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Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange, the Woman Who Revealed the Real America

Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange, the Woman Who Revealed the Real America

Escrito por Elise Hooper

Narrado por Cassandra Campbell


Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange, the Woman Who Revealed the Real America

Escrito por Elise Hooper

Narrado por Cassandra Campbell

avaliações:
4/5 (20 avaliações)
Comprimento:
10 horas
Editora:
Lançado em:
Jan 22, 2019
ISBN:
9780062892027
Formato:
Audiolivro

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Descrição

Learning to See is a gripping account of the Dorothea Lange, the woman behind the camera who risked everything for art, activism, and love.

In 1918, a fearless twenty-two-year old arrives in bohemian San Francisco from the Northeast, determined to make her own way as an independent woman. Renaming herself Dorothea Lange she is soon the celebrated owner of the city’s most prestigious and stylish portrait studio and wife of the talented but volatile painter, Maynard Dixon.

By the early 1930s, as America’s economy collapses, her marriage founders and Dorothea must find ways to support her two young sons single-handedly. Determined to expose the horrific conditions of the nation’s poor, she takes to the road with her camera, creating images that inspire, reform, and define the era. And when the United States enters World War II, Dorothea chooses to confront another injustice—the incarceration of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans.

At a time when women were supposed to keep the home fires burning, Dorothea Lange, creator of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, dares to be different. But her choices came at a steep price…

Editora:
Lançado em:
Jan 22, 2019
ISBN:
9780062892027
Formato:
Audiolivro

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Sobre o autor

A New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature. The Other Alcott was her first novel.

