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review 2018-08-09 02:02
Sally Hemings: A Novel - Barbara Chase-Riboud

As a general rule, I rarely do re-reads. That's because I have plenty of other books on my TBR List, clamoring for my attention.

But a few weeks ago, the Barbara Chase-Riboud historical novel, "SALLY HEMINGS" came to mind and rooted itself there. I had previously read it almost 40 years ago when I was in high school. While idly checking through Amazon.com, I saw that an updated edition of "SALLY HEMINGS" had been published. I thought that maybe by reading it, I would learn something more about this African American woman and her connection to Thomas Jefferson that had been dismissed by most Jeffersonian scholars and American historians as untrue when the novel was first published in 1979. 
And thus, I set myself to re-reading "SALLY HEMINGS." 

Reading the novel was a rediscovery for me. Most of its details had been lost to me over time. So, I felt very much like I was reading it for the first time. Reacquainting myself with Sally Hemings' life - from her meeting with a census taker in her cabin on the Monticello estate in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1831 to her journey to Paris as a 14 year old in 1787 with one of Thomas Jefferson's daughters (Maria - who also happened to be Sally Hemings' niece because Jefferson's dead wife was also Hemings' half-sister!; Jefferson in 1787 was the U.S. Minister to France), who was in Hemings' charge --- was a wholly absorbing and fascinating experience. 

In the hands of an inept writer less knowledgeable on the subject of slavery and its place as a deeply entrenched fixture in the life, culture, and economy of early America, this novel could have ended up as an overworked melodrama. Chase-Riboud takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey through Sally Hemings' life and the lives of the slaves on Jefferson's estates, as well as many of her family members -- both black and white. She also provides an in depth look at Thomas Jefferson in terms of his relationships with his family and slaves that also reinforce what is known of the historical Thomas Jefferson from people who knew him (e.g. John & Abigail Adams, their son John Quincy Adams, the painter John Trumbull, and Aaron Burr). I especially liked learning something about the lives of the children Thomas Jefferson had with Sally Hemings. This is a novel I recommend to anyone who not only enjoys a good, engaging story - but also is open to learning a more complete history of the impact that slavery and racism had in the lives of several of the 'Founding Fathers' from the very inception of the United States as a democratic republic in 1789.

One more thing worthy of mention: There is also an Afterword in which Chase-Riboud goes into some detail about the struggles she experienced in writing "SALLY HEMINGS" and trying to get it published in 1979. She also enlightens the reader about the efforts of many of America's Jeffersonian scholars and historians of the early Republic years to discredit Chase-Riboud, her novel, and the possibility that an intimate and longstanding relationship existed between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. (Since January 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation has accepted the findings of a DNA study, "combined with multiple strands of currently available documentary and statistical evidence that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely was the father of all six of Sally Hemings's children appearing in Jefferson's records.")

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review 2018-08-02 22:12
Thornhill by Pam Smy
Thornhill - Pam Smy,Pam Smy

This is another book I randomly picked off the shelves when I went to the library for the first time in six months. I was drawn in by the spine. All I saw was it was completely black with Thornhill written in bright white font. Once I flipped through the book and saw it was also told through illustrations, I decided to read it right there and then. And I was not disappointed.


Thornhill is told through two perspectives. The first is Mary, an orphaned girl living in the Thornhill Institute during 1982, and is being viciously bullied by one of the other orphans. The second is Ella, a girl living next door to the ruined Thornhill Institute in 2016, who sees a little girl inside the institution and desperately wants to become her friend. What unfolds is a story about loneliness, anger, and pain these two must face in order to find their peace in the world.


This story is depressing. Pam Smy does not shy away from showing how terrible being the victim of bullying truly is. It hits the reader hard. Just reading about the pain Mary goes through, seeing her in pain, how lonely she is, it just hurts so much. With the fantastic artwork accompanying the story, brings that hurt alive. Smy is truly talented in weaving both the past and present into one narrative. I am in awe at her abilities to create a story not just through words but art as well.


