Ladies Night at the Dreamland
At the Dreamland, women and girls flicker from the shadows to take their proper place in the spotlight. In this lyrical collection, Sonja Livingston weaves together strands of research and imagination to conjure figures from history, literature, legend, and personal memory. The result is a series of essays that highlight lives as varied, troubled, and spirited as America itself.Harnessing the power of language, Livingston breathes life into subjects who led extraordinary lives--as rule-breakers, victims, or those whose differences made them cultural curiosities--bringing together those who slipped through the world largely unseen with those whose images were fleeting or faulty so that they, too, remained relatively obscure. Included are Alice Mitchell, a Memphis society girl who murdered her female lover in 1892; Maria Spelterini, who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1876; May Fielding, a "white slave girl" buried in a Victorian cemetery; Valaida Snow, a Harlem Renaissance trumpeter; a child exhibited as Darwin's Missing Link; the sculptors' model Audrey Munson; a Crowwarrior; victims of a 1970s serial killer; the Fox Sisters; and many more.
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About the Author
A swirling, wise dream of a book, filled with gorgeous writing and a poignant crowd of characters, rescued from the stream of history with ardent insight.--Harriet Scott Chessman "author of The Beauty of Ordinary Things "
These essays--sometimes charming, sometimes searing, always revealing--investigate history, gender, and the bittersweet stories of those often veiled or suppressed. Livingston writes with a gentle and inquiring spirit, a keen intellect, and a deeply compelling lyrical voice.--Kristen Iversen "author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats "
What's remarkable about [Livingston's] latest work is how she's captured the ability to sustain engaging narratives through such vividly reflexive poetic prose.--Hans Rollman "PopMatters "
Livingston engages her subjects in a deeply personal way, bringing her own fascination, sympathy, and identification with them into her accounts. . . . Livingston's visceral understanding of the myriad ways the world confines women and destroys them, robbing them of the fullness of what they might have been, gives the stories in Ladies Night a power they wouldn't otherwise have.--Maria Browning "Chapter16.org "
We are unlikely to forget the women we encounter at the Dreamland. Livingston is concerned with names and their meanings, and her meditation on the women's names becomes like a spell for remembrance. But it's more than repetition that mesmerizes. Livingston's language enchants us like lyrics crooned by a dance hall chanteuse.--Kim Kankiewicz "Colorado Review "
Radiant essays inspired by 'slivers and bits' of real women's lives. . . . The author calls her startlingly original essays literary nonfiction, but some read more like historical fiction, spun as they are from documented sources; and some--a brief evocation of Virginia Dare, for example--read like lyrical prose poems. . . . Wise, fresh, captivating essays.--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)