Based on the real life of Anita Hemmings, The Gilded Years is a fictionalized account of the first African-American woman to graduate from the prestigious Vassar College in 1897 (Vassar did not openly admit African-American students until the 1940s). Anita was able to do this because she was light skinned enough to pass as white and she kept this secret for three years. But during her senior year she fell in love with a Harvard student and her roommate became attracted to Anita’s equally fair skinned brother, both situations which would jeopardize everything she had accomplished so far.
She had the typical student experience, studying, socializing, and visiting friends but with the constant undercurrent that she was playing a part and keeping a secret that if discovered could get her expelled. She had to decide who she was, who she wanted to be and what was most important to her, which had no easy answers.
There is also a section that tells about the life of the real Anita Hemmings (with photo), her life before and at Vassar and what happened to her after leaving college.
I’ve read some articles from 2017 and 2018 reporting that this book will be made into a film called ‘A White Lie’ starring Zendaya and Reese Witherspoon but have not found more recent information about it.
As a fan of both school stories (whether day schools, boarding schools or college/ university) and historical fiction this book is a great mix of both!