Harriet Hemings has always been happy in the comfortable, protected world that is Monticello. She's been well treated there; no one has ever called her a slave. But that is what she is, a slave of a man who wrote the Declaration of Independence. And there are rumors that she might be more than Thomas Jefferson's slave -she might be his daughter.
Now Harriet has to make a choice - to run to freedom or to stay. If she stays, she'll remain a slave. But how can she choose freedom, if it means leaving behind her family, her race, and the only home she 's ever known.
`` . . . And we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.'' Thomas Jefferson's metaphor for slavery is dramatically brought to life through his illegitimate daughter (Rinaldi suggests) by a slave woman. In this thoughtful fictionalization, 19-year-old Harriet Hemings is one of many ``nigra servants'' on Jefferson's estate. Light-skinned, with red hair, Harriet knows she is different; and although the master has granted the servants' freedom when they reach 21, no one ever suggests that he is their father. Now Harriet must choose between the place and the people she loves and the frightening, often deceitful world of freedom. The subtly crafted style of Harriet's journal entries grows with her as she becomes more aware of the ``velvet trap'' of her life at Monticello. This is an intelligent yet earthy history that lends insight into the complex feelings surrounding race relations. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)