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Biography of Clover Adams Named “Must-Read” Book of 2013

by Dan Cash

HOLLAND – The biography “Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life” by Dr. Natalie Dykstra of the Hope College English faculty has been named a “Must Read” book of 2013 in the 13th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards.

The program recognized 24 books that were written by Massachusetts authors and/or on Massachusetts subjects and published in 2012, and Dykstra’s book was one of six honored in the non-fiction category. The Massachusetts Book Awards, which are a program of the Massachusetts Center for the Book in partnership with the Massachusetts Library Association, also named honorees in fiction, poetry and children’s/young adult literature.

“Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) explores the life of 19th-century Boston, Mass., native Marian “Clover” Adams as revealed through her writing and 113 photographs that she took and put into albums in the last two years of her life. The book develops an understanding of a fascinating woman with a sharp mind and sensitive spirit who had been overshadowed by her marriage to eminent American historian Henry Adams (descendant of the presidential Adams family) and her death by suicide in 1885 at age 42.

“Women’s Review of Books” notes that “Clover Adams” is “immensely readable, written with grace and ease, compassion and enthusiasm.” “Library Journal” agrees that it “reads as well as any page-turning novel,” while “Booklist” says that “Dykstra’s contextually rich and psychologically discerning portrait of an underappreciated luminary is enlightening and affecting.”

Dykstra, an associate professor of English who has taught at Hope since 2000, devoted more than a decade to researching and writing the book, spending most summers and a series of sabbatical leaves at the Massachusetts Historical Society, which houses Clover’s photographs and letters in their large collection of Adams family papers. She received external support for the project including a Fellowship for College Teachers and Independent Scholars from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a Ruth R. Miller Fellowship in Women’s History from the Massachusetts Historical Society, where she has been an elected Fellow since 2011.

In addition to writing the book, Dykstra was curator of a gallery exhibition featuring nearly 40 images by Clover hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society from Thursday, Feb. 9, through Saturday, June 2, 2012.

Copies of “Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life” are available for $26 at the college’s Hope-Geneva Bookstore as well as at other area booksellers. More about Clover Adams, including examples of her photography, is available at Dykstra’s website, nataliedykstra.com, and at the Massachusetts Historical Society’s website, www.masshist.org.

A pdf poster featuring all 24 “Must-Read” books is available online at http://www.massbook.org/Massbooks13/massbookposter2013_Draft.pdf