Beverly-Whittemore, Miranda 1976–
Beverly-Whittemore, Miranda 1976–
PERSONAL: Born 1976, in Los Angeles, CA. Education: Vassar College, B.A., 1998.
CAREER: Author. 92nd Street "Y," Unterberg Poetry Center, New York, NY, assistant to managing director, 1999–2002. Also works as a figurative photo model.
MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fiction prize, Vassar College.
The Effects of Light (novel), Warner Books (New York, NY), 2005.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's debut novel, The Effects of Light, tells the story of two sisters, Myla and Pru Wolfe, whose young lives were documented in black-and-white photography by a well-known photographer, Ruth Handel, also a friend of the family. The widower father of Myla and Pru was progressive in thought, and taught his daughters not to fear their bodies. An art history professor, he was also fervently committed to free expression, and when Ruth began taking pictures of the beautiful young girls in various stages of undress, he saw nothing wrong with this. However, when the photos were subsequently displayed in an exhibition, they brought negative notoriety into the girls' lives, raising disturbing questions about the line between art and pornography. The notoriety led to Pru's death. Now, almost two decades later, living under an assumed name as a college professor, Myla is forced to return to her old home in Portland, Oregon, and face the past. Myla blames her father for allowing the photos to be taken in the first place, but once back in Portland and going through the papers of her deceased father, she discovers other interpretations to the matter, as well as other revelations that alter her outlook.
Critical opinion was generally favorable for The Effects of Light, which is narrated in the alternating voices of each sister. A critic for Kirkus Reviews found it a "thought-provoking debut about a young woman attempting to untangle a tortured and confused past." However, this same reviewer also complained about "nearly implausible" character motivations. Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly called The Effects of Light "an engaging but uneven debut." A more positive assessment came from Leann Restaino in a Library Journal review that praised the "smoothly written narrative." Reviewing the novel in Booklist, Kaite Mediatore also commended the "passionate writing, skillful plotting, and intriguing characters [that] make this a necessary purchase." For Shannon McKenna, writing in Bookreporter.com, the novel tells "a luminous story—part family drama, part mystery, and part rumination on the philosophy of art." Similarly, Rebecca Krasney Stropoli, writing for Bookpage, called The Effects of Light "an intriguing blend of mystery, family saga, artistic treatise, philosophical theory and moral discourse." In the Michigan Daily Online, Lucille Vaughan noted that The Effects of Light "makes a powerful statement about the role of art in the human experience and the futility of censorship."
The question of art versus pornography is one of the major themes of The Effects of Light. Beverly-Whittemore, a graduate of Vassar College and herself a photo model, drew on her experiences of being on the observed side of the lens for her first novel. She acknowledges the possible touchy subject her book deals with regarding the nude photographs of the young girls. Speaking with Shannon McKenna and Carol Fitzgerald of Bookreporter.com she commented, "I hope my book challenges people to see these issues in bigger ways. I know it will anger some folks, but I'm not concerned with that." The author further noted, "I like to read books that make me think, that challenge what I believe."
Beverly-Whittemore told CA: "During high school and college, I felt sure I was going to pursue a life in theater. My love for acting and directing has had a huge influence on how I write. Character is at the center of my work, and I find that plot builds in an organic way from the people about whom I write.
"Although I believe that overtly political works do not often make good reads, I do aim to write culturally challenging books. I hope my work questions the status quo, and I suppose the reason for that is more for myself than anyone else; I have always been interested in the intersection of self and culture. As I look ahead, I hope to write books that invite people to question what they believe. I hope to be able to do that for a long, long time."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2004, Kaite Mediatore, review of The Effects of Light, p. 551.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of The Effects of Light, p. 1153.
Library Journal, December 1, 2004, Leann Restaino, review of The Effects of Light, p. 97.
Publishers Weekly, November 22, 2004, review of The Effects of Light, p. 36.
Bookpage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (August 12, 2005), Rebecca Krasney Stropoli, "Captured by the Lens," review of The Effects of Light.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (February 4, 2005), Shannon McKenna and Carol Fitzgerald, "Miranda Beverly-Whittemore"; (August 12, 2005), Shannon McKenna, review of The Effects of Light.
Collected Miscellany, http://www.collectedmiscellany.com/ (April 2, 2005), David Thayer, review of The Effects of Light.
Michigan Daily Online, http://www.michigandaily.com/ (June 28, 2005), Lucille Vaughan, "Light' Illuminates Role of Art in Human Lives,'" review of The Effects of Light.
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore Home Page, http://www.mirandabeverly-whittemore.com (August 12, 2005).
Romance Reader's Connection, http://www.theromancereadersconnection.com/ (September 22, 2005), Charlene McConnell, review of The Effects of Light.