True Crime Book Review: Diamond Doris by Doris Payne

Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World’s Most Notorious Jewel Thief

In honor of Black History Month I’d like to share this gem of a memoir. Pun intended.

How did a black girl who grew up in a segregated, Depression-era, West Virginia coal town become the world’s most notorious jewel thief? The desire to help her mother out of an abusive relationship and revenge. Tired of being dismissed from jewelry counters when a white woman approached, the young and beautiful Doris, armed with charm, a quick wit, and a love of magic, started to help herself to small pieces. As her skills and confidence grew, her heists became more daring and lucrative. Her race actually helped her get away with her crimes for as long as she did. It turned out that white store owners were reluctant to admit that they were duped by a Black woman. The law sometimes caught up with her. Sometimes she escaped. Diamond Doris eventually served her time, wrote her memoir, and now, at 91, lives a quiet life in Atlanta.

This book is a fascinating look at race in America. Doris is a hilarious and audacious person, and it’s hard not to admire her, despite her 60 years of crime! Do yourself a favor and meet Doris. She is fascinating. And for our local readers, she has a Cleveland connect!

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