You are here

Sarah Blake, THE GUEST BOOK, with Karin Tanabe, THE GILDED YEARS

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 6:30pm

The Guest Book and The Gilded Years covers

This event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested but not required. Reserve your copies today!

In partnership with the Women's National Book Association and in celebration of National Reading Group Month, East City Bookshop welcomes New York Times bestselling author Sarah Blake, whose latest novel The Guest Book has been a book club favorite since publication, in conversation with historical novelist Karin Tanabe, whose recent novel The Gilded Years will soon be adapted into a major motion picture. This event will be moderated by Tabitha Whissemore, President of the Washington, DC chapter of the Women's National Book Association. 


A lifetime of secrets. A history untold.

No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty’s defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir.

In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons’ circle. One captures the attention of Kitty’s daughter, while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.

So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn’t have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton’s mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother’s and grandparents’ history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.

Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake’s triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.


Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.


Sarah Blake, photo by Liz NortonSarah Blake is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Postmistress and The Guest Book, and the novel Grange House. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, the poet Joshua Weiner, and their two sons.

Karin TanabeKarin Tanabe is the author of the historical fiction books The Diplomat's Daughter and The Gilded Years, as well as the The List and The Price of Inheritance, all published by Simon & Schuster. Her fifth book, A Hundred Suns, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in April 2020.

Tanabe’s 2016 book The Gilded Years—about the first African-American graduate of Vassar College, who passed as white—will soon be adapted as a major motion picture entitled A White Lie. Zendaya will star as the book’s protagonist Anita Hemmings, and will also produce alongside Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine was behind the book option and Sony/TriStar secured worldwide distribution rights to the film in a seven studio bidding war.

All of Tanabe’s books have received extensive media coverage in outlets such as NPR, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Skimm, Time, Essence, Town & Country, US Weekly and People.

A former Politico reporter, Tanabe frequently contributes to national publications as a book reviewer and features writer. She holds a B.A. with honors from Vassar College and lives in Washington, D.C.


Women's National Book Association logoThe Women’s National Book Association launched National Reading Group Month in October 2007 as the premier event of its 90th anniversary.  National Reading Group Month augments the WNBA’s mission to promote the value of books and reading. Through this initiative the organization aims to foster the values reading groups encourage: camaraderie, enjoyment of shared reading, and appreciation of literature and reading as conduits for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement. Learn more at

The Guest Book: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250110251
Availability: Available from Our Distributor (5+ days shipping)
Published: Flatiron Books - May 7th, 2019

The Gilded Years: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501110450
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Washington Square Press - June 7th, 2016