Following on the heels of a successful career in corporate law, Tara Conklin has vaulted onto the literary scene with her best-selling debut novel The House Girl (William Morrow) Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing tale follows Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite Manhattan law firm, who is given a highly sensitive assignment that can make her career. She is tasked with finding the "perfect plaintiff" to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves. Lina finds an unlikely candidate in a descendant of Josephine's, a house slave to Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of slaves. When Lina discovers that these portraits may have actually been painted by Josephine, she begins to unravel a story that is full of secrets and betrayals, leading Lina to question her own life and explore whether truth is sometimes more important than justice. In her talks and presentations, Conklin draws on the historical issues that shape her characters and influence her writing. She is an ideal speaker for schools, universities, libraries, historical societies, law firms, and human rights organizations.
Conklin was born on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and grew up in Massachusetts. She received her undergraduate degree in history from Yale University in 1993, a law degree from New York University School of Law in 2001, and a Master of Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University in 2003. She has dealt cards at a casino in Costa Rica, planned events at a press center in Moscow, taught English at a school in Madrid, waited tables at a hotel in Montana, and, most recently, worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a major corporate law firm. She now lives with her family in Seattle, Washington, and devotes herself full-time to writing fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology and Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe.
Praise for The House Girl:
"There's so much to admire in The House Girl -- two richly imagined heroines, two fully realized worlds, a deeply satisfying plot -- but what made me stand up and cheer was the moral complexity of these characters and the situations they face. I'm grateful for this transporting novel."
-- Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"In this the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, The House Girl stands as both a literary memorial to the hundreds of thousands of slaves once exploited in the American South and a mellifluous meditation on the mysterious bonds of family, the hopes and sorrows of human existence, and the timeless quest for freedom."
-- Corban Addison, author of A Walk Across the Sun
"The House Girl is an enthralling story of identity and social justice told through the eyes of two indomitable women, one a slave and the other a modern-day attorney, determined to define themselves on their own terms."
-- Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound and When She Woke
"Tara Conklin's powerful debut novel is a literary page-turner filled with history, lost love, and buried family secrets. Conklin masterfully interweaves the stories of two women across time, a runaway slave in 1852 Virginia and a young lawyer in present-day New York, all while asking us to contemplate the nature of truth and justice in America."
-- Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
"The House Girl is a heartbreaking, heartwarming novel, ambitious, beautifully told, and elegantly crafted. Tara Conklin negotiates great vast swaths of time and tribulation, character and place, with grace, insight, and, simply, love."
-- Laurie Frankel, author of Goodbye for Now and The Atlas of Love
"Tara Conklin's wise, stirring and assured debut tells the story of two extraordinary women, living a century apart, but joined by their ferocity of spirit. From page one, I fell under the spell of The House Girl's sensuous prose and was frantically turning pages until its thrilling conclusion."
-- Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette
"Infused with ominous atmosphere and evocative detail...a dramatic montage of narrative and personal testimonies that depicts the grotesque routines of the slave trade, the deadly risks of the Underground Railroad and the impossible choices that slaves and abolitionists faced."
-- Washington Post
"Assured and arresting...You cannot put it down."
-- Chicago Tribune
"Conklin ... is a skilled writer ... who knows how to craft a thoughtful page-turner ...We're glued to the pages."
-- Seattle Times
"[G]rabs you by the bonnet strings and starts running."
-- Entertainment Weekly
"Exquisite...Conklin takes us down a curious rabbit hole that drops us before a looking glass of uncomfortable truths about race, power, art, family, law and ethics...One of those books in which there's not one, two or three, but about ten good parts you'll want to read and reread."
"Rich and surprising...will make hearts ache yet again for those who suffered through slavery as well as cheer for those--Conklin and Lina-- who illuminate their stories."
-- Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Conklin's research blends subtly into the background while successfully rendering a picture of the complex tensions inherent in 1850s society...A historical novel that succeeds in giving voice to the voiceless."
-- Winnipeg Free Press
"Skillfully executed and packed with surprises, this novel of the ways in which art saves our humanity is an engrossing do-not-miss adventure."
-- Shelf Awareness
"A thoughtful work of fiction about freedom, love, and the continued price for former slaves with modern descendants. Conklin creates a convincing case of an unrecognized injustice with a novel that is both legalistic and artistic...A story of personal and national identity that you won't want to miss."
"Luminous . . . The rare novel that seamlessly toggles between centuries and characters and remains consistently gripping throughout . . . Powerful."
"A seamless juxtaposition of past and present, of the lives of two women, and of the redemptive nature of art and the search for truth and justice. Guaranteed to keep readers up long past their bedtimes."
-- Library Journal (starred review)