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The Bohemians - the fascinating early years in the career of famed photographer Dorothea Lange.

It’s 1918 and the almost twenty-three year old Dorothea Lange has traveled west to San Francisco with dreams of becoming a professional photographer. As she arrives, she has her life savings stolen from her. She is alone and penniless. Luckily she meets Caroline Lee who helps her find a place to live and takes her to the bohemian artist community called Monkey Block which is the area’s hub of creativity.


The Bohemians is a fictionalize account of the early years of the life and career of Lange, who is now heralded as a great American documentary photographer. But before she developed her now famous style, we learn how she developed local fame as a portrait photographer for the wealthy. She meets many popular and emerging artists including painter Maynard Dixon, who she eventually marries. While Dorothea becomes established and is able to make a living, Caroline has to continually deal with horrible anti-Asian discrimination. Their friendship is the heart of the book.


Author Jasmin Darznik’s beautifully descriptive writing takes us through the final days of World War I, the devastation of the Spanish flu and the start of the Great Depression. Whether you are familiar with the work of Dorothea Lange or not, this is a fascinating story which provides good insight not only to a talented woman’s journey but a time of social change. Women were starting to rise up and seek new freedoms and opportunities while others were held back due to racial fear and hatred.


This is a quick read but you’ll want to stop at times and look up the referenced artists and artwork mentioned.


Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books / Random House for the opportunity to read The Bohemians in advance of its publication.


Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.

Historical Fiction Biography.

Publication Date: April 6, 2021.


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