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Sally Hemmings

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  903 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
When this stirring work by Philadelphia-born Paris-based sculptress and historical-fiction writer Barbara Chase-Riboud first appeared in 1979, it was dismissed by many mainstream historians as "hogwash." But with DNA evidence proving that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, did indeed father at least one child by his black slave mistress, Sally Hemi ...more
Published December 12th 1988 by Random House Value Publishing (first published November 30th 1977)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,143)
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Lisa James
Apr 08, 2015 Lisa James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always been interested in Jefferson as a person, not as much as a President, although that may sound strange. He was conflicted, as evidenced in his stand on slavery, being against it in principle, yet unable to divest himself of the ones he had. The story of Sally's life, as told here, even though a work of fiction, does play on the known facts of her life, & could almost BE biographical in nature. I was glad to see all of the rumors finally put to rest by DNA evidence that revealed ...more
Cee Martinez
Sep 05, 2011 Cee Martinez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
July 4th of this year found me seperated from fireworks and backyard barbecue, alone and in my livingroom with the laptop, and a History Channel marathon of The American Revolution. While running wild on Twitter and Facebook, I got to know better the editor of the brilliant new ezine, Specter Magazine, a Mr. Thomas D. DeMary II. I don't recall the exact details of the twit-conversation any longer, but the end result was that he had to pony up and buy me a book of my choosing off

Aug 24, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible novel, and the best example I have yet encountered of the historical fiction genre, or "faction". The author grounded as much of her work as possible in primary source documents (sources disclosed at the end of the work) and filled in with imagination what remains unknown in the historical record. The fact that this work was conceived more than 20 years before DNA tests virtually confirmed the premise that this book is written on (that Thomas Jefferson had a long term sexual relati ...more
Dec 02, 2008 Sabrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical novel, very well researched and based on actual events. This book was the most tragic of love stories and an excellent depiction of the life and times of the Jefferson Administration.

I felt very connected to Miss Hemmings but I can't imagine choosing to remain enslaved, even to stay with the man I loved. To watch her children "walk off" the plantation and go on to live as White Americans must have wrenched her heart, knowing that she could never see them again, lest it be re
Around page 247, I read this line coming from Sally Hemings, "A feeling almost of elation filled me. We had the power of love on our side. We were stronger and better than the monstrous iniquity we had sprung from." It was at the moment that this novel officially "jumped the shark" (although there were some pretty bad moments earlier in the book) from historical fiction to sappy, over-sentimentalized storytelling. A shame since it did seem rather solidly researched.
Natalie Corey
For all its flowery prose and seemingly passionate subject matter, this book fell flat for me. What drew Sally and Jefferson together? I still don't understand, other than the sexual relationship between white master and black slave being commonplace in that time. I found that the characters lacked dimension. Sally vacillates between being fervently in love with and despising Jefferson (as she should). But I didn't feel any reason for her changing emotions. I understood logically why she would b ...more
Aug 24, 2011 Ashley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Just couldn't get into it. It's so full of historical opinions, perspectives, and personal thoughts that seemed false to me.
Apr 09, 2016 Jacqueline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and well crafted.
Lisa Kelsey
A little rough going in the beginning, well-written but not spectacular and the structure isn't perfect, but definitely worth reading because it is so insightful. Really brings home the "banal evil" of slavery and has given me a better understanding of the south. Interestingly, I don't think it was particularly insightful into Jefferson's character, but that perhaps was not the intent of the author.

One of the interesting historical details is the inclusion of the George Sweeney murder trail. Sw
I remember seeing the episode of Oprah when the various branches of Jefferson family were on the show post the court decision of all branches of Jefferson family having equal right to the burial at family burial ground, which had seemingly disturbed some people other than "white" half of the family.

There were some people on the show who looked white enough but were actually part of the black or African American (why don't people think they have a right to say European American? After all Europe
Mar 07, 2016 Charlyd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this somewhat tattered book on my brother's bookshelf and, as I had been reading history of early America (Chernow's Alexander Hamilton and Meacham's Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power, thought it would be interesting to get another perspective on the saga of Sally Hemings. Given the freedom of writing fiction vs. history, Ms. Chase-Riboud created a rich tableau of complex, conflicted characters including many of the significant personalities of early America. This writing went far beyond ...more
Feb 28, 2014 Sierra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, I put it on the top of my list to read because this is a topic unheard of to me, especially in school. The book is written in current time of Sally in her forties with numerous flashbacks of her life. It really gives everyone's perspective, Sally as a slave as a woman as mixed race woman. Sally's two sons, and Thomas Jefferson's. Though it was a difficult read due to the style of writing but it really gives a point of view of the times leading up to and around her relat ...more
Jun 22, 2016 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this is a fictional accounting of the relationship between Sally Hemmings, slave, and Thomas Jefferson, I feel the author did an excellent job in portraying the relationship between the two as well as the complicated familial ties that were the make-up of Monticello. Jefferson took Sally as his mistress when she was a mere 14 YO, after his wife died. There was a 29 year difference in their ages. While in France, where slavery was outlawed and Sally could have 'strolled' away, she opted ...more
Reading this book felt almost surreal to me. I went on a field trip to Monticello once when I was a kid, and to be honest, I didn't know where I was. I was too young to understand the history, and too young to understand the things I was seeing and hearing. Even being mixed black myself, slavery was a hazy concept I couldn't fully grasp as a child.

