As the Cold War gave way to movements for civil, women’s, and gay rights, many Americans believed that major social change was inevitable.
Indeed, Lucybelle Bledsoe thought that as opportunities emerged, people of color, lesbians, and gay men would finally be able to live authentically. What a relief that would be, even for a nonactivist lesbian like her who demanded recognition for her work, not her identity. As an editor with the Army Corps of Engineers; the Snow, Ice, and Permafrost Research Establishment; and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, she made the scientific papers of numerous scientists accessible to a general readership. Her colleagues touted her diligence and persistence and were devastated when, at the age of 43, she died in a house fire. Her niece Lucy Jane Bledsoe (The Found Child, 2015, etc.), then 9, had many questions about her beloved aunt; sadly, all she was able to glean was that Lucybelle was intelligent—and unmarried. As Lucy Jane came of age, she began to wonder about Lucybelle’s personal life and uncovered references to a “companion” named Vera. Later, a few other details materialized. Still, Lucy Jane wanted more; eventually she realized that she’d have to use her imagination to re-create Lucybelle’s environment. The resultant novel merges fact and fiction to create a historically accurate picture of the struggles faced by LGBT people in the 1950s and '60s; the closeting that was required for professional advancement; and the ways the Cold War pitted pure science against research to benefit the defense industry.
A stirring and deeply felt story.