America’s First Daughter
By Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
A historical fiction novel based largely on the remaining letters of Thomas Jefferson, America’s First Daughter tells the story of his daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, from childhood through old age. Throughout most of her life, Patsy was her father’s constant companion, protector and helper. With him, she saw America’s war for independence; she traveled through America’s colonies; she experienced France as a monarchy and a country in revolution. She fell in love, twice. She became a mother and a grandmother. She entered her father’s world of politics and became America’s First Daughter, both at the Capitol and at her father’s home in Monticello. And she struggled with conflicted feelings of loyalty to her country, loyalty to her family, and her moral responsibility to not just her people – her enslaved servants – but to the nation’s people.
Review/Recommendation: When I finished My Dear Hamilton and published my book review, several friends and readers told me they enjoyed America’s First Daughter even better. So I promptly added my name to the 60+ person wait list at the library, and hoped that my turn would come up before I could forget about the book. Well, it was finally my turn, and I finished the almost 600 page book in a week (both because I enjoyed it and because I had some unexpected stretches of time to read due to travel).
I finished the book and reflected: Did I agree with my friends and readers? Was this better than My Dear Hamilton? In the end, I decided that better wasn’t quite the right word. I did find it to be a little bit faster-paced, but there were a lot of similarities between the two books. Each told the story of a historical figure that was overshadowed in history by the man in her life. Each book chronicled that woman’s life, almost in its entirety. Both were based on as much fact as possible, using any surviving letters to chronicle the women’s lives. Liberties were taken for reader experience, with much of those liberties detailed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed America’s First Daughter – the story of Patsy’s life as well as her evolution, growing into not just a woman but an American leader in her own way. She didn’t have it easy, but she did her best to live her life in a way that would honor her father, her religion and her country.
More than anything, America’s First Daughter – just like My Dear Hamilton – showed how one of the greatest men in America’s history was who he was, because of the great woman in his life. For that appreciation of overlooked women in American history, I’ll not only recommend American’s First Daughter to you, but also will continue to read similar books by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie in the future.