This book brought back memories of that trip in full clarity. The hot tobacco fields (how lucky we were with our water bottles and fans), the cramped
Mar 30, 2016 Patsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Historical Fiction - This is a story about Sally Hemings; one of Thomas Jefferson's slaves who lives in the slave quarters. At this time Thomas Jefferson was already our President. I put historical fiction due to much research had been done in numerous libraries, with families, and friends but there were a few blanks that was left out and couldn't find answers so a line or two of fiction was inserted to keep the book flowing. Sally and President Thomas Jefferson were together for 28 years; they ...more
Dec 31, 2012 Zora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read about Sally Hemmings, however it is fictional with the use of primary documents. The story the author has created is wonderful because its fitting to the primary documents she used. I found out new things about this antebellum period. For instance in Virginia I didn't know that runaway slaves traveled with Indian tribes northward to reach freedom. It was interesting how the author formed each character as well as there interactions with Sally. The book begins at the ...more
Carol Bro
Nov 20, 2011 Carol Bro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting fictional presentation of a very complicated relationship. However, although Barbara Chase-Riboud is a capable and thorough researcher and clearly did her homework, still, the operative word here is "fictional." I don't doubt the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings existed, but the danger when doing a work of historical fiction is in the taking of too many liberties and making too many assumptions. Chase-Riboud is, in my opinion, far too much in Sally Hemings's head given the ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quoting Voltaire, BCR says, "There is no History, only fictions of various degrees of plausibility." She goes on to say, "For history is nothing more than the human adventure as told by fallible humans, with all their prejudices and physchoses and visions, to the society which they serve," (p353-354). How aptly put. There has been much controversy over this suspected truth. Primary sources and DNA lend credence to the theory that Sally Hemings and TJ had a long standing relationship and several ...more
Jun 30, 2007 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I became interested in Sally Hemings after seeing the television version of her romance with Thomas Jefferson. I had read bits and pieces of it prior to that. The book is fictional, based on some historical information that points to a "relationship" -- if you can call it that. Personally when it's between slave and master I call it rape. It's worth noting there was a scuttlebut about his DNA back in 2000. Inital results showed he only fathered one child. However, I did some googling recently an ...more
May 18, 2014 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

History buffs will appreciate Barbara Chase-Riboud's combination of authentic historical documentation blending with fiction to create the riveting story SALLY HEMINGS. Informative and compelling, and should not be overlooked. Thomas Jefferson's quotes knit this story, adding to the accurate information and narrative. I highly recommend this story, not only fans of history but all readers. A memorable story of a remarkable woman of strength.
La Tisha Wammack
Apr 18, 2015 La Tisha Wammack rated it liked it
I'm still not entirely sure what I think of this book. If it was written as a written of fiction, I think I would have liked it more. However,claiming that it was historically accurate puts me off to it. In checking other facts about Jefferson many things were different than how they were presented here.

I think the book could have benefited greatly from a genealogy chart at the beginning of the book, I spent a lot of time trying to remember how everyone was connected to everyone else.
Feb 27, 2015 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always been fascinated by Sally Hemings and looked forward to reading this controversial look into the life of Thomas Jefferson's African-American mistress. I was not disappointed! Sally was the half-sister to Jefferson's deceased wife and he became her lover while in France where her light colored skin blended in. Chase-Riboud clearly did her research and the end materials discussing the road blocks she came up against while doing so was as fascinating as the novel itself. I loved the pe ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Maryann rated it really liked it
I believed it. In Virginia, the book was dismissed as fantasy when it came out. Whenever I discussed it with friends, they did not believe Thomas Jefferson would possibly have anlong affair with Sally. I believe that she was Thomas Jefferson's deceased wife's half sister. I am not definate on that but they were related.
Andy Plonka
May 11, 2015 Andy Plonka rated it really liked it
Shelves: src
Though this liaison between Sally Hamings and Thomas Jefferson has gotten a lot of press much more recently than when this novel was written, it is a valuable bit of American history that is worth exploring and the author has certainly done her homework
Sep 22, 2015 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrative at the beginning of the book put me off a bit and seemed to drag on and on. However, once the story starts to unfold the author keeps your attention. The ending left me in tears and wiped out, but glad I read the book. It seems Thomas Jefferson truly believed he could keep the truth of this dual life from the history books....Oh but DNA does not lie or keep many secrets!
Feb 18, 2010 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a fan of historical fiction I did enjoy this book, and the author made it into a very believable story depicting the depth of misery which was inflicted on early American black slaves. Their lack of freedom to live their own lives was despicable. The main story, of course, was that of Sally Hemings and her relationship to our third president, Thomas Jefferson. It was a good read, and while we do know from history that Jefferson owned many slaves and DNA evidence has shown that he fathered at ...more
Mar 22, 2014 Josie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy this book, but I think if someone took out all the paragraphs dedicated to the description of eyes and eye color the book would be about 10 pages long.
Feb 13, 2014 Dedra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The historical portion of this is very interesting. I read this so long ago so don't remember all but do remember I liked a lot
Dec 11, 2008 Hilariapdx rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a nerdy history buff and a student of Southern US storytelling so I come from a patently weird place when I read historical fiction of the South (which has always been a patently weird world). For better or worse, the history of the south - and particularly the history of the creation of the US and the horrors of slavery - is ripe with amazing stories. As a point of pride Southerners of all colors do not hide their passions, follies, heroics or cruelties. Such a life approach is good fodder ...more
Jul 11, 2015 Llm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those who find this lacking in research, it is a wonderful story of race and women. Sally was one to b admired
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An American novelist, poet, sculptor and visual artist, perhaps best known for her historical fiction. Much of her work has explored themes related to slavery and exploitation of women.

Chase-Riboud attained international recognition with the publication of her first novel, Sally Hemings, in 1979. The novel has been described as the "first full blown imagining" of Hemings' life as a slave and her r
More about Barbara Chase-Riboud...

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