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Avaliações de leitores

  • (4/5)
    3.5 stars and my thanks to LibraryThing.com for an advanced copy.Photographer Dorothea Lange's most famous work is probably Migrant Mother taken in 1936 during the Great Depression, but it was her later work in the Japanese internment camps that got my attention. An independent portrait photographer, she hired herself out to the U.S. government when times got rough, to document living conditions for migrants that officials in Washington DC had no way of knowing. They both appreciated her talent and regretted her perseverance. She wanted to show too much of the real truth, while the government thought some things were better left unknown. Once she began working at the internment camps, she discovered illegal practices and deplorable living conditions (people expected to live inside a horse stall, for one); and she would not be quiet or accepting of it like so many others were at that time. She had many of her negatives impounded, destroyed, and even now most exist only in the National Archives.Her career enveloped her two marriages and made it impossible to care for her two sons at times, not without tremendous cost. Some of her decisions were questionable, but then I wasn't there during those war and poverty years, so cannot judge too harshly. One of her sons was unforgiving for many years.This was good once it got into the meat of the story about halfway through. The background and the build up were long, perhaps to facilitate the character development of Dorothea and her artist husband Maynard Dixon, of whom I knew nothing. The second half is definitely better than the first, so don't give up on it. The ARC ends with some great supplemental material, including an interview with the author and some of Lange's photos. This added much to my enjoyment.
  • (4/5)
    If you've seen stark, weary portraits of unemployed and homeless people during the Great Depression, chances are you've seen a Dorothea Lange photograph. She captured the poverty, the hardship, the despair, and the resignation like no other artist working at the time. Her most famous photograph is probably the Migrant Mother. But who was the woman who saw right to the tired, downtrodden hearts of the people she was photographing, who exposed the truth and reality of their lives? Elise Hopper's newest novel, Learning to See, is a fascinating fictionalization of this skilled photographer's life, the hardships and happinesses of her own remarkable life.Dorothea Lange had an eye. She saw and captured things in people and their circumstances that others missed. She was focused and driven, first to succeed and then to make a difference in the hardship and injustice she saw around her. Her own life had its share of hardship as well, from polio at seven that left her with a permanent limp and a disfigured foot, her father's unexplained abandonment that meant she and her younger brother accompanied their social worker mother to scenes they shouldn't have seen, to losing her entire life savings when the dear friend she was supposed to travel around the world with was pick-pocketed on their first day in San Francisco. Lange pushed through each setback, disappointment, heartbreak, and personal sacrifice to persevere, to emerge from the ashes and create the photography that documented the social failings of the mid-twentieth century, even as it took a toll on her family and her own health.But Hooper's book captures and expands on Lange personally, in addition to professionally. Lange struggled to balance her life as a celebrated portrait photographer to the wealthy with her life as a wife to Western artist Maynard Dixon and mother to their two boys. She was already the family's chief breadwinner when the Great Depression hit and she became their sole support. But her heart was not in portraiture, it was in social documentation and activism so when portrait photography was no longer financially viable, she made the shift to documenting migration and the growing economic disaster of the 30s for the government. Doing so led her to make hard personal decisions that changed the very face of her family.Told in the first person, the narrative starts when Lange is a brash and forthright 22 year old, newly arrived in San Francisco from New York. As it weaves through the story of her life moving forward, there are occasional chapters interspersed that are set in the 1960s as Lange ruminates on what is clearly a tense and fragile relationship with her oldest son Dan and the plans for a MoMA retrospective of her work, including that from her time working for the FSA (and its predecessor) but still not yet including the impounded photographs she took of the Japanese internment camps. These chapters from late in her life show her to be a woman still and always learning to truly see herself and those whom she loved. They interrupted the smooth flow of the otherwise chronological narrative but did so in such a way to emphasize that although Lange's work loomed large over her entire life, she suffered and her family suffered because of some of the decisions she made in the service of her art. The story is well done and engaging and the reader is swept along with it, seeing the dichotomy of working mother and home life, the treatment of and dismissiveness shown to women, the cost of divorce, and the power and threat of social justice. Learning about Dorothea Lange, the woman and the photographer was fascinating and the novel will appeal to historical fictions readers of all sorts, especially those who enjoy reading about trailblazing women and the work of their lives.
  • (4/5)
    This book was so interesting and I love the author's writing style. Now I want to read her other books. This one was about the famous photographer who took pictures of people during the depression and caught their emotion on film. That was a new idea in those days. Also loved how the author included other famous names at that time into the story. Very interesting and entertaining read.
  • (4/5)
