Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guest Post: Jefferson's Sons

Today we have a terrific guest post by Diane Dos Santos, youth services librarian at the Glenview Public Library since 1998, and public and private school teacher for eight years.

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (ages 9-14)

     A fascinating fictionalized story about the family born from the quietly devoted relationship of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, a house slave at Monticello, as told from the viewpoint of two of his children, Beverly (his first son) and Madison (his second) and an enslaved family friend named Peter Fossett.  A visit to Monticello ignited Brubaker's quest to tell the story of Jefferson's secret family and how they were given preferential treatment, reading instruction, and weekly violin lessons, but never the acknowledgment from Jefferson they craved.  Sally Hemings lived on the secret promise that Jefferson would grant his children their freedom at the age of twenty-one, so her unrelenting focus was to ready them for that day.  Madison, the son with the darker skin tone, felt left out of Beverly, Harriet and Eston's world because he knew that this fact could be the cruel twist that kept him enslaved while his sister and brothers went free.  As Jefferson grew more feeble, the plantation was handled by his somewhat heartless daughter, Martha, which increased the tension because no one knew if she would be as kind as Jefferson, and with growing debts from Jefferson's large, careless lifestyle, someone would have to pay.  The dramatic ending, which draws on the real fates of Monticello's slaves, adds a grim reminder that despite Jefferson's kindnesses, they would, as their worst fears predicted, pay a terrible price for Jefferson's debts.  We also learn the fate of his children and how they fared in the white world.  Jefferson's Sons is not an accurate title because the book holds many others in the spotlight; namely, Harriet, his oldest daughter with Hemings, Peter Fossett, and all the slave families who were beloved and lived in quiet dignity at Monticello.  This book enlightens us about a controversial chapter in American history that might not be discussed in traditional history textbooks.  An excellent read for teachers and students alike.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the recommendation, Diane! Looks like a great read.