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September 8, 2023

Bessie by Linda Kass ~ A Review

by Susan Roberts

If you are of a certain age, you may remember Bess Myerson on television in the 1950s.  She often appeared on game shows such as I've Got a Secret and on the Today show.  Her road to fame started with her being crowned as Miss America in 1945  the first (and still the only) Jewish Miss America.  This historical fiction book is a look at her early years until she was crowned Miss American and goes into very little detail about her life after this achievement.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of biographical fiction novel Bessie by Linda Kass
September 2023; She Writes Press; 978-1647425951
ebook, print (240 pages); biographical fiction

Bessie Myerson was the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants living in the Bronx in a Jewish neighborhood.  Her mother was a stern taskmaster and wanted her daughters to succeed in school plus wanted each one of them to be an accomplished musician.  Bessie was made to practice her piano before she could do anything else. Physical beauty was not even considered in the household -- grades and talent were what her mother instilled in her daughters.   She did very well academically in school but was very shy due to the fact that she was so much taller than everyone else.  Because of her grades and her musical talent, she was accepted into a prestigious high school for the arts.  When she was 21, a friend signed her up for the Miss New York contest.  She planned to ignore it but her sister convinced her to try out.  She won and her goal was to win the Miss American pageant so that she could use the $5,000 prize for additional schooling.  America was still very anti-Semitic and she was advised during the pageant to use a fake name that sounded 'less Jewish'.  She refused to compromise herself or her background and despite the fact that several sponsors pulled out of the pageant due to her, she ended up winning the contest as Miss America in 1945.  During her yearlong tour as Miss America, she was subjected to many cases of anti-Semitism which caused her to start speaking to various groups about anti-Semitism and racism.  

I think that this book would be a good fit for someone who was interested in anti-Semitism in America after WWII or someone interested in the history of beauty pageants.  I found it interesting since I remember seeing her on TV when I was a child.  It's a short, well-written book about a very different time in America's history

Buy Bessie at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  

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