Name: Janet Hensen
Job title: Information services manager for the Jackson County Public Library
What’s the name of the book and author you are recommending?
I read and would highly recommend “My Dear Hamilton” by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. It is available at the Seymour library and also as an ebook and audiobook on both Libby and hoopla.
What made you want to pick up this book in the first place?
I recently saw the movie “Hamilton” and really enjoyed it. When I saw that this book was a fictionalized biography of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, I was interested to learn more about her life.
Once you got into the book, what made you want to keep reading it?
You don’t often hear about the founding fathers from a female perspective. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, so it was surprising to me just how divided the founding fathers were on so many things. Alexander Hamilton was a friend and political ally of George Washington, but many of his contemporaries really disliked him, so it was interesting to watch that all play out from Eliza’s point of view.
Once you finished the book, what did you like about it?
I liked fitting it in with what I had seen in the musical and hearing Eliza’s feelings about different events. I know both are fictionalized accounts, but I do feel like I understand the history of that time better than I did before. I also enjoyed reading the notes at the end, where the authors explained some of the choices they made to tell this story from the papers and letters that survive.
What is the book about?
It is a fictionalized biography of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, the daughter of Philip Schulyer and wife and widow of Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of the treasury. It begins in 1777 before she met Hamilton and follows her story through 1848 when a young Congressman Lincoln escorts her to the ceremony laying the cornerstone for the Washington Monument.
Why would you recommend this book to others?
It was a very readable story of a fascinating woman who raised a large family suffered the loss of her oldest son and husband and lived another 50 years, during which she started an orphanage, raised money for a school for Indian children and used her connections to help raise funds for the Washington Monument. It is unfortunate that we generally hear the stories of women like Eliza just because of who they married. In fact, Chapter 1 begins with this: “I was someone before I met Alexander Hamilton. Not someone famous or important or with a learned philosophical understanding of all that was at stake in our revolution. Not a warrior or a philosopher or statesman. But I was a patriot. I was no unformed skein of wool for Hamilton to weave together into any tapestry he wished. That’s important for me to remember now when every thread of my life has become tangled with everything he was. Important, I think, in sorting out what can be forgiven, to remember my own experiences — the ones filled with my own yearnings that had nothing to do with him.”