From Rouge: A Novel of
Beauty and Rivalry. Copyright © 2019 by Richard Kirshenbaum and reprinted
with permission from St. Martin¬Āfs Press.
A NEW FRONTIER
Sydney, Australia, 1922
The heat was unbearable, constant, itchy, and apparently determined to do battle with her
skin. It was ironic how brutal the journey had been given that the point of it was to flee a brutal
adversary at home. Her mother¬Āfs favorite phrase came to mind as she grasped the railing of
the ship: ¬ĀgWherever you go, there you are.¬Āh Were her dear mother here right now, she would
also be telling Josiah to protect her skin by putting on her hat. Instead, in a flash of rebellion,
she stared head-on into the sun as though the sun itself were her enemy and she would win
the face-off so long as she did not betray fear.
Oy vey ist mir. She could not keep this lament far from her mind as she thought of the
distance between her loving mother and herself. The distance increased with every second,
along with the ache in her heart. She could practically smell her mother¬Āfs distinct scent:
sweet, earthy, like the kasha and sweet white onions simmering on the stove. The warm,
instant relief of being in her soft arms and her lilting voice. She did not need to close her eyes
to see the outlines of her home: a medieval town surrounded by water on all but one side,
stacked with red brick that fortified it from intervention and escape. Josiah had been held here
during her childhood, safe, if confined. Home was not perfect by any means, but the comfort
of the familiar is a strong incentive for any incumbent, and she struggled to remember why
she had left in the first place.
Of course, she knew why.
They had heard the terrifying stories, and her mother and father were not willing to live with
this risk. Tales of the pogroms, of drunken soldiers arriving at night, soldiers looting homes,
tearing through hidden drawers; watches and jewels, belongings and books. Soldiers
terrorizing fathers and sons, beating them, and, in the worst accounts, locking their daughters
into the bedrooms and forcing them to do unspeakable things, the soldiers¬Āf laughter and
moaning audible through the door—and the daughters¬Āf screams. Her mother and father had
heard these accounts from reliable sources, first from women gossiping at the market, a
crowd gathered by the butcher, obstructing the line for milk. And then from their beloved
rabbi, who had heard it from the men themselves.
And while these atrocities had taken place in Lwów, not too near, not too far, from home, the
threat was too much to bear. It began to pervade daily life. A sense of palpable anxiety as the
drunken Polish peasants leered and the sense of unease grew like a boiling pot until it
accompanied her at all times—while she was walking into town, writing a letter to her aunt,
even bathing at night. There was always an invisible guest trailing noiselessly behind. So it
was decided, after many family meals and meetings, that she and those sisters old enough to
relocate would move to a place free of threat. Australia, a distant continent, seemed as good a
choice as any. It may as well have been a disparate planet, so intrinsically different was it to
everything she knew from her native Poland.
Others had left before her, of course, and her uncle Solomon and aunt Masha had written back
with good news about the pioneer life. Still, it was hard to imagine Australia as the next
obvious stop. This enormous, distant island, covered with hills and grass and sheep. And the
vast, unfathomable ocean, an incomprehensible force, a planet unto itself. Josiah had been
swimming only a handful of times in her life—in a country lake near her home. Nonetheless,
the plan was made: her uncle and aunt would house and employ her. She would work at the
counter of her uncle and aunt¬Āfs five-and-ten-cent store, live in their home, and help out with
the brood of nieces and nephews in the evenings until she could afford a place of her own.
She would learn the English she had dreamed of studying one day, starting with the handful of
words she had read in the papers stacked in her father¬Āfs office. A new life awaited on this
bright, hot planet, a better life to be made and found. She believed her mother. She wanted
this life. But at the moment, she could not see this bright future because the sunlight was
making her blind.
