Wednesday, June 8, 2016
7 Questions with Jayne D’Alessandro-Cox, Author of Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man
1. How and/or when did you get hooked on history?
Having to answer this question is actually embarrassing! I had many other interests before I got hooked on 18th century history and my favorite founding father, Thomas Jefferson. In 1982, I married and moved from Long Island to Charlottesville, VA, home of Thomas Jefferson and his beloved Monticello. About 10 years ago, after driving past Jefferson's birth site property, Shadwell, for many years, I began to get very curious as to what life must have been like for the young Jefferson growing up at Shadwell. (The property has been owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation since the 1930's or so, and the general public is not allowed up there, but a local cattle farmer who rents the property and raises his black Angus.) My curiosity got the best of me, so I went to the book store to find a book about Jefferson's early years... for a good read, and found no book on the subject. I then went to the public library, and found that every book about Thomas Jefferson was about his life post Declaration of Independence to death. I thought that was very strange, being that I live in "Jefferson Country"! After much research, I found that there was no book about his first 31 years, prior to his involvement with the Second Continental Congress. So... long story short, almost 4 years later, my book Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man was published. It will be out in audio book by June 2016, and it is fabulous!
2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
As a result of writing Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man, I remain quite busy giving speaking engagements and book signings, which I love. (See www.jaynedalessandrocox.com) I most enjoy volunteering up at Monticello at the Visitor Center, where I can meet fellow Jefferson enthusiasts. I also enjoy Tweeting about Jefferson's life and would like to encourage your readers to join me on Twitter.
3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
Eighteen century Virginia and Early American History will remain a part of my professional life and career as long as people continue to be fascinated by Thomas Jefferson. Being that Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man is the exclusive book on the market today about Jefferson's first 31 years, I believe that I will continue to be involved in educating and entertaining people about this very fascinating and likeable iconic historical figure. This will keep me busy for as long as I breathe, for promoting my book it is such an enjoyable past time.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
Basically, history is fascinating, and I believe that to better understand who we are as a people and society, we need to know how we evolved. So it is the same with Thomas Jefferson. For me it was important to learn about the boy and his journey to manhood in order to understand the man who historians say was so complicated. After researching his early years, I don't feel that he is that complicated. I know where he was coming from, how he was raised, know what he was taught in boarding school and by whom, etc.. I feel fortunate to live in a very historical area of Virginia, which dates back to the early 1700's. As I drive the local highways, I enjoy the surrounding landscape as I drive the same roads that the early American settlers traveled, but now covered with asphalt. My mind tends to go back in time as I imagine early 18th century life for our forefathers as they surveyed the land and cultivated their crops. By learning about Jefferson's early years, I can now better understand this man of the Enlightenment who dared to question the common thoughts of his day as it pertained to science, philosophy, society and politics. So it is with the entire subject of history... learn about the past in order to understand the present, which, in turn, helps us plan for a better future.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
Certainly 18th century America is my favorite period in history. I very much enjoy visiting Colonial Williamsburg and talking with the character actors on Duke of Gloucester Street, visiting those locations that Thomas Jefferson and our founding fathers frequented... where they went to Church, socialized, and made history.
6. Why does Thomas Jefferson appeal to you as a subject ?
I knew very little about Thomas Jefferson until about 6 years ago. Today, I can safely say I am very well read regarding his entire life, but I am most devoted to the years prior to his drafting/signing of the Declaration of Independence. When I moved to Charlottesville, VA, I discovered that "everything was Jefferson": Monticello, the University of Virginia, customs, traditions, etc. Not a day goes by that you don't hear his name on TV, radio, or at Starbucks! I had learned the basics about him in school growing up in Long Island, New York, but he was no more important than any other founding father. There were other people and places to learn about in school. I did not take any history classes in college, but majored in Business with a minor in Spanish. It wasn't until my husband and daughters moved closer to Thomas Jefferson's birthplace, Shadwell, that I became more "curious" about him, especially his birthplace, Shadwell, along the Rivanna, where he spent many years of his youth. His birthplace,Shadwell, also happened to border the property where my daughters' elementary school was located.
7. How is your latest book, Thomas Jefferson: From Boy to Man a unique biography?
It is totally unique, as it is the "exclusive" book on the market today, specifically about his first 31 years: childhood, adolescence, boarding school days, college years at William & Mary, post-graduate law years in Williamsburg, his law practice, women in his life, family, friends, events, fire, earthquakes, flood, deaths, etc. Check it out...every book, besides mine, on the market today about Thomas Jefferson, summarizes his life prior to his involvement with the Second Continental Congress in a few paragraphs...maybe 6 pages, not even a whole chapter, as if they had no real importance or significance at all. Researching for this book was no easy task whatsoever, but it is done, and I am extremely proud of it, as it continues to get 5 star reviews and amazing endorsements from readers around the country. It is very humbling to be so appreciated, as well as to have the endorsement of Rob Coles, Thomas Jefferson's 5th generation great-grandson. An endorsement of this kind tends to tell the reader, "this is a book worth your time reading"! It is in a journal format which includes authentic Jefferson quotes, and is supplemented with historically accurate background text, meant to inform the reader. It includes over 60 photos to enhance the readers imagination, and various appendices that further inform.
Great news is that the audio book will be available by June 2016. The 32 year old British voice actor is fabulous, and his 16 year old son reads the young Jefferson passages....simply amazing and well worth the $29.99 investment. To read more about Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man, please visit my web site: www.jaynedalessandrocox.com