Ladies Night at the Dreamland

Sonja Livingston

An award-winning essayist explores the lives of some of America’s most interesting and obscure women


“A vibrant and textured creation of women throughout history, some of them famous, others notable for the bravery of their more private lives. Line by line, the writing sings. What a marvelous collection of essays. What a glorious celebration.”
—Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever

“A swirling, wise dream of a book, filled with gorgeous writing and a poignant crowd of characters, rescued from the stream of history with ardent insight.”
—Harriet Scott Chessman, author of The Beauty of Ordinary Things

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At the Dreamland, women and girls flicker from the shadows to take their proper place in the spotlight. In this lyrical collection, Sonja Livingston weaves together strands of research and imagination to conjure figures from history, literature, legend, and personal memory. The result is a series of essays that highlight lives as varied, troubled, and spirited as America itself.

Harnessing the power of language, Livingston breathes life into subjects who lived extraordinary lives— as rule-breakers, victims, or those whose differences made them cultural curiosities—bringing together those who slipped through the world largely unseen with those whose images were fleeting or faulty so that they, too, remained relatively obscure. Included are Alice Mitchell, a Memphis society girl who murdered her female lover in 1892; Maria Spelterini, who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1876; May Fielding, a “white slave girl” buried in a Victorian cemetery; Valaida Snow, a Harlem Renaissance trumpeter; a child exhibited as Darwin’s Missing Link; the sculptors’ model Audrey Munson; a Crow warrior; victims of a 1970s serial killer; the Fox Sisters; and many more.

Crux: The Georgia Series in Literary Nonfiction

Page count: 216 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $24.95

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List price: $19.95

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Sonja Livingston is an assistant professor in the MFA Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her first book, Ghostbread (Georgia), won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction. She is also the author of the recent essay collection Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses.