The Personal Librarian

The Personal Librarian

by Marie Benedict (Author)

A Good Morning America Book Club Pick

The remarkable story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white - her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to - for the protection of her family and her legacy - to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.  

Journey into the remarkable life of Belle da Costa Greene, an African American woman who overcame incredible odds to become the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men of his time, in Marie Benedict's captivating novel, "The Personal Librarian."

Born into poverty in post-Civil War South Carolina, Belle's intelligence and determination shine through. She navigates the complexities of race, class, and gender discrimination, finding solace in the written word and the vast world of literature.

Belle's journey takes her from the small-town library in South Carolina to the bustling streets of New York City, where she becomes J.P. Morgan's trusted confidante and advisor. As she meticulously curates his extensive library, Belle's influence extends beyond the walls of Morgan's mansion, shaping the literary landscape of the early 20th century.

In addition to her work as a librarian, Belle becomes an advocate for social justice, using her platform to uplift other African Americans and challenge the prevailing prejudices of her time. Her unwavering spirit and resilience inspire those around her, including the young writer Nella Larsen, who finds guidance and encouragement in Belle's unwavering belief in the transformative power of books.

As Belle navigates the challenges of her personal life, including a forbidden love and the complexities of her racial identity, she remains steadfast in her commitment to her work and her passion for literature. "The Personal Librarian" is a poignant and inspiring tale of resilience, courage, and the enduring power of books to change lives.


June 29, 2021