I was rather confused by the end. NetGalley/ Expected publication: April 6th, 2021 by Ballantine Books

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Historical Fiction

    Jasmin Darznik, author of SONG OF A CAPTIVE BIRD, returns with THE BOHEMIANS, a dazzling and timely reimagining of the life of Dorothea Lange, one of America’s first female photographers. Though Lange is remembered now for her documentary photography during the Great Depression, Darznik focuses the book on her start --- from hardscrabble Jersey girl to famous California portraitist, bringing to life post-earthquake San Francisco in the process. When we meet Dorothea Lange, it is 1918, 12 years af Jasmin Darznik, author of SONG OF A CAPTIVE BIRD, returns with THE BOHEMIANS, a dazzling and timely reimagining of the life of Dorothea Lange, one of America’s first female photographers. Though Lange is remembered now for her documentary photography during the Great Depression, Darznik focuses the book on her start --- from hardscrabble Jersey girl to famous California portraitist, bringing to life post-earthquake San Francisco in the process. When we meet Dorothea Lange, it is 1918, 12 years after the earthquake that flattened San Francisco and forced it to rise from the ashes with a new vigor. For years, Dorothea --- Dorrie --- has slaved away as a photographer’s assistant, dreaming of visiting Paris and starting her own studio. The war has put an end to her Parisian dreams, so she takes a chance on a cross-country train ride to California...where she is immediately robbed of every last cent she has saved for the past two years. Armed with nothing but her camera, Dorrie spends the night sleeping on a beach. The next day, she strikes off on an unsuccessful job hunt, but ends up meeting her destiny: Caroline Lee, an Asian American woman with striking green eyes, an endless wealth of pride, and the drive and connections to help Dorrie settle into town. Dorrie, having already sold her camera for $40, cannot believe her luck when she meets Caroline, who immediately takes Dorrie under her wing. Caroline buys Dorrie her first real dinner in weeks and introduces her to some talented and eccentric friends, including Consuelo Kanaga, Ansel Adams and Maynard Dixon, the best painter in San Francisco. Caroline and her friends all reside in and work around Monkey Block, the city’s first fireproof and earthquake-resistant building, which has come to house the city’s Bohemians: artsy, worldly and inventive types who are more progressive in their views on life, capitalism and war. Caroline’s introduction to this world is a culture shock, but one that she meets with eagerness and curiosity, most notably when it comes to tall, dark and handsome Maynard. Though he condemns materialism, Maynard makes a fine living and has always landed on his feet --- except when it comes to his “nervous” ex-wife, to whom he remains dysfunctionally joined. Through hard work and dedication, Dorrie slowly starts to show her work to Caroline’s friends, and when Consuelo invites her to a camera club, she finally makes the connections that get her noticed. Drawing upon Caroline’s belief in her and her own drive as a tradeswoman (not an artist, at least not yet, as Dorrie seems to believe), she embarks on a partnership with a local investor who helps her start her own studio. As she makes a name for herself as a portraitist to the elite, her friendship with Caroline deepens. Through Caroline, she is exposed to San Francisco’s stark dichotomies: a fascination with Japonisme, but open racism toward the Chinese; a flourishing art scene, but starving artists; a glorious rebirth of culture and society, but a seedy underbelly focused on making money by selling girls and gentrification. Still, her friendship with Caroline is full of wonderful highs. Dorrie, always shy and ashamed of her childhood bout with polio that left her with a limp and a bad foot, starts to come out of her shell, donning beautiful silk dresses handmade by Caroline, dancing and even dating. The only problem is that she’s dating the wrong man. The marriage of Dorothea Lange and Maynard Dixon is well-documented, but Darznik makes it come alive here. From Maynard’s carelessness and hypocrisy to Dorrie’s devotion to her work over everything else, their romance adds some edge to this luscious novel. While it does not hold a candle to the beautiful friendship between Dorrie and Caroline, it has some very real repercussions in Dorrie’s life and other relationships. Though we know early on that they do not remain friends, the story of their friendship is so heartfelt and powerful that it makes the mystery of what happened all the more compelling. When I read SONG OF A CAPTIVE BIRD, I was surprised and disappointed to see that Darznik did not get the critical acclaim she deserved. She’s a rich, cadenced writer, and her setting is every bit as wholly realized as her characters. Her female characters are flawed, ambitious and curious, and though they often push the limits of what is expected, they remain relatable and suffer real, tragic setbacks. I have never read about Dorothea Lange (or had the interest to, if I’m being honest), but THE BOHEMIANS is much more than a fictionalized biography. In Darznik’s capable hands, Lange feels as real as you or me, and her story, even the fictional bits, brings her legacy to life. Even better, the author is able to find sharp, eerie similarities between her characters’ lives and current events, but her exploration of those is never heavy-handed or overdrawn --- which, of course, makes them all the more horrifying. From Anti-Asian racism to the Spanish Flu and even Fake News, Darznik reminds us that history does indeed repeat itself, all while providing her readers with the perfect role models to make sure that we fall on the right side of history, no matter the issue. Perfect for readers of THE AGE OF LIGHT and VERA, THE BOHEMIANS is a spellbinding and captivating portrayal of post-earthquake San Francisco, the lives of artists and the power of female friendships. Reviewed by Rebecca Munro

