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Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul
Historical fiction

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Crystal Smith Paul, on your first book!

by Crystal Smith Paul

Quick take

One woman’s decision to pass as white reverberates through generations in this riveting exploration of race and fame.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Movieish


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Glamorous



A multigenerational saga that traverses the Jim Crow South, the glamour of old Hollywood, and the seductive draw of present-day showbiz as secrets split a family tree into Black, white, and something in between.

When white silver screen icon Kitty Karr Tate dies and bequeaths her multimillion-dollar estate to the three Black St. John sisters, it prompts questions.

A celebrity in her own right, Elise St. John would rather focus on sorting out Kitty’s affairs than deal with the press. But what she discovers in one of Kitty’s journals rocks her world harder than any other brewing scandal could—and between a cheating fiancé and fallout from a controversial social media post, there are plenty. And if this isn’t enough, her Vogue shoot has been complicated by the arrival of Jasper, a handsome and knowing photographer who may offer Elise a chance at her most authentic pose yet—if she can defy her publicist, plan Kitty’s memorial, and figure out how she really feels under the harsh gaze of the paparazzi, the public. The discovery that her longtime neighbor and mentor was her grandmother, a Black woman who had been passing for white for over sixty years, threatens to expose a web of unexpected family ties, debts owed, and debatable crimes that could, with one pull, unravel the all-American fabric of her sisters and those closest to them.

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? is a sprawling tale that explores the celebrity machine, the burdens of being Black­, the privileges gained by fading to white, and the power that family secrets have to erode and complicate the lives of future generations.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes depicting sexual assault.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?

Why I love it

Before I even opened this book, I was intrigued. Who wouldn’t be with the title: Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? No, I had not heard about Kitty Karr, but from that moment, I wanted to meet her. After just the first few words of the opening chapter, I was drawn into the lives of Kitty Karr and all who knew and loved her as they came together to celebrate a life well-lived.

Wait . . . Kitty was dead? But I wanted to meet her. Then quickly, I realized that Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? was both a compelling contemporary story and brilliantly written historical novel—it doesn’t get any better than that.

The story of Elise St. John and her entire family captured me from the beginning with the kind of familial dysfunction that comes when you mix glamorous Hollywood, sibling rivalry, and mother issues. Then, the author took me back almost ninety years into the Jim Crow South where a struggling Black mother would do anything to give her fair-skinned daughter a better chance in life.

Of course I knew those two worlds would come together. I just couldn’t figure out how. And then when they collided, the stakes were raised even higher. The twists, the turns, the secrets, and the numerous gasp-out-loud moments; I loved every page of this fascinating, multigenerational family saga. This scintillating debut has pushed Crystal Smith Paul to the top of my must-read authors list.

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Member ratings (8,134)

  • Layne B.

    Worthington, OH

    Loved the timeline of this novel, and the relationships were really beautiful. The harsh realities of “passing” in American society were brutal, crucial plot points to giving this book so much heart.

  • Kaitlin T.

    Millbury, MA

    This was a book I won’t forget. It touched upon issues in our country’s history I had never considered before. I loved how the perspectives in the story all came together. I couldn’t put it down.

  • Shreya K.

    Fishers , IN

    I witnessed a raw hunger & powerful determination of a woman striving to give her everything to her community in a manner she deemed feasible. In doing so kitty only inspired me to act and not judge!!

  • Brandi G.

    Smyrna, GA

    I loved this story so much. I devoured it in 2 days. The past scenes of Kitty were my fav. I love the world that was built. It gave me a knew lense to look at people who were passing in a diff. light

  • Christine P.

    kings park, NY

    This is a little gem. Kittys backstory and survival in LA was riveting. She finds her footing, purpose, allies and thrives but at what cost? Such a deep complicated journey generationally felt today.