Do you know this photograph? It’s called “Migrant Mother” and it was taken by Dorothea Lange, a photographer for the Resettlement Administration, part of America’s New Deal. In 1936, Lange was on assignment in California and visited a crowded campsite of out-of-work pea pickers. The subject of the photograph is Florence Owens Thompson, a mother of seven. Her family had stopped at the camp to fix their truck and Lange took six images of Thompson and her children. This photograph was published nationwide and became one of the most familiar symbols of the American Depression. It also launched Lange’s career as a photographer and helped earn her a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. Thompson’s identity was kept out of the story until 1978, when a reporter located her and wrote about her.
Mary Coin is a novel inspired by this brief encounter between photographer and migrant worker. Silver has written a story about a present-day professor of cultural history who discovers a family secret hidden in the photograph.
I am looking forward to reading Mary Coin, this month’s selection for my local book club!
Here are some links to information about Florence Owens Thompson’s remarkable story and about Dorothea Lange’s photography career.
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