New York Times journalist Lily Koppel found the inspiration for her book after discovering an old diary in a Manhattan dumpster. The diary recorded the thoughts and feelings of an intelligent, ambitious and creative teenager on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early 1930s. In the diary, the young author recorded everything from her first kiss (with a boy) to her crush on actress Eva Le Galliene (whom she had met - and which led her to question her sexuality) to her passion for writing and art. There are also numerous observations on daily life in 1930's NYC. Ultimately, the diary acts as a window into a fascinating and privileged world, one that Lily Koppel successfully recreates by telling a story in a novelistic way using no more than snippets of text from the teenager's diary.
Remarkably - and this is a big part of the story - Lily Koppel was able to reunite the long lost diary with it's then 90-year-old author after locating its her in Florida. I am reading The Red Leather Diary now - and enjoying it a great deal. Check out this event if you can.