  28. 4 out of 5

    Martha Patterson

    I spent the first thirty years of my life in the Bay Area, eleven of them in San Francisco. I am always up for a book set in San Francisco. Historical fiction is even better. The Bohemians does not disappoint. The story opens with the arrival of famed photographer Dorothea Lange in San Francisco in 1918. The city has mostly recovered from the earthquake 12 years prior, and the 23 year old Dorothea arrives at the sparkling, beautiful city with dreams full of excitement and promise. Shortly after a I spent the first thirty years of my life in the Bay Area, eleven of them in San Francisco. I am always up for a book set in San Francisco. Historical fiction is even better. The Bohemians does not disappoint. The story opens with the arrival of famed photographer Dorothea Lange in San Francisco in 1918. The city has mostly recovered from the earthquake 12 years prior, and the 23 year old Dorothea arrives at the sparkling, beautiful city with dreams full of excitement and promise. Shortly after arriving, she befriends Caroline Lee, a bi racial Asian woman, spurned by early 20th century racism. Caroline introduces Dorothea to the bohemian society of artists, journalists and other photographers in San Francisco, and helps her open her own photography studio, where she experiences great success as a portrait photographer for wealthy families, many years before her famous Migrant Woman photograph, and her pictures documenting the Manzanar Japanese Internment camp. The book is richly detailed and researched. I found myself Googling some of the characters and locations to learn more. Many historical figures are woven in to the story; photographers Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams, DH Lawrence, and Lange’s tumultuous marriage to famed Western artist Maynard Dixon. The story also interacts with the politics and world events of the time. The Spanish flu, WWI, and the impact it had on the economy, the workforce and union movement, and the beginnings of the anti anarchy, anti immigrant raids and politics of the time. The plot eerily mirrors the current state of the world, 100 years later. One fictitious character, a senator, ( based on former SF Mayor and Senator James Phelan) runs on the platform of “Keep California White” , fear mongering with rhetoric of the “yellow skinned takeover”. Just as COVID 19 has done to the world in the past year, the Spanish flu created divisions in communities between maskers and anti maskers, and racism and conspiracy theories were rampant. The author spins a fascinating tale, creating a vivid picture of what San Francisco was like ,”way back when”. She vividly captures the sights, sounds, beauty and romance of San Francisco that has lured and enticed many seeking acceptance and new possibilities for centuries. My only criticism is the narrative occasionally veers into an almost sob story romance genre. I was disappointed the story jumped from 1920 to The Great Depression with minimal attention paid to Lange’s children, and her second marriage. I would have liked more detail on her work during the Depression. Still, a fabulous engrossing read. It opens with a quote from a journalist, “San Francisco isn’t what it used to be. And it never was.’” The funny thing is, residents of San Francisco have been saying that for years, and there is some truth to the quote. However, The Bohemians captures a sparkling, intriguing time in San Francisco history, and is a fascinating portrait of an American icon.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik Posted on April 6, 2021 by Carol Early Cooney Dear Fellow Reader, In The Bohemians, the central character is Dorothea Lange. While you may not recognize the name immediately, you are familiar with some of her work. As usual, when I started reading the book, I didn’t remember what about the book had intrigued me. I had liked Ms Darznik’s last book (I remembered it., which is saying something.) and so I accepted this book. (I received the book in advance of publication The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik Posted on April 6, 2021 by Carol Early Cooney Dear Fellow Reader, In The Bohemians, the central character is Dorothea Lange. While you may not recognize the name immediately, you are familiar with some of her work. As usual, when I started reading the book, I didn’t remember what about the book had intrigued me. I had liked Ms Darznik’s last book (I remembered it., which is saying something.) and so I accepted this book. (I received the book in advance of publication in exchange for an unbiased review.) Dorothea (Dorrie) arrives in San Francisco in 1918 at the age of 23. The first thing that happens is that she loses all her money to a pick pocketer. She ends up spending her first night on the beach because she didn’t have money to get a place to sleep. The next morning, she hocks her most prized possession, her camera. And then she meets Carolyn Lee. Carolyn is half Chinese and is kind to Dorrie. She takes her to an inexpensive restaurant and then shows Dorrie her apartment in Monkey Block. (Monkey Block was an area in San Francisco where many artists lived. It was the bohemian heart of the city.) Carolyn