memoir / nonfiction

The Face of a Naked Lady: An Omaha Family Mystery by Michael Rips


I came across this book because the author is the father of the girl who wrote the memoir of growing up in the Chelsea. I googled her parents because I was intrigued by who would raise a girl who graduated high school in 2016 and put out a memoir shortly after. Her mom is an artist and her dad is a lawyer turned author as it turns out. This book intrigued me because the whole premise is that the author’s father who was a very straight-laced (white) man from Omaha left behind a series of paintings of a naked black woman when he died. No one even knew he painted, much less who the woman was. After much digging, it turns out he had been raised in an infamous brothel run by the author’s great grandparents. This was quite a shock to Michael Rips and he takes it down a path of investigating his father, meeting oddball locals (include the homeless man who turned out to be a multi-millionaire Otis Glebe) and recalling his own upbringing which also included some truly fantastical characters. The book skipped around a bit especially in the beginning and the prose was fairly pretentious. I’m also left wondering if all of his tales of childhood friends and acquaintances are true: we have everyone from someone who has “relations” with live poultry, a man who tries to remove the skin from his face, a soldier missing a jaw thanks to a volcano-related accident and a lot more. I guess truth is stranger than fiction? Who knows. At any rate the book is worth a read if only to illustrate how apparently odd Omaha is and was. I googled as much as I could and quite a bit of it, including the circus accident, appear to be true.

At any rate the book is worth a read if only to illustrate how apparently odd Omaha is and was.

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