    It is tough to be a strong woman now. Imagine being a strong woman during the depression. Dorothea Lange heard the words often when taking photos for the US Government, “You are difficult to deal with.” But like strong women today she persisted. I found this story of female strength relevant today. Her photos of the depression are still seared into our memories. She had polio as a child, had many stomach problems, had husbands who seemed to think she could make the income from her portrait studio, clean and cook and take care of the kids. And yet she persisted. It wasn’t until I read this biographical novel that I realized she also had been hired to take pictures of the Japanese internment during WWII, but because her pictures failed to paint the US in a positive light, her pictures were not released for many years by the US Army. I have only one small quibble with the uncorrected proof I read. In a segment about the Japanese, the words “under God” were included in the US Pledge of Allegiance. These words were not included until the 1950’s when the US was so fearful of the Communists.
  • (4/5)
    This is a thoroughly enjoyable book. I am looking forward to reading more about Dorothea Lange. It is apparent the author did a lot of research for this book. The people, the settings, the atmosphere, all came together. It was interesting watching history unfold through Dorothea's life. The photographs at the end of the book helped enhance the experience.
  • (4/5)
    This work of historical fiction is not so much about Dorothea Lange's work as an artist -her aesthetic- but her life as a woman raising children while being the primary bread winner before and during the Depression, and the difficulties that continued throughout her life as a photographer, wife and mother. It illustrates how challenging it was for women to work and raise children during the earlier part of the 19th century and the obstacles they faced. Despite a woman's position or pay the primary childrearing responsibilities was left to the female. While not a new concept it continues to be a relevant issue, especially in today's social and political climate. As one reads this book one is reminded that, while a great deal has improved, there is still much to be done regarding the rights and expectations of women, both culturally and economically. A well-thought-out novel.
  • (5/5)
    When I started this book I wondered if I was going to need to skim it to get through it....but what a delightful surprise---it was fascinating and I throughly enjoyed how well Hooper managed to write from Dorothea's point of view. Of course this is a novel but there is so much actual history involved and the story flows. Lange was not only a very successful businessperson but she was finally appreciated as an artistic photographer---all this in the early difficult days of a woman trying to do and be everything with her career and with her family---so few role models to follow back then and unfortunately continues today. Even with her medical problems she really worked through them to become an amazingly accomplished woman, an activist artist. Unfortunately, we are still fighting many of the battles she was waging with her photographs.
  • (4/5)
    This review is based on an advanced reader's edition which I received through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.Learning to See is a fictional account of the life to Dorothea Lange, the photographer probably most famous for her photo known Migrant Mother. Ms. Lange's life was one of hardship; she had polio at the age of seven, which left her with a withered leg and foot. She limped for the rest of her life. In addition to her handicap, Ms. Lange struggled with being a professional photographer during the Depression years, including living in poverty, and being a mother. The subtitle of the book, "the woman who revealed the real America", refers to Ms. Lange's photographing the poor who were invisible in the eyes of government. Ms. Lange didn't just photograph the migrants to California including the Oakies from the midwest, but later portrayed the Americans of Japanese descent who were relocated and forced to live in concentration camps during World War II. Ms. Lange tried to make a difference.However, Ms. Lange felt forced to send her two sons to live in other families during much of her career during the Depression. She was married twice, first to the artist Maynard Dixon and later to economist Paul S. Taylor with whom she collaborated on a book. In both marriages, the couples needed the money earned by both husband and wife to live. When the children were with the parents, both husbands expected Ms. Lange to do the bulk of the childcare. Don, the older Dixon son, created numerous problems as a teenager; Ms. Lange tried to have a positive relationship with him, but failed.Ms. Hooper occasionally jumps from the story she is telling to Ms. Hooper's dealing with her son, Don, many years later in the 1960s. Some of these later episodes occur even before we learn the source of the problem -- the sending of the boys away and later their parents' divorce. This felt awkward; I would have preferred not to have had the story interrupted.As I was reading the book, several times I wanted to see the photographs being discussed. I didn't realize until I finished the book that there were small pictures of a relatively few photographs at the end of the book.Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    This is a fast and fulfilling novel based on Dorothea Lange, the famous photographer from the Depression. She’s a strong woman way ahead of her time. She made some heart breaking life decisions to continue her work and care for her children. The Migrant Mother is her most famous photo. My grandparents had it hanging in their living room. Yet it wasn’t until I read the description of when she took the photo that I realized there’s 3 children. I never noticed the baby in the mother’s arms because I was always looking at her eyes. I’m going to check out some of Lange’s photography books. She also was hired by the government to take photos of Japanese internment camps, but then she was fired and the pictures hidden for decades because they showed the camps in a negative way. Ansel Adams was then hired to take “patriotic” pictures of the camps.
  • (4/5)
    It was interesting to read this account of the life of Dorothea Lange. I learned facts about her that I hadn't known: that she was lame from a bout of childhood Polio and then had poor health in her later years. I also learned about her involvement in documenting the Japanese Internment camps during the war. I requested this book because I greatly admire Lange's photographs of migrant workers during the depression, but I realized that reading this sort of fictionalized biography is not quite as satisfying for me as a straight biography.
  • (5/5)
