Praise for Bessie
"...a fascinating historical novel that plumbs the cultural contradictions that impacted Myerson and led her to speak out against both antisemitism and racial bigotry....Nuanced, complex and insightful...."
"...impressively researched.... [it] comes to a crescendo in her vivid and artful portraits of real-life characters, and especially of Bessie, the woman hailed by her Jewish community as their modern Queen Esther."
"...richly-drawn....compelling....Kass’ evocation of Myerson, and the interplay between anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and classism that she highlights, bring the mid-20th century into sharp focus."
"...[an] enthralling portrait of a courageous history-maker."
". . . wonderful. . . well-researched and well-written novel. . . ."
— Ann McCauley, Story Circle Book Reviews
"[Bessie] was a fun, entertaining but also important book to read. Bess becomes a bold and empowered woman who is looking for love and acceptance. She will make a lasting mark on the world.”
—New Hampshire Jewish Reporter
“I loved Linda Kass’s Bessie, which brought to vivid life the coming-of-age of the remarkable Bess Myerson, who may be known for being Miss America, but who truly was so much more: a brilliant young scholar, a musical prodigy, and a woman who stood tall against the antisemitism, sexism, and injustice of her era. Kass is a superbly talented writer, and in her hands, Bess Myerson becomes every woman, and the amazing story of her time becomes the story of our time, too. Brava!
—Lisa Scottoline, #1 bestselling author of Eternal and Loyalty
"Linda Kass imagines the early life of the five-foot-ten beauty from the Bronx who became the first—and so far only—Jewish woman to win the crown, a feat made all the more fascinating by the fact that her victory came just six days after the end of World War II, at a time when antisemitism was so rampant . . . . Kass gives us a detailed look at Myerson's young adulthood, the runup to winning the coveted crown, and the aftermath, when, cutting short her Miss America tour, she decides to instead tour on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League to combat prejudice. Bessie is a tender, sensitive, and well-researched exploration of the inner life of a legendary beauty who was fighting personal battles the world never saw."
—Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Daughter and The Book of Lost Names
“Coming into Bessie, I foolishly assumed I knew everything I needed to know about Bess Myerson. Boy, was I wrong. Linda Kass’s deeply researched novel is a poignant origin story, a fascinating window into mid-century American life, and a compelling case for Myerson as an authentic American heroine."
—Louis Bayard, Washington Post bestselling author of Jackie & Me and The Pale Blue Eye
"With Bessie, her third work of historical fiction, Linda Kass creatively melds deep research with the breath of life from her own rich imagination. Here is a deft and touching portrait of a shy, nerdy, nearly six-foot tall young girl – one Bessie Myerson – who rides the waves of her arresting beauty to become the first Jewish woman to win the Miss America title. Kass offers a careful understanding of what made this female pioneer in broadcasting, advocacy, and government tick."
—Helen Schulman, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky Dogs and This Beautiful Life
“Kass has written a detailed, fascinating profile of the early years of the former Miss America that explores the themes of prejudice, beauty, and self-worth. Insightful and eye-opening.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Spectacular and The Magnolia Palace
“Abundant in graceful storytelling and vivid historical detail, Bessie is a fascinating portrait of a woman who was so much more than a beauty queen. Bess Myerson’s persistence against antisemitism and her determination to use her fame to speak out against prejudice resonate strongly in our own challenging times.”
—Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Canary Girls and Switchboard Soldiers
“Bessie makes the first and only Jewish woman to become Miss America, Bess Myerson, come alive in a way her celebrity status never fully allowed. Linda Kass builds the character of Bessie through the complicated layers of all Bess Myerson carried with her—her dreams of being a composer, her longing to be loved by her joyless and demanding mother, the pain she felt over racial inequality, and everything she had to tolerate in order to find the platform for her voice, a voice she was determined to use to make a difference in the world. The true beauty of this novel is Linda Kass’s artistry. She’s created a loving and honest portrait of a woman who meant so much to so many.”
—Lee Martin, author of the Pulitzer Prize Finalist, The Bright Forever
"Like all celebrities, Bess Myerson seemed to come from out of nowhere; a bright meteor suddenly streaking across the night sky. But in this evocative new book by Linda Kass, we learn the backstory of Myerson, the first Jewish woman to be crowned Miss America, whose looks and talent captivated the mid-20th century world. Bessie reveals the passions that propelled her and the insecurities that haunted her. Along the way, it puts this complex woman where she belongs: back in the spotlight, with all eyes upon her.
—Julia Keller, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of A Killing in the Hills
“Incredibly well-researched, Bessie is an engaging historical novel that examines the bigotry and biases experienced by Bess Myerson, the first Jewish woman to become Miss America—with parallels to the incessant prejudices present in our contemporary life. Inspiring and thought-provoking!
—Patrick Losinski, CEO, Columbus Metropolitan Library
“Readers are fortunate to have novelist Linda Kass bring forth the hidden stories of American women. Bess Myerson was the first Jewish woman to win the Miss America title, but she was so much more than a beauty queen. . . . Myerson was an inspiration for women in the post WWII years and her story needs to be remembered. Bessie deserves a crown.”
—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Valley Bookseller
"Book groups will love Bessie! Set in the 1940s, this is the fictionalized account of Bess Myerson, a young Jewish woman from the Bronx, dutiful daughter of Russian immigrants, whose musical talent, poise, and beauty propel her to win the title of Miss America. Along her journey, Bess is subject to prejudice because of her religion, and witness to prejudice against Blacks and women. Much to discuss in this eye-opening novel, from family dynamics, behind-the-scenes at talent pageants, and the ongoing struggles for equality."
—Dawn Rennert, The Concord Bookshop