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Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance Hardcover – September 10, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060882387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060882389
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Frustrated by the lack of information about the strong-minded white women who played intriguing, often vexing roles in the Harlem Renaissance and who were known collectively as Miss Anne, Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, 2002) took up the challenge and through arduous research reclaimed astonishing and provocative lives. She presents six indelible portraits of taboo-breakers who were reviled as “either monstrous or insane” for their involvement in African American culture. Each biography is shaped by Kaplan’s vivid scene-setting, historical perspective, psychological sensitivity, narrative panache, and frank analysis of the virulent sexism and racism of 1920s America and the confluence in Harlem of grim social conundrums and a spectacular creative flowering. Kaplan’s audacious, contrary and tragic subjects include Texan Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, a spitfire journalist who married the controversial African American newspaper editor and writer, George Schuyler; Charlotte Osgood Mason, who established herself as a meddlesome patron of Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Alain Locke, “one of the chief architects of the Harlem Renaissance”; and scandalous steamship heiress Nancy Cunard, who, to the surprise of nearly everyone, edited the era’s “most comprehensive anthology of black life.” Kaplan’s meticulously documented and intrepid history of Miss Anne encompasses a unique vantage on the complexities of race and gender and a dramatic study in paradox. --Donna Seaman


“Professor Kaplan, a biographer of the writer Zora Neale Hurston, captivatingly illuminates and places in overdue perspective.” (New York Times)

“In this remarkable work of historical recovery . . . [Kaplan] resurrects Miss Anne as a cultural figure and explores the messy contradictions of her life . . . deeply researched.” (New York Times Book Review)

“An empathetic and skillful writer, Kaplan . . . shares the previously untold story of a group of notable white women who embraced black culture--and life--in Harlem in the 1920s and ‘30s. . . . Captivating.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Endlessly fascinating, Miss Anne in Harlem reveals a whole new perspective on the Harlem Renaissance, and Carla Kaplan delivers an essential and absorbing portrait of race and sex in 20th century America.” (Gilbert King, author of Devil in the Grove)

“With superb, exhaustive research and finely dramatic writing, Carla Kaplan’s brilliant Miss Anne in Harlem fills an aching void in our knowledge of the Harlem Renaissance. It also significantly deepens our understanding of American culture in the 1920s and American feminism in general.” (Arnold Rampersad, author of The Life of Langston Hughes)

“A work of meticulous and far-ranging scholarship, Miss Anne in Harlem matches its characters’ shocking and subversive lives with explosive revelations and subtle insights. . . . Kaplan’s haunting narrative forces a rethinking of race and gender.” (Megan Marshall, author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism)

“[An] utterly fascinating and deeply insightful account. . . . This fine book takes the Misses Anne seriously and goes further, to reveal the workings of interracial networks in one of the most important cultural phenomena in American history.” (Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People)

“The fact that white women played a pivotal role in creating the Harlem Renaissance was a secret hiding in plain sight, but it took Carla Kaplan’s keen eye, rigorous research, and crystal clear prose to reveal it. A surprising, delightful book.” (Debby Applegate, author of The Most Famous Man in America)

“Carla Kaplan has taken on a dauntingly liminal topic and by force of scholarly rigor and narrative compassion rendered it central to our understanding of an era. Lush, original, and vigorously argued....” (Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home)

“Kaplan always writes from inside her characters, and with a novelist’s sense of scope—and compassion.” (Hilton Als, New Yorker.com)

“Kaplan’s meticulously documented and intrepid history of Miss Anne encompasses a unique vantage on the complexities of race and gender and a dramatic study in paradox.” (Booklist (starred review))

“(Kaplan’s) extensive research has given life to a critical period in black American history-and given credit to the white women who, for various reasons, helped the Harlem Renaissance flourish.” (NPR.org)

“[A] revelatory book. . . . Aside from its significance as cultural history, Miss Anne in Harlem is packed with amazing life stories.” (NPR's Fresh Air)

“[R]ichly researched, thoughtful new book.” (Boston Globe)

“In her clear-sighted, empathetic assessment of a half-dozen of these women, Carla Kaplan casts a fresh eye over people and relationships too often reduced to stereotypes.” (Daily Beast)

“[An] intriguing new book.” (Washington Post Book World)

“Carla Kaplan has given us and history a great gift.” (New York Journal of Books)

More About the Author

Carla Kaplan is an award-winning professor and writer who holds the Stanton W. and Elisabeth K. Davis Distinguished Professorship in American Literature at Northeastern University, and she has also taught at the University of Southern California and Yale University. Kaplan is the author of The Erotics of Talk and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, as well as the editor of Dark Symphony and Other Works by Elizabeth Laura Adams, Every Tongue Got to Confess by Zora Neale Hurston, and Passing by Nella Larsen. A recipient of a Guggenheim and many other fellowships, Kaplan has been a fellow in residence at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, among other research centers.

Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American literary and social history.
David S. Wiedner
This book--- Miss Anne In Harlem by Carla Kaplan---has to be one of the most fascinating reads I have enjoyed this year.
Cyrus Webb
This is a wonderfully written and incredibly researched book on a subject about which I – gasp!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In African-American slang, "Miss Anne" refers to a white woman. The "free play of identity" is a modern concept which suggests that individual identities can be changing and fluid rather than fixed. Individuals often try to remake or reinvent themselves in various ways and choose an understanding of themselves different from the categories into which they were born.

Miss Anne and the free play of identity are brought together and explored in Carla Kaplan's new book, "Miss Anne in Harlem: the White Women of the Harlem Renaissance". The book is a group biography of six white women who, during the 1920s and 1930s reinvented themselves to varying degrees as African-American. The women became part of the cultural movement loosely described as the Harlem Renaissance. Kaplan, the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University, is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and the author of a biography of Zora Neale Hurston, among other works.

Although the Harlem Renaissance has been studied extensively, the Miss Annes of the period have received little attention. Kaplan's goal was first to find them, to study what they did, and to enter upon the treacherous world of determinining motivation. From about 60 women whom Kaplan initially identified as plausible candidates, she narrowed her field down to the six individuals that make the focus of the book, Others make frequent appearances throughout the work. Kaplan states that her book is informed by modern cultural studies, including "critical race theory, identity theory, whiteness studies and contemporary feminism" but she rightly says that the book is a biography and does not demand commitment to these fields by the reader.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although the women known collectively as "Miss Anne" had a few things in common -- they were white, they came from middle or upper class families, and they had an intense interest in the lives of the black people of Harlem -- they were very different individuals. Fortunately, each of the six women that Professor Carla Kaplan profiles is a biography-worthy character in her own right.

Kaplan puts the late 19th century and early 20th century divisions between the races into perspective and shows how these white women, all well-intentioned, but eventually tragic in some way, tried to cross the line. Even the most well-intentioned women, those who wanted to see the artists of the Harlem Renaissance get their deserved recognition, were patronizing in their attitudes toward blacks, and some of them were simply drama queens who loved the attention they got from flouting social conventions. Even when those they purported to help recognized their good intentions, they were also put off by the superior attitude of Miss Anne.

Most tragic was probably Josephine Cogdell, who had a career as a successful writer when she married a black writer, George Schuyler. His writing improved abruptly when he married Cogdell, though no one seemed to make the connection at the time. It was an unhappy marriage and Cogdell concentrated on educating their prodigy daughter, Philippa, who eventually became a concert pianist and then a journalist. One reason the marriage was unhappy was that George's political views took a sharp turn to the right and he became a member of the John Birch Society. When Philippa followed in her father's political footsteps, it must have been difficult for Josephine.

Miss Anne in Harlem is an enlightening read on a topic not much written about. I'd like to read more about these women and others.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gregory McMahan VINE VOICE on November 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book reveals a lot of information on three distinct topics: American race relations in the Roaring Twenties (roughly year end 1919 to the beginnings of 1930), the Harlem Renaissance (roughly 1924 - 1929) and her principal topic- the involvement of a half dozen, principally upper-class White American women in the Harlem Renaissance. Right out of the gate, the author somewhat elliptically discloses that a dearth of information prevents her from capturing the full flavor of the contributions of White American women, collectively referred to by the somewhat derisive and condescending term 'Miss Anne' to the Harlem Renaissance; however, she ably soldiers on, and musters up a colossal, inter-disciplinary and somewhat speculative collage of history, biography and in my humble opinion, fascinating scholarship.

The speculative component in particular derives from the author's quest to determine the underlying motivations for her subjects' individual participation in the Harlem Renaissance. Given the overt and rigid proscriptions of race, gender and even sexuality that Kaplan skillfully demonstrates was nakedly apparent during the period, one has to wonder why these women would bear the risks and costs of participating in Harlem Renaissance. As much of these women's personal (and in some horrific cases, professional) writings did not survive the test of time, and the fashion of the times in which they lived dictated ignoring or otherwise trivializing their presence, not much has been left of these women's lives as they lived them, let alone of their exploits during the Harlem Renaissance.
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