In 1850s Manhattan, 18-year-old Georgiana Cartwright witnesses the downfall of her father, a renowned actor who disgraces himself performing under the influence. When he deserts the family, Georgie is expected to save the day by marrying well. But she aspires to the stage, hoping to earn an independent living like her idol, the great actress Charlotte Cushman.
Hired as a supporting actress for a prominent theater company, Georgie launches her career with the help of a trio of young friends, including Clementine, a budding scribe determined to make her mark on the literary landscape—and to win Georgie’s heart. Early reviews garner Georgie the promise of a bright future, but then unwanted sexual advances from within the company threaten to derail her career.
Following Cushman’s lead, Georgie regains her footing in “breeches roles,” parts written for men but performed by women. A thrilling gender-bending turn in a Shakespearean role boosts her confidence—until her harasser renews his efforts. Will she be able to vanquish him and find success and love on her own terms?
“Grounded in the nitty-gritties of 19th-century theatrical life, Dear Miss Cushman is a sparkling coming-of-age story about the roles free spirits shape for themselves, both on and off stage. Credible, engrossing, entertaining stuff.” —Emma Donoghue, award-winning author of Room, The Wonder (Netflix film 2022), and The Pull of the Stars
“Dear Miss Cushman is an adventure steeped in the American theater. Deeply researched, it challenges the traditional view of 19th-century gender and sexuality, exploring what it takes to be the hero of one’s own story.” —Tana Wojczuk, author of Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity
“Paula Martinac’s vivid, mesmerizing prose transports us to the gritty streets of New York City at the height of the Victorian era in this unapologetically queer and deeply empowering story. Dear Miss Cushman is a triumphant portrayal of one young woman’s determination to forge a path of independence—complete with all the splendor, hope, and ugliness of this iconic period. Simply unforgettable.” —Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Last to Let Go and Something Like Gravity
PAULA MARTINAC is the author of six published novels and a collection of short stories. Her debut novel Out of Time won the 1990 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, and The Ada Decades was shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley Award. Her most recent novel, Clio Rising, was awarded the Independent Publishers (IPPY) gold medal in Northeast Regional Fiction. She has published three nonfiction books on lesbian and gay culture and politics as well as numerous articles, essays, and short stories. Also a playwright, her works have had productions with Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company, Manhattan Theatre Source, the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, No Name Players, and others. Martinac is a 2019-2020 Artist Fellowship Recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council and in 2019 she received a Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.