    Learning to See by Elise Hooper is the fascinating and inspiring life of Dorthea Lange, a talented and very famous woman photographer that documented the depression and dust bowl migration of the 1930's and the Japanese internment during WWII. Dorthea was forced to make difficult choices such as fostering out her young sons when she had to go on the road to document the depression to make a living. She was first married to a talented but rather cruel artist, Maynard Dixon who required her to put his needs first. The marriage eventually dissolved and she married a much kinder man who she met while working with him to document the migrant families arriving from the midwest during the great depression. Dorthea was first an activist and second an artist. She worked tirelessly to show the world the pitiable conditions that migrants and incarcerated American Japanese citizens were forced to live with. She was happiest when she made a difference. A very interesting and well written book. Highly recommended.
  • (3/5)
    Good book. Easy read. Lots of thought provoking reasons to use photography to tell stories, to tell the truth. Dorothea Lange used her gift to shed some perspective on the great Dust Bowl migration to seek a better existence. Funny how Steinbeck used her photos to write his famous Newspaper stories about Harvest Gypsies but refused to write a forward for her book of photographs from that period. Then the pictures she took of the Japanese internment camps that were confiscated for years before being included in the FDR archives. Interesting read.
  • (3/5)
    This a good biography of Dorothea Lange, but it feels flat. I think it might be because she is the narrator, so you only really get her point of view. In a way, it makes a lot of the story seem superficial.
  • (4/5)
    A year or so ago I found a copy of Mary Coin, a novel by Marisa Silver and recognized the cover picture as the iconic depression era Dorothea Lange image entitled Migrant Mother. After reading Mary Coin, a book I highly recommend, I was left with a yen to know more about documentary photography and Dorothea Lange.A new historical novel, Learning to See by Elise Hooper, imagines Dorothea Lange's life story using known facts and references. I was lucky to win an advanced copy from Early Readers/Library Thing.Chapter One. Opening scene. 1964, Berkley, California. If this was a movie script, Dorothea Lange, now elderly and gravely ill, would be seen opening an envelope embossed with the image of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The contents of that letter, we later learn, informs her of their plan for a retrospective exhibit of her life's work.The fictional Dorothea, returns the letter to her pocket and without sharing its news, turns to the reader to tell her life story in her own words and thoughts. Her flashbacks, narrated as though she is seated across the kitchen table from you; hands wrapped around a hot cup of coffee.Listen carefully. Her story is complex; much like every person who puts a heavier hand on the scales of life for the greater good over the instinctive need to nurture and protect one's own family. Dorothea limps over to her desk; she contracted poliomyelitis when she was seven years old leaving her with a withered leg, a deformed foot, a permanent limp, and a spitfire will to overcome any other hardship life was ready to throw her way. That strong will, that need to conquer any challenge will cost her deeply as she must choose between her burgeoning social justice activism and photojournalism career and her personal life."I lean over to open a drawer and retrieve [my] files. California, 1936. New Mexico, 1935. Texas, 1938. Arkansas, 1938, Arizona, 1940. Black-and-white photographs spill out...Faces of men, women, and children... They gave a face to the masses struggling to make ends meet. They started conversations... And while I don't regret my choices, I am saddened that I've hurt people dear to me."Dorothea achieved her childhood dream of becoming a photographer; a career choice diametrically opposed to the family ideal of academics and cultural interest in the arts. In 1918, a twenty-one-year-old Dorothea took the bull by the horns, dropped her birth name of Nutzhorn in favor of her mother's maiden name of Lange and headed to San Francisco to be as far away from New Jersey as she could get. Once there, she set up a portrait studio and was highly successful for the next ten years; satisfied to create the images of what people wanted others to see of them; not necessarily reflective of their true nature or circumstance.The Stock Market Crash in 1929 changed everyone's future. Her clientele disappeared one-by-one as family portraits become a luxury few could afford. By this time, she had married her first husband, Maynard Dixon, a hot-tempered philandering landscape painter with traveling "genes". Dorothea, the mother of two boys, found herself between a rock and a hard place. With a floundering marriage and two dependent children, she needed to find work in a world where everyone needed a job. As she struggled to find new footing, Dorothea made the heartbreaking decision to foster-out her boys to give them a stable caring home. A decision made after seeing children left to fend for themselves in the streets."I had reached a point where... portraits weren't enough. It wasn't just an issue of money... I needed to find...something to lose myself in. I needed work that would consume me, distract me from everything I had lost."Dorothea's efforts to see beyond her own pain led to a career learning to see beyond self. Taking a walk to clear her head she came upon a breadline of dispirited and lost souls stringing their way to a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. She feared she would disturb their private thoughts but was compelled to capture the moment. After taking the picture she realized no one had noticed her presence.This first photo led to twenty years of documenting the lives of the downtrodden with the goal of raising the awareness of their plight to the unaffected. Some of her work proved too revealing. Her photos of the Japanese American relocation camps were confiscated by the government; a nation unwilling to expose its racism against its own citizenry.Learning to See is so much more than a biography of a lone woman trying to immortalize the pain and struggles of the broken nation. It breaths life into the stolen moment a photograph shows us. The book makes us ask ourselves - could we better stewards? Do we all need to find our better angels? Can the past revealed in iconic pictures move a nation to heal racism, poverty, mismanagement of our God given resources? In the end, Dorothy wasn't sure.Recommended reading.