Shanna L. Smith of Laurel, MD was a winner of the essay contest “The Book That Changed My Life.” Below is the winning essay on Sally Hemmings by Barbara Chase-Riboud:
The book that changed my life is Sally Hemmings by Barbara Chase-Riboud. I was thirteen when I smuggled my mother’s copy of the book into my room, fascinated by the cover: the nineteenth century stylized dress of a woman’s torso. It looked like other romance book jackets, which I had taken a particular interest in at that time. Thinking about this now, nearly three decades later, I am surprised that this selection of a “life changing” book is this and not Song of Solomon or Jubilee or Roots or Sugar. Each of these books had stopped me in my tracks during the times in which I read them. Yet, they are all connected to my first interest in Sally Hemmings. Each of these represents a connection with life history and oral narrative, and with wisdom patiently waiting for an interested generation to discover it.