We had a good discussion of our novel, Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children by Kimberly Baker Bradley. We thought it did a relatively good job of explaining the institution of slavery to young readers, although it left a lot of questions unanswered. Several of us were put off by the construction of the novel: jumping around between the points of view of Beverly and Madison (Maddy,) the young sons of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, and their friend Peter, another young slave. We felt that confused the flow of the story. We also felt that it was amazing that there was no feeling of underlying anger on the part of these boys and their mother, as well as their friends, whose lives were completely under the control of the whims of Jefferson. We thought the author had done quite extensive research, but we still had some problems with the dialog, which in many cases sounded too modern, especially in the uses of terms like 'okay' and 'nope' which weren't yet even coined during the 1809-1827 time period of the book. One of our members had read the actual historical accounts (the only ones available) of this unusual 'family,' and found some inconsistencies with the story we were reading. We agreed that it was a very difficult topic to bring to the table for young readers, and wondered how it would have been treated by an African-American author rather than the white one who wrote it. And the final question still remained: How could the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence (which was quoted in the story) have so little real consideration for the feelings of these human beings who were in fact his own family?
On a related note, one of our members thought people might like to read this discussion of slavery as it is treated in childdren's books. Link here: http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/08/diversity-childrens-books-slavery-twitter