is quite sure that someone that lives in or is around Monkey Block can help Dorrie. With Carolyn’s help, Dorrie meets many of the famous and infamous artists in San Francisco. Dorrie and Carolyn form a close friendship that helps both of them. The politics of the time play into the story. In that era in San Francisco, the Chinese were looked down upon and treated very poorly. They were not allowed to hold good jobs or live outside of certain districts. (Timely reading with our current issue with Asian hate crimes) Since Dorrie’s close friend was Chinese American, Dorrie sees the prejudice experienced by her close friend. Dorrie has also suffered from polio as a child and as a result, has a limp. That influences how she views herself thought her life. One of the people Dorrie meets is Maynard Dixon, the painter. Carolyn warns Dorrie to avoid him that he is trouble. Dorrie finds out quickly that he is fascinating, and that Carolyn was right. Dorrie also becomes friends with Ansel Adams. Dorothea Lange is known for her photojournalism, but she started out as a portrait photographer and that is how she made a living most of the time in San Francisco. It was interesting to read how she started and how her life changed. I enjoyed the book and am happy to suggest that you read it. The people and the times are interesting. Dorthea Lange was an exceptional woman. She has been brought to life in an interesting fashion in the book. My only quibble with the book is at the very end. The last chapter skips ahead 10 years. Dorrie suddenly has major life changes that are given without much information. I understand why it was done but at the same time, it was a sudden shift. I did like the Epilogue and the Author’s Notes and the Historical Notes. Don’t skip them. There is interesting information there. The Historical Notes section gives a historical synopsis of the famous main characters.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    In her Author’s Notes at the back of her new novel The Bohemians, Jasmin Darznik writes, “As a writer of historical fiction, I have a peculiar relationship to history. I find myself drawn to unknown persons and nameless figures. I find myself looking not solely for what’s there, but for what’s missing, what hasn’t been written, what can’t ever be known, except, possibly, partially through invention.” In imagining the story of forces shaping young Dorothea Lange into the famous, groundbreaking ph In her Author’s Notes at the back of her new novel The Bohemians, Jasmin Darznik writes, “As a writer of historical fiction, I have a peculiar relationship to history. I find myself drawn to unknown persons and nameless figures. I find myself looking not solely for what’s there, but for what’s missing, what hasn’t been written, what can’t ever be known, except, possibly, partially through invention.” In imagining the story of forces shaping young Dorothea Lange into the famous, groundbreaking photographer she would become, Dazrnik--part of an immigrant family--is drawn to an ethnic Chinese woman who became Lange’s real-life photography assistant, but about whom almost nothing is known. In 1918, when a world war forces young Dorothea Lange to abandon her dream of moving from New Jersey to Europe, instead substituting San Francisco, Darznik quickly introduces her to Caroline Lee, the fictional name she gives that future studio assistant. An artsy would-be fashion designer forced to labor in a department store basement because of her Chinese heritage, Lee lives in Monkey Block, home to many struggling members of the art set and one of the few places a Chinese person could live outside of Chinatown. Lee helps Lange find lodging in an inexpensive women’s boarding house and begins introducing her new friend to a few of the city’s artists—the “bohemians.” As Darznik tells Dorothea Lange’s story of struggles and successes during a period when women had to fight for opportunities, readers meet a variety of historic figures such as photographers Imogen Cunningham and Consuelo Kanaga, boyhood Ansel Adams, who would become the famed nature photographer, and painters Maynard Dixon, Frieda Kahlo, and Diego Rivera. Throughout the novel, San Francisco seems more than a setting, almost a character rather than a city, a living, changing being capable of giving new life to those who arrive there and further affecting lives as the city faces historic challenges. The daughter of immigrants who bought a car and moved their family to San Francisco, Darznik explains, “A new city can change you, in a way a friend can change you, and there are moments in life when both happen at once.” Her personal experience helps her make the city come alive. Focusing primarily on Lange’s early years as she grows into her fame, Darznik touches on her somewhat on her later years. Through reminiscences, the novel’s Epigraph fills in a few of the missing details of Lange’s amazing life story. Thanks to NetGalley, Ballantine Books/Random House, and Jasmin Darznik for the advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review of this interesting account of how San Francisco’s arts community may have shaped Dorothea Lange.

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