Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America
written by Jane Allen Petrick
published by Informed Decisions Publishing
Why did I pick this book: I participated in the blog tour hosted by Premier Virtual Author Book Tours. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)
Did I enjoy this book: I did.
The descriptions of this novel will tell you that Petrick is telling the previously obscured story of “people of color” in Norman Rockwell’s artwork. But honestly, this book is about so much more. There’s American history, personal stories, and discussions of multi-culturalism (or lack thereof) interwoven throughout the novel.
I learned so much from this story. It’s hard to grasp how important seeing someone who “looks like me” in literature, pop culture, and art is to those of us who have always been represented daily in media representations.
Hidden in Plain Sight is both entertaining and educational. This turns out to be both good and bad as it feels academic – almost textbook-like – at times. And (as is so often the case with non-fiction) the book goes on a little longer than is necessary to make a point.
Would I recommend it: I would; especially to people interested in: art, history, African-American studies, and Norman Rockwell.
Will I read it again: No.
About the book: Norman Rockwell’s America was not all white. As early as 1936, Rockwell was portraying people of color with empathy and a dignity often denied them at the time. And he created these portraits from live models.
Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America unfolds, for the first time, the stories of the Asian, African, and Native Americans who modeled for Norman Rockwell. These people of color, though often hidden in plain sight, are present throughout Rockwell’s more than 4000 illustrations. People like the John Lane family, Navajos poignantly depicted in the virtually unknown Norman Rockwell painting, “Glen Canyon Dam.” People like Isaac Crawford, a ten year old African-American Boy Scout who helped Norman Rockwell finally integrate the Boy Scout calendar.
In this engrossing and often humorous narrative, Jane Allen Petrick explores what motivated Norman Rockwell to slip people of color “into the picture” in the first place. And in so doing, she persuasively documents the famous illustrator’s deep commitment to and pointed portrayals of ethnic tolerance, portrayals that up to now have been, as Norman Rockwell biographer Laura Claridge so clearly put it, “bizarrely neglected”.
Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America is an eye opener for everyone who loves Norman Rockwell, everyone who hates Norman Rockwell and for all those people in between who never thought much about Norman Rockwell because they believed Norman Rockwell never thought much about them. This book will expand the way you think about Norman Rockwell. And it will deepen the way you think about Norman Rockwell’s America.
About the author: Jane Allen Petrick is the author of several books on topics ranging from biography to workplace issues. She was a bi-weekly columnist for the Knight Ridder Newswire, and her articles have appeared in numerous publications including theNew York Times, the Denver Post and the Washington Post. Kirkus Review describes her book, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America as “smart, nuanced” and written with “clarity and insight.”
Born and raised in Connecticut, Jane earned a BA in economics from Barnard College and received her Ph.D. in organizational psychology from Saybrook University. Retired as a vice-president of ATT Wireless, she is now an adjunct professor at Capella and American Sentinel Universities, and has provided consultation in organizational behavior and diversity competence to numerous corporate clients including IBM, Nextel and Xerox.
Jane Allen Petrick was chosen as one of the “100 Best and Brightest Business Women in America” by Ebony Magazine.
Long a passionate supporter of cultural and historic preservation, Jane has contributed to local preservation efforts in both Florida and New York State. A licensed tour director, Jane conducts cultural heritage tours on the East Coast, from the Everglades to the Maritimes.
Jane and her husband, Kalle, divide their time between New York’s Hudson Valley and Miami, Florida.