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March 5, 2021
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Books Historical Novels

The President’s Daughter: A Novel

presidents-daughter-novel-barbara-chase-riboudThe President’s Daughter is the provocative continuation of the irrefutable historical chronicle of Sally Hemings. Epic in proportion, yet rendered in exquisite detail, it begins in 1822 and tells the story of Harriet Hemings, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Heming’s beautiful and headstrong slave daughter. Harriet is allowed to run away from Monticello and pass for white, as Jefferson had promised Sally their children would be able to do. She experiences the turbulent events leading up to the American Civil War and is eventually thrust into the very heart of the Battle of Gettysburg. In The President’s Daughter, Barbara Chase-Riboud has written another classic of love and color in America.

Reviews: The President’s Daughter
“Chase-Riboud’s first novel, Sally Hemings, reignited an old, unresolved controversy: Did Thomas Jefferson carry on a decades-long affair and produce seven illegitimate children with his mulatto slave? The author’s engaging new novel continues the Hemings saga by handing the reins of narration primarily to Harriet Hemings, Sally’s daughter by the President. The story opens in 1822, on the eve of Harriet’s 21st birthday, the day on which, her father has promised, she may leave Monticello and journey north to freedom. To Harriet, the child of a distant father and a remote mother, the choice between living as a slave and leading a life in which her white skin, red hair and green eyes will allow her to pass as white is no choice at all. No matter where she runs, however-New York, London, Paris, Florence-Harriet will end up feeling as if her life is nothing but a duplicitous lie. Chase-Riboud incorporates elements of both pulp (dark secrets, presidential intrigues, sex scenes) and higher-brow fiction (fearless discussions of complex issues such as slavery, war, skin color and gender equality), and she seamlessly joins the two. Like its prequel, this is lushly entertaining history-as-fiction, and just possibly fiction-as-history, that’s going to raise eyebrows-and probably hackles as well.” –Publishers Weekly

“On her 21st birthday, Harriet, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, his slave and mistress, is allowed to run north and pass into white society. Although Harriet’s physical characteristics allow her outward passage to occur without difficulty, the psychological divisions she suffers endure for her lifetime. Obsessed by her desire for Jefferson to acknowledge his slave children, tormented by fears that her husband could be prosecuted for miscegenation and her children sold into slavery, Harriet struggles with the same questions that tear apart the Union and plunge the country into civil war. The question of racial definition and identity personalized in Harriet’s experiences and self-examination makes for compelling reading. This engrossing sequel to Sally Hemings deftly weaves historical facts with fascinating fiction. For most fiction collections.” –Kathy Piehl, Library Journal


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