The Silver Swan


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A bold portrait of the defiant and notorious tobacco heiress who was perhaps the greatest modern woman philanthropist.

About the Author

Sallie Bingham is the author of several memoirs, short-story collections, novels, plays, and poetry collections. Her work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in The Atlantic, New Letters, Southwest Review, and other publications. She has been a director of the National Book Critics Circle and is the founder of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, as well as the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.


Illuminating . . . Bingham is a generous biographer in this exacting, measured work. --Publishers Weekly Men who inherit great wealth are respected, but women who do the same are ridiculed. In The Silver Swan, Sallie Bingham rescues Doris Duke from this gendered prison and shows us just how brave, rebellious, and creative this unique woman really was, and how her generosity benefits us to this day." --GLORIA STEINEM "How to write about the fabulously rich? Sallie Bingham, an accomplished memoirist and fiction writer who is herself a notable philanthropist and a woman of great privilege, may be uniquely situated to present the life of the famed tobacco heiress Doris Duke. Writing of Duke's unconventional love life, palatial estates, 150 employees, stacks of lawyers, pet camels, and billion-dollar philanthropic legacy, Bingham spikes her sympathetic account with wry asides and imperative critique." --ALIX KATES SHULMAN, author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen "Sallie Bingham went in search of a secretive Silver Swan and miraculously found sufficient information to gift us with the most significant, dramatic, and compelling biography of Doris Duke. Heiress, philanthropist, visionary, adventurer, Doris Duke did not keep journals or write letters. Nevertheless, Sallie Bingham's imaginative persistence uncovered a twentieth-century journey of love and healing, of interracial activism for progress and justice, that will delight and inspire all readers concerned about a more humane future." --BLANCHE WIESEN COOK, author of Eleanor Roosevelt (vols. I, II, III) "Among the ranks of important American heiresses, Doris Duke has long remained an enigmatic figure. Thanks to Sallie Bingham's assiduous research through never-before-used documents and her deft writing, we now have a clear and lucidly written account of Duke's engaging life. And what a life it was! Adventuresome and sometimes impetuous, she was a spectacular spender of wealth for personal pleasure and for the public good, a surfer (who knew?), and the prototype of the modern woman, complete with an array of lovers. The Doris Duke who emerges from the pages of The Silver Swan is an empathetic and generous woman whose massive inherited fortune fueled a remarkable life but also kept her true nature hidden from the public." --JAMES McGRATH MORRIS, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power

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