The Bohemians: a Novel | Mechanics' Institute

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The Bohemians: a Novel
Author Jasmin Darznik in conversation with Journalist Elaine Elinson, on Zoom

Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 5:30pm

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“You’ll never look at a Dorothea Lange photograph the same way after reading Jasmin Darznik’s compelling portrait of the trailblazer who carved a glorious path through 1920s San Francisco. Darznik doesn’t flinch when confronting the parallels to today, whether racism or anti-immigrant sentiment, yet her impeccable research grounds the story firmly in the heyday of the Jazz Age.”—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

“In her riveting and resonant new novel, Jasmin Darznik captures San Francisco’s heyday through the eyes of one of its most iconic residents. By exploring how Dorothea Lange witnessed her troubled and momentous times, Darznik speaks directly to our own.”—Anthony Marra, New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

“Dorothea Lange once famously said, ‘art is an act of total attention.‘ Jasmin Darznik’s breathtaking novel The Bohemians accomplishes that and more. Not only did it have me riveted from start to finish, through her words, history powerfully speaks to the present moment.”—Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept

In 1918, a young and bright-eyed Dorothea Lange steps off the train in San Francisco, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking Chinese American with a complicated past, gives Dorothea entrée into Monkey Block, an artists’ colony and the bohemian heart of the city. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with the brilliant but troubled painter Maynard Dixon. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives. The Bohemians captures a glittering and gritty 1920s San Francisco, with a cast of unforgettable characters, including cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Lawrence. A vivid and absorbing portrait of the past, it is also eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and a devastating pandemic bring tumult to the city—and the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history. As Dorothea sheds her innocence, her purpose is awakened and she grows into the figure we know from history—the artist whose iconic Depression-era photographs like “Migrant Mother” broke the hearts and opened the eyes of a nation.

BIOS

Jasmin Darznik’s debut novel, Song of a Captive Bird, was a New York Times Book Review “Editors’ Choice,” a Los Angeles Times bestseller, longlisted for the Center for Fiction Prize, and awarded the Writers’ Center’s First Novel Prize. Darznik is also the author of the New York Times bestseller The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. Her books have been published in seventeen countries. She was born in Tehran, Iran, and came to America when she was five years old. She holds an MFA in fiction from Bennington College, a JD from the University of California, and a PhD in English from Princeton University. Now a professor of English and creative writing at California College of the Arts, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Elaine Elinson is coauthor of Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California, winner of the Gold Medal in the 2010 California Book Awards. She served as Communications Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and editor of the ACLU News and is currently a researcher on civil rights history for the National Park Service. She is a book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Review of Books and other outlets. A former reporter and editor for Pacific News Service in California and Southeast Asia, her first book, coauthored with Walden Bello, Development Debacle: the World Bank in the Philippines, was banned by the Marcos regime.

 

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