My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
I love to read books about empowering women. I didn’t think this would be one of them, to be honest. I was just curious to learn more about the wife of Alexander Hamilton. Turns out, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton is not what I expected.
From watching the musical Hamilton ad nauseum with my daughter—and even knowing in advance that obviously, it was written for entertainment and not 100% factual—I was surprisingly disappointed in how off the mark historically this great play I have come to love was.
But I was not disappointed in the book itself, which gave readers an in depth look into the woman behind the famous man. And even though this was also a historical fiction of her life, the facts matched up a little closer to real timelines. So, I’m buying it.
Her kindness knew no bounds, and her strength to face the unconscionable was admirable. She was no wallflower, but her brains gave her diplomacy and persuasive brilliance in social situations. Although I resonate with her intellectually outspoken older sister, Angelica, I found Eliza to have the character it takes to be a true success and make a difference in the world.
She was not afraid to challenge those “in the wrong,” including her husband. Boy, she must have had the patience of a saint to deal with that guy. Oh, that’s right—she did.
Compelled to always do the right thing, it actually wasn’t a Pollyanna approach like I presumed it was. It was deeply sought after from her heart, with a desire to fix injustices, such as slavery, to save orphan children from the life Alexander lived and to relentlessly pursue telling Alexanders’ story despite the many, many challenges she faced in doing so.
It wasn’t just her philanthropic efforts that made her an outstanding human being. It was her propensity to forgive, to stay humble and to be a shining example of a strong woman in a changing world. Her story left me inspired to be a better person.
However, one of my “pet peeves”, if you will, was when they kept calling her Betsy for like almost the whole book lol I thought she was Eliza? But boy, when the reveal came for the transition to Eliza, it hit me right in the heart. That’s when she stepped into her power. Fuck yeah, girl. She owned her new identity.
It is interesting that from watching the musical, not that she was ever presented as weak per se, but fans like me were left wondering how in the world she could go back to the louse after such a horrific betrayal. Well, kinda sorta spoiler alert: the fictional explanation of having a near death experience of some kind (I’ll leave it at that) that can bring about ultimate forgiveness gave me the utmost respect for her after that. It was presented plausibly. Well done to the authors for that.
The one flaw with the book is that it spent a lot of time on Eliza during her marriage with Hamilton, and while that was wonderful to hear her side and actually see her major contributions as a founding mother, I wish more time would have been spent on her 50 extraordinary years AFTER his passing.
I wanted to know more about the woman without the man. Though admittedly, the authors said there was very little material to be found and piecemealed to make it a substantial part of her story. I guess we were not meant to get those juicy details—but the book did leave me wanting to learn more about her, so kudos to the writers for presenting her in such an interesting light.
Highly recommended for anyone who isn’t afraid to dismantle their belief that the musical is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Lin Manuel Miranda (though hats off to his brilliance, nonetheless. I still love the show in every way). Though who knows if this story is how it unfolded either—but I’d say between the two, it made for some compelling insight into one of our country’s inaugural ladies.
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