by Tara Conklin
There’s always been conversations around the legacy of slavery, reparations and the contributions of African-Americans in the building of this country. The House Girl touches a little on those subjects through the eyes of Josephine, an enslaved woman in 1852 Virginia and Lina, the daughter of a prominent artist and a young lawyer in current day Manhattan. Lina has a chance to secure her future with a prominent law firm by taking on a class action case that seeks reparations for the descendants of slaves. While looking for a example to serve as the foundation for the lawsuit, she comes across a controversy in the art world that questions whether the work of famous 19th century artist, Lu Anne Bell, was really painted by her or by her house slave, Josephine.
Conklin has the story unfold by going back and forth between the voices of Josephine and Lina. We experience the isolation of both women from the people around them along with their respective quests for freedom: Josephine’s in a literal sense and Lina’s from the silence surrounding her mother’s disappearance from her life. A thought-provoking and impressive debut.