About this item

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can't accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of love and loss and a testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, "yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood."

About the Author

Janet Benton

Janet Benton's debut novel LILLI DE JONG will be out May 2017 from Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. It's the diary of an unwed mother in 1883 Philadelphia. She began writing early and has worked hard to give books a central place in her life. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and in many other publications. She holds an M.F.A. from the Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst and a B. A. from Oberlin College. She's taught writing at U. Mass. Amherst, U. C. Davis, the Univ. of the Arts, and Temple U. Her fiction workshops and writer mentoring have been ongoing for decades. She was the recipient of a two-month residency at the writers' colony Hedgebrook. Past jobs have included associate editor of Working Woman, executive editor of KIWI, associate director of the Cummington Community of the Arts, associate editor at the U. Mass. Press, dishwasher, hotel maid, and waitress. She loves to interact with readers by Skype, online, and in person. See

Read Next Recommendation

Discuss with your friends