When legendary star of the silver screen, Kitty Karr Tate dies, she leaves her entire fortune to actress Elise St. John and her two sisters, who were raised in a neighboring Bel Air mansion. Their mother Sarah, also a famous actress, is married to James, a well-known musician. Elise, who was very close to Kitty, is preparing for a Vogue photo shoot and is up for an Academy Award. And like everyone else, she is very curious as to why Kitty willed her entire fortune to Elise and her sisters. The fact that a famous white actress would leave millions to three Black sisters raised lots of questions. This intriguing story shifts to Jim Crow-era North Carolina in the 1930s, where we meet Hazel, a young Black woman who has lost her entire family. She works for a wealthy family whose promiscuous tobacco-heir son prays upon her and soon wants nothing to do with their daughter Mary, who is as light skinned as his legitimate daughter. This multi-generational story shifts to mid-century Hollywood as Kitty is getting her start while hiding her true identity as a Black woman trying to pass as white. The story circles back to the present when the truth about Kitty is uncovered.
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? is an impressive debut by author Crystal Smith Paul. It is an engrossing look at racism and sexism over the years. The main characters of Hazel, Kitty and Elise were well developed. However, there was a large cast of secondary characters that came in and out of the story and were oftentimes hard to keep track of. With that small point aside, this book tells an important story about injustice. I was fully immersed in this moving book and recommend it.
Many thanks to Henry Holt & Co. for the opportunity to read this book in advance of its publication. I would love to see this story brought to the screen.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Historical / Contemporary Fiction.
Publication Date: May 2, 2023.
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