Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange, the Woman Who Revealed the Real America (Paperback)

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In 1918 Dorothea Lange and her friend Fronsie traveled across the continent from New York to San Francisco where circumstances conspired to encourage the two young women to make the city their home.  From a penniless start Dorothea soon had a thriving photographic studio taking portraits of the city’s hoi polloi.  

She married Maynard Dixon, a charismatic artist twenty years her senior, and soon had two sons.  Maynard’s passion was the wilderness, they traveled and camped together, but he also took off on long jaunts painting the desert.  For a while it was a good life.  Then the 1930’s brought the Depression, Maynard’s paintings stopped selling and Dorothea’s commissions for photographs slowed to a trickle.  She made the hard choice of putting her sons in foster care. 

With no clients to photograph, she started taking pictures of the beaten down people flocking to the city living in culverts or cardboard box shelters.  This shift matured Dorothea as an artist and turned her into an activist for the disenfranchised, running herself into the ground documenting the conditions of the poor.  When the Japanese were interred during WWII she documented through her photography the harsh, inhumane conditions imposed on them.  Dorothea’s marriage to Maynard failed, she remarried Dr. Paul Taylor, a professor and activist. In order to travel photographing injustice she kept her sons in foster care most of the time causing a rift in the family. 

This is a well-researched work of historical fiction about a woman determined to make a difference through her art, sacrificing much as she worked to inspire compassion for those less fortunate.

— Deon Stonehouse

Description


If you liked Sold on a Monday and Beautiful Exiles, you'll love this novel about strong-willed trailblazing photographer, Dorothea Lange, whose fame grew during World War II and the Great Depression.

“Hooper excels at humanizing giants....seamlessly weaving together the time, places and people in Lange’s life...For photo buffs and others familiar with her vast body of work, reading the book will be like discovering the secret backstory of someone they thought they knew.” The Washington Post

In 1918, a fearless twenty-two-year old arrives in bohemian San Francisco from the Northeast, determined to make her own way as an independent woman. Renaming herself Dorothea Lange she is soon the celebrated owner of the city’s most prestigious and stylish portrait studio and wife of the talented but volatile painter, Maynard Dixon.

By the early 1930s, as America’s economy collapses, her marriage founders and Dorothea must find ways to support her two young sons single-handedly. Determined to expose the horrific conditions of the nation’s poor, she takes to the road with her camera, creating images that inspire, reform, and define the era. And when the United States enters World War II, Dorothea chooses to confront another injustice—the incarceration of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans.

At a time when women were supposed to keep the home fires burning, Dorothea Lange, creator of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, dares to be different. But her choices came at a steep price…

About the Author


A New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature. The Other Alcott was her first novel.

Praise For…


“Historical fiction fans will gobble up Hooper’s novel and be left with the satisfied feeling that they have lived through much of the 20th century with Dorothea Lange.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Hooper makes me not only feel for Lange, but also wish I could call her up like her friend, Imogen [Cunningham], and tell her I’m coming over for a visit.”
— Forbes

“Hooper excels at humanizing giants....seamlessly weaving together the time, places and people in Lange’s life...For photo buffs and others familiar with her vast body of work, reading the book will be like discovering the secret backstory of someone they thought they knew.”
— Washington Post

“A fascinating and sometimes surprising introduction to a woman known for her iconic photographs but not her eventful life.”
— Library Journal

“Hooper deftly balances the fascinating historical fabric of the novel with the personal life of its complicated protagonist. What results is a vivid and deep story that will send the reader to the internet seeking more.I give it my highest recommendation.”
— Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of Fallen Beauty and Hemingway’s Girl

“Elise Hooper’s Dorothea Lange is magnetic!...This is a winning novel from the first page.”
— Devin Murphy, national bestselling author of The Boat Runner and Tiny Americans

“Written with grace, empathy, and bright imagination, LEARNING TO SEE gives us the vivid interior life of a remarkably resilient woman. Dorothea Lange’s story is about passion and art, love and family, but also about the sacrifices women make—and have always made—to illuminate the truth of the world.”
— Danya Kukafka, National Bestselling author of Girl in Snow

“Gorgeously written with exquisite historical detail, Learning to See is a fascinating tale of one remarkable woman’s life. Told with the same precise prose and terrific nuance as her stunning debut, The Other Alcott, Elise Hooper proves once again that she’s a masterful storyteller.”
— Lisa Duffy, author of The Salt House

“A powerful and timely view of America told through the lens of Dorothea Lange, a fascinating woman whose photographs shone a light on the nation’s forgotten and abandoned...Detailed and thoroughly immersive, Learning to See grips the reader and highlights an important period in American history.”
— Chanel Cleeton, author of Next Year in Havana

“Hooper does an admirable job at condensing a multitude of decades and careers into an immensely entertaining and page-turning novel.”
— Historical Novel Society

“Her adventures illuminate the world of intrepid female artists in the late 1800s, a milieu too little appreciated today [...] The Other Alcott comes alive in its development of the relationship between Louisa and May.”
New York Times, Sunday Review of Books

“More than ever, we need books like this – in celebration of a woman overlooked by history, one whose story helps shed light on our own contemporary search for love, identity and meaning.”
— Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author of The House Girl

“To read this book is to understand why the women behind Little Women continue to cast a long shadow over our imaginations and dreams. Hooper is a writer to watch!”
— Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062686534
ISBN-10: 0062686534
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2019
Pages: 384
Language: English