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Barbara Chase-Riboud

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Barbara Chase-Riboud is a Carl Sandburg Prize-winning poet and the prize-winning author of four acclaimed, widely translated historical novels, the bestselling Sally Hemings, Valide: A Novel of the Harem, Echo of Lions (about the Amistad mutiny), and The President's Daughter. She is a winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and received a knighthood in arts and letters from the French government in 1996. Chase-Riboud is also a renowned sculptor whose award-winning monuments grace Lower Manhattan. She is a rare living artist honored with a personal exhibition, "The Monument Drawings," in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Born and raised in Philadelphia, of Canadian American descent, she is the recipient of numerous fellowships and honorary degrees. She divides her time among Paris, Rome and the United States.


Hottentot Venus
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Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Anchor (November 9, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400032083

Barbara Chase-Riboud’s previous historical novels won her critical praise and established her as a writer who daringly transforms the hidden truths of the past into compelling fiction. In Hottentot Venus, Chase-Riboud recounts the tragic life of Sarah Baartman, re-creating in vivid, shocking detail the racism and sexism at the heart of European imperialism.

Video: Who Is Sara Baartman? Every black woman should know her name by dede hunt

Born in the colony of Good Hope, South Africa, in 1789, Sarah Baartman was taken to London at the age of twenty by an English surgeon, who promised her fame and fortune. Dubbed the “Hottentot Venus,” she was paraded naked in Piccadilly in a freak-show exhibition and subjected to the unabashed stares and crude comments of the British public, which resulted in a sensational trial for her custody by British abolitionists. Soon afterward, however, Baartman's keeper—who may have been her husband—sold her to a French circus owner. In 1814, her new owner took her to Paris as part of an exotic animal circus to be displayed to French high society. Baartman endured unconscionable exploitation and cruelty as medical experts and leading scientists touted her as an example of primitive evolution because of her genital “apron” and her prominent buttocks. Upon her death in 1816, she was publicly dissected and her brains, skeleton, and genitals were consigned to a French museum. In 2002, after eight years of legal negotiations between the French and South African governments, Baartman’s remains were finally returned to South Africa for proper burial.

In Hottentot Venus, Barbara Chase-Riboud evokes this strange and moving story in the voices of Baartman and her contemporaries, combining years of research with the sensitivity and perceptions of a masterful storyteller to bring the story to life.


President's Daughter
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Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 11, 1995)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345389700

Chase-Riboud's first novel, Sally Hemings, reignited an old, unresolved controversy: Did Thomas Jefferson carry on a decades-long affair and produce seven illegitimate children with his mulatto slave? The author's engaging new novel continues the Hemings saga by handing the reins of narration primarily to Harriet Hemings, Sally's daughter by the President. The story opens in 1822, on the eve of Harriet's 21st birthday, the day on which, her father has promised, she may leave Monticello and journey north to freedom. To Harriet, the child of a distant father and a remote mother, the choice between living as a slave and leading a life in which her white skin, red hair and green eyes will allow her to pass as white is no choice at all. No matter where she runs, however-New York, London, Paris, Florence-Harriet will end up feeling as if her life is nothing but a duplicitous lie. Chase-Riboud incorporates elements of both pulp (dark secrets, presidential intrigues, sex scenes) and higher-brow fiction (fearless discussions of complex issues such as slavery, war, skin color and gender equality), and she seamlessly joins the two. Like its prequel, this is lushly entertaining history-as-fiction, and just possibly fiction-as-history, that's going to raise eyebrows-and probably hackles as well.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc


Sally Hemings
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Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (August 5, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312247044

A national bestseller with more than 1 million copies sold, Sally Hemings now comes to trade paperback for the first time. Barbara Chase-Ribould tells the touching story of the love affair between Thomas Jefferson and his beautiful quadroon slave. Winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for best novel by an American woman.

When first printed Sally Hemings was greeted with controversy, vilification, and praise. Utilizing documents and historical evidence, it recreated the love story of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, and his beautiful quadroon slave, Sally Hemings. While acclaimed by many reviewers, the novel was viciously attacked by historians, who claimed that the story was not only flagrantly inaccurate, but damaging to the American self-image. Recent DNA findings on the descendants of Jefferson and Hemings have confirmed the novel’s accuracy, and given new light to this moving and enlightening story.

Spanning two continents, sixty years, and seven presidencies, Sally Hemings explores the complex blend of love and hate, tenderness and cruelty, freedom and bondage, that made their lifelong liaison one of the most poignant and unforgettable chapters in American history.

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Echo of Lions
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Hardcover: 381 pages
Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1st ed edition (January 1989)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0688064078

Again blending fact and fiction in what she calls a "nonfiction novel," Chase-Riboud ( Sally Hemings ) chronicles an important chapter of American historywith uneven success. Senge Pieh is seized in Guinea, dragged in chains to Sierra Leone, locked up and illegally shipped to Cuba, sold as a slave called Joseph Cinque and reshipped with 53 fellow Africans on the Amistad. Though he manages to commandeer the vessel, Cinque is subsequently tricked by two crew members familiar with celestial navigation, and lands not in Africa, but off Sag Harbor, Long Island. Arrested, accused of murder on the high seas and piracy, Cinque and 38 others are imprisoned for years in Connecticut, finally tried, acquitted, then re-tried in the Supreme Court (where they are defended by ex-president John Quincy Adams) and, in a landmark decision, released. Cinque finally returns to a homeland decimated by the illegal slave trade. Didactic, repetitious, more history than fiction, this book, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Cinque's rebellion, is nonetheless a moving testament to the triumph of sheer survival and the tragic limitations of victory. Literary Guild alternate.  Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.



Valide: A Novel of the Harem
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Hardcover: 429 pages
Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1st ed edition (June 1986)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0688043348

When a sultan of the Ottoman Empire died, even the horses in his funeral procession (aided by pepper placed under their lids) wept. Alive, he had access to an eighth of the world's riches, a harem of nearly 400 women and his murder-minded heirs, all of whom were kept under virtual house arrest pending his demise. This is the world that Chase-Riboud, the prize-winning author of Sally Hemmings, painstakingly evokes. Her book is moored to an irresistible historic footnote; that in 1741, a French-American girl of 14, captured by Algerian pirates at sea, was forcibly placed in the sultan's Istanbul harem where she later bore him a son whose own accession to the throne made her an empress. So long as it adheres to this story, Valide is consistently interesting. The scenes of life in Topkapi Palace and a bewildered girl's perceptions of it, more than make up for the author's superficial characterization. A greater and ultimately debilitating fault lies with Chase-Riboud's tendency to stray too far afield: readers suddenly find themselves in France with Napoleon, at a gaming table in Russia or on the high seas with John Paul Jones. Because of this, the narrative, though often engrossing, falls short of its exceptional promise.  Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.






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