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Starred Review. This is a scholar's book: serious, thick, complex. It's also fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance. Gordon-Reed, a professor of both history and law who in her previous book helped solve some of the mysteries of the intimate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, now brings to life the entire Hemings family and its tangled blood links with slave-holding Virginia whites over an entire century. Gordon-Reed never slips into cynicism about the author of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, she shows how his life was deeply affected by his slave kinspeople: his lover (who was the half-sister of his deceased wife) and their children. Everyone comes vividly to life, as do the places, like Paris and Philadelphia, in which Jefferson, his daughters and some of his black family lived. So, too, do the complexities and varieties of slaves' lives and the nature of the choices they had to make—when they had the luxury of making a choice. Gordon-Reed's genius for reading nearly silent records makes this an extraordinary work. 37 illus. (Sept.)
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“A monumental and original book.” — Fergus Bordewich (Washington Post)
“[A] very important and powerfully argued history of the Hemings family.... [Gordon-Reed] has the imagination and talent of an expert historian.” — Gordon Wood (The New Republic)
“[A] deeply researched, often gripping story.... Gordon-Reed has given us an important story that is ultimately about the timeless quest for justice and human dignity.” — Sanford D. Horwitt (San Francisco Chronicle)