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Cover for We Came Here to Shine

We Came Here to Shine

A Novel

Susie Orman Schnall


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Set at the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, Susie Orman Schnall's We Came Here to Shine is historical fiction featuring two bold and ambitious women who navigate a world of possibility and find out what they're truly made of during a glorious summer of spectacle and potential.

“An ode to female friendship that pulses with momentum and left me breathless.” —Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

“A remarkable novel about the challenges women face and the courage they must summon in order to lead the lives they deserve." —Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

Gorgeous Vivi is the star of the Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular and plucky Max is a journalist for the fair's daily paper. Both are striving to make their way in a world where men try to control their actions and where secrets are closely kept. But when Vivi and Max become friends and their personal and professional prospects are put in jeopardy, they team up to help each other succeed and to realize their dreams during the most meaningful summer of their lives.

Perfect for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Beatriz Williams, We Came Here to Shine is a story of ambition, friendship, and persistence with a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the extraordinary NY World's Fair.

Praise For We Came Here to Shine: A Novel

“Schnall’s engrossing period piece offers two characters worth rooting for.” —Publishers Weekly

“[One of] the 20 most anticipated books of summer 2020.” —Travel + Leisure

“[One of] 16 new historical fiction books to read this spring.” —Parade

“[One of] the 20 most anticipated books of 2020 for working moms.” —Working Mother

"[One of] the most anticipated books of summer—all by women.” —Frolic

“[One of] the most anticipated books of summer 2020.” —She Reads

“[One of] 10 of the most anticipated books coming in 2020.” —She Knows

"On the thrilling backdrop of the 1939 World’s Fair, Schnall once again delivers a story both captivating and timely, as two women must struggle to make their way in a male-dominated world in this beautiful novel of friendship and ambition." - Jennifer S. Brown, bestselling author of Modern Girls

"Susie Orman Schnall’s WE CAME HERE TO SHINE offers readers a perfect escape. It’s the absolutely delightful story of Vivi and Max, two young women who are chasing their dreams at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. This novel beautifully illustrates the importance of female friendships and how, at certain times in life, they can help you be strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined. In many ways, the third fascinating character in this book is the 1939 World’s Fair itself, as Schnall’s lush descriptions of the fair’s pavilions and amusements leap off of the page. I cannot recommend it enough!" -Jane Healey, Bestselling Author of The Beantown Girls

“At its heart, WE CAME HERE TO SHINE pulses with tenacity, ambition, and friendship as two enterprising women find their paths to the future through the power of sisterhood. This wonderful story glows with colorful historical details and delivers a behind-the-scenes ticket to the wonders and woes of New York’s 1939 World’s Fair.” - Elise Hooper, author of Fast Girls, The Other Alcott, and Learning to See

“Set at the wondrous 1939 World’s Fair, Orman Schnall’s latest bursts like a technicolor movie right off the page, as her two heroines battle for their rights in what’s very much a man’s world, forging a remarkable bond in the process. An ode to female friendship that pulses with momentum and left me breathless.”
--Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

We Came Here to Shine is an exceptional work of historical fiction, illuminating the challenges of women in a world that wants to control them. There are conflicts and challenges at every turn, leaving the reader wondering how the characters can emerge from it all. Yet the skillful storytelling of Schnall succeeds at creating an ending that is both surprising and believable. Pick this one up if you enjoy books with friendship, love, struggle, triumph, and a bit of Hollywood in New York.” – Camille Di Maio, Bestselling author of The Memory of Us

"We Came Here to Shine is a perfectly crafted and dynamic tale of female ambition, professional rivalry, and family secrets, all set against the sensational backdrop of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. An unlikely friendship between a struggling Hollywood starlet and a budding female journalist becomes the extraordinary centerpiece of this beautifully-told story, which reveals not only the glamorous and optimistic side of the Fair, but the sordid reality of what goes on behind the scenes. With masterful attention to historical detail, Susie Orman Schnall has gifted us with a remarkable novel about the challenges women face and the courage they must summon in order to lead the lives they deserve." - Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

St. Martin's Griffin, 9781250169785, 384pp.

Publication Date: June 16, 2020

About the Author

Susie Orman Schnall grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Her writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, POPSUGAR, Writer’s Digest, and Glamour. She is also the author of the award-winning novels On Grace and The Balance Project. Susie has spoken extensively on work-life balance and is the founder of The Balance Project interview series. She lives in Purchase, NY, with her husband and their three sons.

Conversation Starters from

Note: Many of these questions contain spoilers. Please don’t read them until you’ve finished the book.

1. The World’s Fair plays the role of another character in the novel. Have you ever attended a World’s Fair yourself or know someone who has? If you haven’t attended one, based upon the description in the novel, do you think it’s something you would have wanted to go to? Why or why not? And how, if at all, did the fair’s depiction in the novel teach you about, or change your impression of this important event?

2. The New York World’s Fair of 1939 took place as the Great Depression was winding down and as World War II was beginning. What do you know about the political and cultural landscapes of the time that inform the story lines of the characters and the timing of the World’s Fair in general?

3. If you could time travel back to 1939, which exhibits or buildings would you visit? What souvenirs would you buy?

4. One of the opening quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” What does that quote mean to you?

5. Are you more of a Max or a Vivi, or neither? Why? How did your impressions of each character evolve while reading the book?

6. What job would you have pursued at the fair during the summer of 1939? Would you have wanted to work for Today at the Fair, swim in the Aquacade, work at one of the exhibit buildings, or something else entirely?

7. Were you surprised to learn that Sofia was Vivi’s daughter? What else surprised you while reading the novel?

8. Do you blame Vivi for leaving her newborn daughter in the care of her sister, Maria, even though Vivi knew Frank was a dangerous man? Or do you think Vivi did what she had to do because Maria pressured her to leave?

9. How do you think Max handled the situation she faced in not receiving comparable work assignments to her coworker Charlie? How would you have handled her plight?

10. While reading the novel, did you hope Vivi would end up with her Los Angeles boyfriend, Gabe, or the Aquacade diver Dean? Or did you think she wasn’t well suited for either?

11. Did you think Max and James were a good match? How did you feel about their relationship when the novel ended?

12. If you were asked to create a time capsule of the present day, what items would you recommend be included to represent our society?

13. What can we learn from Max’s and Vivi’s experiences about the challenges women faced professionally and personally in the late 1930s?

14. Have you read any of Susie Orman Schnall’s other novels? How would you compare this one to those?

15. If you were making a movie of this novel, whom would you cast?

16. Did you take away any message from the story?

17. Reread the last paragraph of the acknowledgments. Why do you think this sentiment is so important to the author? Is it something that you find inspiring or interesting, or that you identify with in any way? Why or why not?