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About Barbara Weisberg
Weisberg's biography of the two teenagers who founded 19th century American Spiritualism, Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and recommended in The New York Times Book Review. Weisberg's children's books include Susan B. Anthony: Woman Suffragist, a YA biography which the Susan B. Anthony Museum reissued as a special edition, stating, "We treasure your book...and it is a favorite among our visitors"; Coronado's Golden Quest, a true story about the explorer's journeys; The Big Book of Knights and Castles, an illustrated history of the Middle Ages; and the picture book Space Creatures, called "clever, enchantingly illustrated" by Kirkus Reviews. Weisberg has developed print, digital and educational television programs in literature, science and history for students from kindergarten through college.
Weisberg earned graduate degrees in American Studies at Yale University and in Creative Writing at Brooklyn College, where she was awarded the MacArthur Scholarship in Poetry on the nomination of Allen Ginsberg. The American Antiquarian Society awarded her the Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Grant for Creative Writers and Artists. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Authors Guild.
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A fascinating story of spirits and conjurors, skeptics and converts in the second half of nineteenth century America viewed through the lives of Kate and Maggie Fox, the sisters whose purported communication with the dead gave rise to the Spiritualism movement – and whose recanting forty years later is still shrouded in mystery.
In March of 1848, Kate and Maggie Fox – sisters aged 11 and 14 – anxiously reported to a neighbor that they had been hearing strange, unidentified sounds in their house. From a sequence of knocks and rattles translated by the young girls as a "voice from beyond," the Modern Spiritualism movement was born.
Talking to the Dead follows the fascinating story of the two girls who were catapulted into an odd limelight after communicating with spirits that March night. Within a few years, tens of thousands of Americans were flocking to seances. An international movement followed. Yet thirty years after those first knocks, the sisters shocked the country by denying they had ever contacted spirits. Shortly after, the sisters once again changed their story and reaffirmed their belief in the spirit world. Weisberg traces not only the lives of the Fox sisters and their family (including their mysterious Svengali–like sister Leah) but also the social, religious, economic and political climates that provided the breeding ground for the movement. While this is a thorough, compelling overview of a potent time in US history, it is also an incredible ghost story.
An entertaining read – a story of spirits and conjurors, skeptics and converts – Talking to the Dead is full of emotion and surprise. Yet it will also provoke questions that were being asked in the 19th century, and are still being asked today – how do we know what we know, and how secure are we in our knowledge?