Next Chapter Book Club discusses Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe
At a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich; Anna May Wong, the world’s first Chinese American star; and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director of propaganda art films would first make her famous—then, infamous.
The trajectories of these women’s lives wind from Weimar Berlin to LA’s Chinatown, from the Bavarian Alps to the Champs-Élysées, and the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play: siren, victim, predator, or lover, each one a carefully calibrated performance. In the orbit of each star live secondary players whose voices and viewpoints reveal the legacy each woman left behind. Intimate and clear-eyed, this is a visceral depiction of womanhood—its particular hungers, its oblique calculations, and its eventual betrayals.