Poster Girl: A Jane Benjamin Novel

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Aficionados of historical fiction and the Jane Benjamin series will be delighted with Shelley Blanton-Stroud’s latest novel, Poster Girl: A Jane Benjamin Novel. Blanton-Stroud is a recently retired Sacramento State University writing instructor and award-winning novelist. Her Jane Benjamin series consists of Tom Boy and Copy Boy. This third installment is a stand-alone mystery piece that perfectly captures the essence of the California Bay Area during the first years of World War II.

Jane is an aspiring gossip columnist working for a mid-level newspaper in San Francisco. The war has just begun, and the West Coast is a hotbed of ship building. The Richmond shipyard is alive with activity as workers churn out Liberty Ships in record time. The story opens as the yard attempts to build a ship in one week to beat the Portland shipyard’s record of launching a ship in ten days. Also, women are stepping up to join the workforce of the arsenal of democracy as the nation drafts men to serve in the armed forces.

Jane, to advance her career, proposes a shipyard contest to create a poster girl called Wendy the Welder (modeled after the real-life Rosie the Riveter) to promote and encourage women to work in the shipyards. However, Jane is up against the famous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and must work carefully to keep Hopper sidelined and get the scoop. Naturally, this being the 1940s, the male-dominated unions are less than thrilled with the prospect of women welders; minorities need not apply as well.

The contest goes off the rails as the contestants begin to die under mysterious circumstances. Is it murder, sabotage, or are the women merely failing to follow workplace safety rules? Jane turns her investigative skills to the mystery and is helped by a sympathetic office worker denied an opportunity to become a welder because of her race. In addition, Jane is aided at critical junctures by the counseling of her twin brother Benjamin, who helps develop and validate her hunches (in an unusual way).

The novel is an excellent read, with sympathetic characters and set in a place and time that leaps off the page. It is also historical fiction using the social history technique of examining the culture of a time through the lives of the working and subordinate classes. Blanton-Stroud’s characters are the marginalized women, minorities, and poor or working classes of the era. They face misogyny and racism as they attempt to carve out a meaningful existence. Furthermore, while the tale is torn out of the headlines of World War II, readers will recognize that the misogyny and discrimination of the era continues to exist today.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 239 pages
Publisher She Writes Press
Publish Date 14-Nov-2023
ISBN 9781647425937 Buy this Book
Issue July 2023
Category Historical Fiction