Karin Tanabe’s The Gilded Years

In Karin Tanabe’s newest novel, The Gilded Years, she weaves truth with fiction as she tells the story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar College.

After successfully passing as white at Vassar for three years, and keeping distance between herself and her classmates, Anita enters into her senior year with the same plan in mind. That is, until she meets Louise “Lottie” Taylor, a member of a very prominent New York family, and her new roommate. Lottie draws Anita in with her infectious personality and the two become fast friends. But when Anita starts to let down her guard, Lottie discovers her secret threatening everything that Anita has worked so hard for.

As a child of the 80s, it’s hard to imagine living in a time where racial segregation existed – even though I know that it did exist. It’s also hard to imagine having to go through life pretending that you are someone else, just to get something as simple as an education or a job. I think what makes this story so powerful is that Anita Hemmings did exist. And she did pass as white in order to be able to attend Vassar College.

What would you do if you were living in a time period where the color of your skin hindered you from doing normal, every-day activities? What if we didn’t have these freedoms that we take for granted? These freedoms that our ancestors had to fight for. Not only is this a beautifully written novel (I’m SUCH a Karin Tanabe fan), but it also makes us aware of how far we’ve come, and appreciate the things that we have. I cannot wait for her next novel!

Gilded YEars
Karin Tanabe’s The Gilded Years. June 2016 WSP

Karin Tanabe’s The Price of Inheritance

In Karin Tanabe’s second novel, The Price of Inheritance, we are brought into the world of art history, famed auction houses and antiquities, in an occasionally witty, sometimes dark story that will keep your mind turning long after the last page has been completed.

The novel follows Carolyn Everett who, for the past ten years has worked in the American furniture department at the auction house Christie’s, a job that she loves more than life itself, something she took pride in. Having grown up in Newport, Rhode Island, and being best friends with one of the wealthiest families, Carolyn was ambitious, and learned early on that she had to work hard in order to get to where she wanted to go. After a career-defining mistake leaves Carolyn unemployed and, more importantly, unemployable, she heads back to Newport, leaving everything and everyone in NYC temporarily behind to try and create a new name for herself. While attending an auction, Carolyn purchases a Middle Eastern bowl for $20 on a hunch that it was much more valuable. This puts her on a hunt to find the bowl’s origin, and on a collision course with its former owner, marine Tyler Ford. As Carolyn’s relationship with Tyler grows, and she gets closer to solving the bowl’s mystery, she stumbles toward something that has the potential to not only wreck her already tainted career even further, but her life as well.

The Price of Inheritance is as much a story as it is a lesson in art history, but in a good way. The intricacies that befall the novel are told in such a way as to evoke intrigue, even if art is not your forté. The novel also extends the idea that things are not always what they seem, and that sometimes the only thing you can trust is your gut, regardless of what your heart or head may want.


Karin Tanabe’s The List

In The List, Karin Tanabe tells the story of Adrienne Brown, a woman who leaves her life in New York behind for the chance of a lifetime, a job at the Capitalist.  In New York, Adrienne wrote for the magazine Town & Country, she was given free designer clothes and accessories, and encouraged to hae a life outside of work, but something always seemed to be missing.  Politics.  She loved politics, which is why, when Adrienne got the offer to work at the Capitalist, based in Washington, DC, she didn’t hesitate.  The only thing she hesitates about is calling her parents and asking if she can move back home

As it turns out, working at the Capitalist, or the List as everyone calls it, isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  Adrienne is assigned to the Style section, which is about as low as you can get.  She gets zero respect from her coworkers.  They keep their heads down as they pass by and have private conversations in front of Adrienne and the other Style girls, as if they don’t exist.  Her job consists of chasing down celebrities at functions, trying to get quotes from them, or accidentally overhearing conversations and turning them into stories.  She has to get up at five in the morning, six days a week (her only day off is Saturday), and she’s expected to write at least ten stories a day.  If she takes even a second to breathe, her boss is down her throat about not being productive.  Where is the fun in that?

One restless night, Adrienne decides to take a drive and stumbles onto what could be the biggest story the Capitalist has ever had…involving one of their employees and a powerful person in office.  Adrienne becomes consumed with this, obsessive at times.  She even enlists the help of the one person in the world who you wouldn’t expect. 

The List, loosely based on Karin Tanabe’s experiences of working at Politico, is fast-paced and witty.  Author Sarah Pekkanen describes it as “The Devil Wears Prada meets Capitol Hill,” and I couldn’t agree more.  Adrienne thinks that working at the Capitalist is everything that she wanted, and in some ways it is.  She learns to write (and think) faster, but she never truly fits in.  She doesn’t dress the part of a reporter and she doesn’t completely think like one either.  She sits on the story for so long trying to put all of the pieces together to make it perfect, that she almost loses everything.  It is only after she is left in a motel room that Adrienne is able to gather all of her strength and finish the job.  But even then is a story ever truly finished?

Karin Tanabe has crafted a great story that will grip you until long after the novel ends.  A novel that is so gripping, that you can’t put it down, and one that you continue to think about weeks later, is the best that you can get.  It also makes you wonder to what extent the truth meets fiction.  It is, after all, based on the author’s own experiences.  How much of it is fact and how much of it is a figment of Tanabe’s own imagination?  The List is a must read for anyone who is looking to lose themselves in a story.  It only took my three days to read, which says a lot and I personally cannot wait for her next book.

A Quick Book Note

Friday evening, I was obsessing over which book to start next.  I literally took all four of my new books, fanned them out in front of me, then went through and looked at the summaries of each, in hopes that that would help me decide.  Well, clearly they all sounded good otherwise I wouldn’t have purchased three out of the four of them.  The fourth one, I had just received on my Tuesday class, met the author and got her to sign it, who, by-the-way is really nice and funny (and, it appears that we have a fb friend in common).   The other three were all by the author that I am newly obsessed with (Sarah Pekkanen).  I seriously could not decide.  I txted Melissa and called my boyfriend, who both laughed at me and then told me to pick one.  I decided to curb the decision in favor of much needed rest, and went to bed, hoping that it would come to me in the morning.

The next day I still could not decide.  I sprawled out on my couch and watched TV for a while, then went out to do some errands, since I was in possession of my boyfriend’s car and was going to head to his place later on and lose it…I mean give it back to him.  When I got home, I started packing for Billy’s and made a game-time decision.  It would be The List by Karin Tanabe; the author that I had met and who signed my book.  Turns out, it was totally the right choice.

Can I just say that I am OBSESSED with this book?!  I started it yesterday morning (and then on-and-off throughout the day) and am already over a hundred pages in.  I’ll write about it when I’m finished (probably by the end of the week), but just wanted to post this quote:


“Could I casually just grab his hand and slip it into mine for the rest of eternity?  Or just maybe place it directly on my boob?”

-Karin Tanabe, The List