The Paragon Hotel
By Lyndsay Faye
The Paragon Hotel by Lindsay Faye
What’s it about? This book takes place in 1921 and goes back and forth between New York City and Portland, Oregon. In New York City Alice James is a burgeoning mafioso. When things go bad she flees to Portland to recover from a bullet wound and hide. She lands at The Paragon Hotel. The Paragon is an all black establishment- in a city that bans blacks from living.
What did it make me think about? This book of historical fiction shines a spotlight on Oregon’s racist beginnings. Having been born in Portland I found this slice of history fascinating. It explains Oregon’s two different faces- progressive on one hand and very conservative on the other. Who knew that Oregon had a law banning black people from living in the state? Who knew that the KKK has been active there?
Should I read it? This book tells two different stories simultaneously and I much preferred the Oregon story to the Little Italy story. Others might feel differently. On the positive side- it was nice to see female characters not portrayed as helpless. On the negative- sometimes the dialogue was a little too glib for me. As a whole it is a book has some flaws, but it was interesting and the plot moves along. This book will appeal to fans of historical fiction. Quote- “ I know what the KKK means in the south, and it makes me sick. But around here, there are hardly any blacks to begin with, you understand. The clan is a political rally and tool and a charitable club. It’s all America first with them – promoting jobs for hard-working protestants over Orientals and Catholic immigrants, protesting Jew banking, defending motherhood and maidenhood. Fundraisers, not lunch mobs.”