Alisa's Reviews > Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond

Dear Senator by Essie Mae Washington-Williams
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's review
Oct 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, history, law-injustice, women-rule
Read from January 15 to 16, 2012

A memoir full of conflicting feelings and actions told with amazing personal grace. Strom Thurmond was the longest serving Senator when he retired at the age of 100, and easily one of the most controversial figures over the course of his career. Many remember him as a staunch segregationist. Which makes the circumstances of this book all the more confounding - the author is his daughter, who was the product of an affair he had as a very young man with his family's black maid. Essie Mae grew up in the early years of her life thinking that the two people who raised her were her parents. She was being raised by her mother's sister and her husband. Surprise! This discovery was dropped on her in the most unusual way, first by her mother, and eventually her mother introduced her to the man who was her biological father, the Senator. This book tells the story of Essie Mae's discovery of her unusual family lineage, her eventual relationship with her father, how she kept it a secret until after his passing, and her reconciling of her feelings throughout the course of her life. Strom Thurmond's politics always made my stomach turn and this book did not endear him to me at all, despite the generous forgiveness bestowed on him by Essie Mae. Even though I read the book, I am still trying to imagine how she came to terms with her feelings and her father. Remarkable.
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