Her characters are so amazing as well. I feel so strongly for Mary the most. She just wants a family to love and appreciate her and because of how quiet she is, she is treated so poorly. Not just by the other orphans, but by the adults as well. But she is such a kind, gentle soul. She loves creating dolls to be her friends and it's truly magical. I adore her. Ella is also kind and gentle. She works so hard in befriending the girl she sees next door and I love that her instinct was to be friends and not to judge her. Smy's characters are lovely and it makes me feel all the more for them.


I can't really dive into anything else that happens in this book because it's all about seeing how everything plays out for these two and how the two time periods become interwoven. All I will say that this is truly a tragic story and if there's one thing you take away from reading this book is, if you see anyone being picked on or bullied, please say something. Get help. Being tormented day in and day out is no way to live. Please don't let anyone suffer. We are all on this planet to live as best we can. Let's try to make it a good place for everyone.


I really like this book for its art and story, and though it is quite a depressing read, I highly recommend you pick it up. There's violence, bullying, and child neglect involved so keep that in mind when reading this book. However, I do think it's worth the read and worth it for the art as well. It's absolutely stunning!

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review 2018-08-02 21:33
What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis & Thalia Wallis Illustrated by Joseph Wilkins
What Does Consent Really Mean? - Thalia Wallis,William Joseph Wilkins,Pete Wallis

This year has been quite rough for my partner and I. As a result, we haven't been going to the library as frequently as in the past. However, two days ago, we decided we needed to get out of the house for a while. Just to clear our minds. So, after six months, we decided to go to the library and just pick up anything that caught our eyes. Whilst browsing the graphic novel section, I spied What Does Consent Really Mean? and I was curious to see how they handled the subject matter. I am quite glad with the outcome.


Pete and Thalia Wallis did a fantastic job introducing the topic of consent to a young audience. It's important people understand that when they are being intimate with another person, all parties involved must be willing and able to participate in sexual intercourse. And if anyone seems hesitant, then that means no. It doesn't matter if the person didn't actually say "no." If they don't seem willing, that automatically should be a sign to not proceed any further. 


What I like about this book is how matter-of-fact and straight to the point it is. It doesn't beat around the bush about how you should approach someone when it comes to sex. It can seem a bit basic, but for someone who is thinking about having sex for the first time, it's important that books like this exist. You can never have too many resources about giving consent and what it means when someone doesn't say "yes" to having sex.


Joseph Wilkins's artwork is quite simple and I think it matches well with the style of the comic. It's a simple way of educating people about making sure all involved are okay with having sex. This book teaches you not to take advantage of someone if they are intoxicated or to post someone's private photos for all to see. And Wilkins art brings these messages alive without distracted the reader from the heart of the book. 


I think this comic is amazing. If you have someone young in your life that could be thinking about sex, I think this is a great book for them to read. It doesn't only deal with heterosexual intercourse either. It also talks about having consensual sex between gay and bi people respectively. At the back of the book, there's many resources provided in case you want to find out more about teens questioning their sexuality, if they've been sexually assaulted, or other resources to help teens learn and understand their bodies a bit better.


I really like what this book is doing and highly recommend you let a young person in your life read it.

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review 2018-07-28 16:39
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War - Matt Faulkner

Gaijin is the fictionalized story of Faulkner's great aunt's and cousin's stories about being in the Japanese internment camps during WWII. I really enjoyed this book because it is the story seldom brought up in history classes and seen through such a unique perspective - that of 13 year old biracial boy (Koji Miyamoto) and his white mom (his Japanese father is back in Japan caring for his parents) living in San Francisco when Pearl Harbor occurs. Koji never really felt like a gaijin, or outsider, until then and it is worse in the camps. Koji is forced to go to the camps but not his white mother - she decided to go with him because she didn't want to be separated from her boy. Luckily, they have her husband's employers in the camp to help her help her son through this difficult time (being a teen and time of war). 


The artwork is stunning and impactful. I highly recommend reading this to kids as a starting off point as there isn't any graphic violence but some aspects of Koji's life can be applied to their lives as well (bullying, separated families for examples).

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review 2018-07-28 00:44
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Browne
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans - Don Brown

Tells the story that most of us are now familiar with. The artwork uses water colors so nothing is defined, especially people. That makes the work less impactful, as there is very little emotion coming from the pages. The most defined people were the politicians. It felt too emotionally distant and academic for me.

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