Saturday, March 3, 2018

Winter Reading 2018 Girl with a Camera: Margaret Bourke-White, Photographer: A Novel


This fictionalized account of Margaret Bourke-White's life is full of interesting tidbits of history. Her choice of college is determined by which schools accept women, and which of those schools have arrangements with other colleges that allow their students to take classes at these partner schools. The choice of herpetology for her course of study went against the common expectations for women in those days, as did her later change to photography. Reading of her efforts to break into the field, the way in which she was treated as a young girl who didn't know her own mind or what she was doing, creates a frustration that is a pale reflection of what she herself must have felt. 

Despite all the odds against her, Margaret did manage to become a recognized photographer. Along the way she saw and documented many important pieces of history. Her photo of the building of the Fort Peck Dam was used as the cover of the first issue of Life magazine, but also showed the New Deal at work. She captured the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the Louisville flood, Josef Stalin, the factories of Soviet Russia, faces of the US South under Jim Crow, and World War II. The descriptions of what she had to do to be in position for those events is a testimony to determination. And that doesn't take into account the personal side of her life, which was also full of drama.

Meyer's use of material from Margaret's autobiography, some of her personal papers, and other sources has insured that the main facts are correct and that the flavor of Margaret's personality comes through clearly.

For those interested in the world during the 1920s and 30s, or in fascinating women who stand up to the pressures of society and pursue their dreams, this is a wonderful choice. Highly recommended for middle school and up.

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