An unusual beauty, petite but imposing, Josiah had a powerful presence. Pale skin and black
hair, large oval onyx eyes, and a strong, elegant, and beak-like nose gave her a regal, if
withering, look. Her eyes were her greatest weapon, perceiving others¬Āf motives even while
obscuring the impression she made. This appearance had proven both an asset and a
weakness, inviting sisters and friends to confide in her while putting off boys her age, who
were somehow convinced of her critique. But intuition and intelligence prevailed, earning her
the adoration of sisters, friends, and, in recent years, a handful of older boys. Unfortunately, at
the moment her intuition was telling her one thing: Go back.
But it was too late for this. She had been brought here on a wave, the first wave of Polish
immigrants, the first of what would soon be a tidal force. A wave of women seeking safety,
families seeking freedom to express their beliefs, people seeking resources, a new life, people
fleeing a profound and terrifying threat. The rewards were enticing enough to intrigue. But the
threat made this urgent. The threat was what pushed people out of their homes, made the
rewards even worth considering. The threat was what compelled a twenty-two-year-old girl to
leave behind all she knew and loved to venture into the unknown alone on this strange
massive and rusted ship. This threat was what brought her to this foreign place, two oceans
and three continents away from home, in cramped bunks shared with two other girls, the salt
air barely masking the scent of so much proximate sweat.
Daunted, Josiah glanced across the deck at a large cloudy hill. The hill was lush and white.
And then it was green, peppered with white dots. Why the sudden transformation? Soon
enough, she understood: the dots were not clouds, but sheep.
¬ĀgWhat have I done?¬Āh she muttered.
Another passenger answered, a girl her age, Sonjya, whom she had taken meals with during
the trip. ¬ĀgIf all else fails, we can knit,¬Āh she said.
Josiah smiled, comforted by the camaraderie. But just as quickly, a swell of yelling and
footsteps rolled toward her, and she felt herself being pushed to the front of the ship. She
gripped her meager case and the cream straw hat with the blue-and-white ribbon—it seemed
so cosmopolitan at the time—and, squinting into the sun, allowed the swell to push her
forward toward the dock.
Copyright © 2019 by Richard Kirshenbaum
Like Swans of Fifth Avenue and Truman Capote¬Āfs Answered Prayers,
Richard Kirshenbaum's Rouge gives readers a rare front-row seat into the world of high
society and business through the rivalry of two beauty industry icons (think Helena
Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden), by the master marketer and chronicler of the over-moneyed.
Rouge is a sexy, glamorous journey into the rivalry of the pioneers of
powder, mascara, and rouge.
This fast-paced novel examines the lives, loves, and sacrifices of the
visionaries who invented the modern cosmetics industry: Josiah
Herzenstein, born in a Polish Jewish Shtlel, the entrepreneur who
transforms herself into a global style icon and the richest woman in the world, Josephine Herz;
Constance Gardiner, her rival, the ultimate society woman who invents the door-to-door
business and its female workforce but whose deepest secret threatens everything; CeeCee
Lopez, the bi-racial beauty and founder of the first African American woman¬Āfs hair relaxer
business, who overcomes prejudice and heartbreak to become her community¬Āfs first female
millionaire. The cast of characters is rounded out by Mickey Heron, a dashing, sexy ladies'
man whose cosmetics business is founded in a Hollywood brothel. All are bound in a struggle
to be number one, doing anything to get there¬Ācincluding murder.
Historical | Fiction [St. Martin's Press, On Sale: June 25, 2019, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN:
9781250150950 / ]
RICHARD KIRSHENBAUM is the author of Rouge: A Novel of Beauty and Rivalry (St. Martin¬Āfs
Press). He is CEO of NSG/SWAT, a high-profile boutique branding agency. He has lectured at
Harvard Business School, appeared on 20/20, was named to Crain¬Āfs New York Business¬Āfs ¬Āg40
under 40¬Āh list, and has been inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. He is the author of
Under the Radar, Closing the Deal, Madboy, and Isn¬Āft That Rich? and the New York Observer's
"Isn't That Rich?" column. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
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