Spoiler-Free Review: Nancy’s Mysterious Letter

“A large rock came whizzing through the air. It was aimed directly at Nancy.”

Author: “Carolyn Keene”

(I looked, I couldn’t find the ghostwriter for this one)

Nancy gets a letter from someone in England, who could have sent her a letter? Maybe they have the wrong Nancy Drew? or maybe the teenage detective is exactly who they need. Before Nancy can read the letter and find out who sent it, the letter is stolen! What’s a teenage detective to do?

Like every little girl book nerd in America, I grew up loving Nancy Drew. This was a fun walk down memory lane with a good mystery. I highly recommend this book to elementary school girls ready for a good chapter book.

While I enjoyed the walk down memory lane this book represented for me it did raise an uncomfortable question. I noticed that the Drew’s housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, never got a physical description. The book gives us physical descriptions of Nancy, Bess, George, and the other characters, but not Hannah.

Let me play girl detective for a moment, Hannah is a housekeeper in the 1930’s who doesn’t get a physical description. . . is she black? I never thought about Hannah’s race before, I supposed that if pressed I’d always pictured Hannah as being Irish when I was growing up, but that was my mental image not a description. Considering the 1930’s era discriminations in the United States, Hannah could easily be mixed race with both Irish and African ancestry.

Considering that the 1930s was the height of the romanticism of the “Mammy” figure, Hannah’s lack of physical description felt intentional. I’ve even checked online fan pages, I can not find a physical description of Hannah Gruen in any of the original Nancy Drew novels. I’m starting to think that Keene (Mildred Benson, or Edward Stratemeyer, or one of the other ghostwriters at Grosset & Dunlap publishing) meant Hannah to be black and I never noticed.

Let me know in the comments: Do I sound crazy? Am I letting my own whims and the current cultural climate, cloud my objectivity?

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