Thomas Jefferson dreams of Sally Hemings : a novel

by O'Connor, Stephen,

Format: Print Book 2016
Availability: Available at 12 Libraries 12 of 13 copies
Available (12)
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C.C. Mellor Memorial Library Fiction FIC OCo
Location  C.C. Mellor Memorial Library
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CLP - Homewood Fiction Collection FICTION O'Connor
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CLP - Main Library First Floor - Fiction Stacks FICTION O'Connor
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CLP - Squirrel Hill Fiction Collection FICTION O'Connor
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Carnegie Free Library of Swissvale Fiction Fic O'Co
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Carnegie Library of Homestead Fiction FIC OCon
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Monroeville Public Library Fiction O'CONNOR STEPHEN
Location  Monroeville Public Library
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Mt. Lebanon Public Library Fiction O'CONNOR Stephen
Location  Mt. Lebanon Public Library
Collection  Fiction
Call Number  O'CONNOR Stephen
Northern Tier Regional Library Fiction FIC O'CONN
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Collection  Fiction
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Northland Public Library Fiction FIC O'CONNOR
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Penn Hills Library Fiction OCO
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Upper St. Clair Township Library Historical Fiction HISTORICAL O'CONNOR Stephen
Location  Upper St. Clair Township Library
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"Dazzling. . . The most revolutionary reimagining of Jefferson's life ever." -Ron Charles, Washington Post

Winner of the Crook's Corner Book Prize

Longlisted for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

A debut novel about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, in whose story the conflict between the American ideal of equality and the realities of slavery and racism played out in the most tragic of terms.

Novels such as Toni Morrison's Beloved, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, James McBride's The Good Lord Bird and Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks are a part of a long tradition of American fiction that plumbs the moral and human costs of history in ways that nonfiction simply can't. Now Stephen O'Connor joins this company with a profoundly original exploration of the many ways that the institution of slavery warped the human soul, as seen through the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. O'Connor's protagonists are rendered via scrupulously researched scenes of their lives in Paris and at Monticello that alternate with a harrowing memoir written by Hemings after Jefferson's death, as well as with dreamlike sequences in which Jefferson watches a movie about his life, Hemings fabricates an "invention" that becomes the whole world, and they run into each other "after an unimaginable length of time" on the New York City subway. O'Connor is unsparing in his rendition of the hypocrisy of the Founding Father and slaveholder who wrote "all men are created equal," while enabling Hemings to tell her story in a way history has not allowed her to. His important and beautifully written novel is a deep moral reckoning, a story about the search for justice, freedom and an ideal world--and about the survival of hope even in the midst of catastrophe.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "*Starred Review* O'Connor (Orphan Trains, 2001) is a brave writer. For his debut novel, he takes on an incredibly complicated, sensitive, and still-debated topic: the decades-long relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman. Its format is impressively inventive and accessible, and it suits its subject. Using traditional narrative, dream sequences, reimaginings, and excerpts from memoirs and Jefferson's writings, it moves beyond historical fiction to demonstrate the bitter, long-lasting aftereffects of Jefferson's moral hypocrisy. The main story line proceeds chronologically, from before their liaison's beginnings, in 1789 Paris, through their later years at Monticello, where she bears his children and ponders her unusual situation. She and other Monticello slaves may be treated differently, but they still aren't free. Yes, we were lucky, she writes in her memoir (perhaps O'Connor's most daring fictional creation), but such luck is a mere drop in an ocean of misfortune. Both individuals have rich interior lives and complex motivations. Jefferson publicly expresses the American ideal of liberty while awkwardly pursuing his attraction to the much-younger Sally Hemings, his late wife's half sister. Courageous and intellectually curious, she is initially repulsed by the physical attentions of this smart, important man and feels ashamed of her ultimate acquiescence. Whimsical in places, brutally damning in others, this mind-expanding epic offers much to discuss.--Johnson, Sarah Copyright 2016 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "O'Connor (Orphan Trains) delves with great acuity and depth into the mind of Thomas Jefferson, who required sexual intimacy from Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman, for nearly 40 years. Interweaving contemporary documents, narrative, fable, and fantasy, O'Connor creates startlingly vivid portraits of his major characters as well as the many injustices of slavery. The weighty political events of the day barely surface in the background as the novel focuses almost claustrophobically on the fraught intimacy between Jefferson and Hemings, from their humiliating first encounters to the steady companionship that evolves as they age. O'Connor takes additional imaginative leaps to further illuminate their relationship, including Hemings's fictional autobiography, scenes in which Jefferson watches a movie about his life, and having the two meet on a subway in modern times. Hemings is depicted as a proud, strikingly beautiful woman possessed of intelligence and good sense, conflicted in her relationship with the master she grows to love, but O'Connor's real interest lies in understanding how a man so deeply committed to the ideals of democracy could be inherently racist, "both coward and hypocrite," and thus "abjectly human." The book meditates in turn on perception, justice, hatred, and evil, making visible-though never rationalizing-the profound contradictions between Jefferson's philosophical ideals and his private life. This is a challenging, illuminating, and entirely original work that's broad enough to encompass joy, penance, "complexity, ambiguity," and "our muddy human souls." (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."

Additional Information
Subjects Jefferson, Thomas, -- 1743-1826 -- Fiction.
Hemings, Sally -- Fiction.
Presidents -- United States -- Fiction.
African American women -- Fiction.
Slaves -- Fiction.
Slaveholders -- Fiction.
Historical fiction.
Biographical fiction.
Publisher New York, New York :2016
Language English
Description 610 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 604-606).
ISBN 9780525429968
Other Classic View