"Heidi Ardizzone (co-author of the brilliant cultural history of the infamous Rhinelander case) has done it again. This intimate portrait of Belle de Costa Greene's extraordinary life as J.P. Morgan's librarian, confidante, personal secretary, and hostess makes vivid the rewards--and the costs--of female social, sexual, and financial independence in the early twentieth century. ... Ardizzone's definitive biography unravels the mystery of the bi-racial woman who made herself a world-famous celebrity and also brings to life her dazzling white, upper-class, upper-crust, high-culture New York world. Greene's choices are captivating, maddening, and sometimes heartbreaking and Ardizzone skillfully steers us through their myriad complexities and contradictions."
Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters
Heidi Ardizzone challenges the lived experience of "passing" and indeed the whole construct of "passing" in American history. With deep archival research and imagination alike, Ardizzone has interrogated historical sources that document suspicion, innuendo, gossip, rumor, and family secrets, thereby recreating a single intriguing life and offering us a deep cultural history of the art and literary worlds of New York and Europe at the turn of the last century. *An Illuminated Life* ultimately illuminates a life that makes us rethink commonplace ideas about race and racial classification.
Martha Hodes, author of The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century
Thorough biography of the intriguing woman who organized financier J.P. Morgan's rare books and illuminated manuscripts. ... Ardizzone (American Studies/Notre Dame) makes an important contribution by bringing Greene's little-known, culturally significant work to light.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 April #1
Ardizzone more than succeeds in portraying a vivid figure who rose to the top in a segregated, paternalistic world yet suffered loneliness and was haunted by personal demons. A valuable work for students of early 20th-century culture as well as for librarians, feminists, and students of race relations. For general and specialized collections. (Illustrations not seen.)
LJ Reviews 2007 May #1 - Shelley Cox, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Ardizzone's competent, complimentary biography explains the complicated, glamorous woman who transcended her lack of formal higher education and obfuscated her race to become head of the Pierpont Morgan Library and confidante of the financial mogul who founded it. ... Ardizzone (coauthor, Love on Trial ) showcases the impressive talents of a woman who once wielded enormous power in New York society.
PW Reviews 2007 April #3