You Never Forget Your First
In a genre overdue for a shakeup, Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first—and finds he's not quite the man we rememberYoung George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, chased rich young women, caused an international incident, and never backed down—even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle.But after he married Martha, everything changed. Washington became the kind of man who named his dog Sweetlips and hated to leave home. He took up arms against the British only when there was no other way, though he lost more battles than he won. Coe focuses on his activities off the battlefield—like espionage and propaganda.After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War, Washington once again shocked the world by giving up power, only to learn his compatriots wouldn't allow it. The founders pressured him into the presidency—twice. He established enduring norms but left office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created.Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty finally confronted his greatest hypocrisy—what to do with the hundreds of men, women, and children he owned—before succumbing to a brutal death.Alexis Coe combines rigorous research and unsentimental storytelling, finally separating the man from the legend.

You Never Forget Your First Details

TitleYou Never Forget Your First
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 4th, 2020
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780735224100
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Biography, Politics, North American Hi..., American History, Historical, Biography Memoir

You Never Forget Your First Review

  • Scott
    January 1, 1970
    "He is a complete gentleman . . . He is sensible, amiable, virtuous, modest and brave." -- Massachusettes delegate Thomas Cushing, regarding Washington commanding the new Continental Army, in 1775When's the last time you read a biography on George Washington? If you're like me, it was possibly way back in elementary or primary school - with a book listing the usual wooden teeth and chopping a cherry tree fabrications - which then dovetailed with a segment that would focus on Abraham Lincoln. "He is a complete gentleman . . . He is sensible, amiable, virtuous, modest and brave." -- Massachusettes delegate Thomas Cushing, regarding Washington commanding the new Continental Army, in 1775When's the last time you read a biography on George Washington? If you're like me, it was possibly way back in elementary or primary school - with a book listing the usual wooden teeth and chopping a cherry tree fabrications - which then dovetailed with a segment that would focus on Abraham Lincoln. (And I even love reading about U.S. history, although my presidential bio tastes veer more towards the 20th-century figures like the Roosevelts, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon.)With You Never Forget Your First, author/historian Alexis Coe breaks from a sort of tradition - that being the older male academics who usually pen these sorts of biographies, which tend to resemble bricks in weight and size - to present a well-researched yet swift and streamlined (only about 200 pages) portrait of the Revolutionary War military commander and very first U.S. president. She speaks of the bad - the slavery on his estate, losing more battles than any modern general, health issues - AND the good - respect from colleagues and citizens, a successful first term - along with an amusing 21-century slant on the proceedings (such as the line "Great love stories don't often begin with dystentary" at the start of chapter 5). In fact, the details on the days leading up to Washington's death - with the (now) backwards medical 'help' provided to him, including repeated bloodlettings (!) - were eerily fascinating. I'd like to see Coe again take on another POTUS as a book subject.
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  • Jasmine Guillory
    January 1, 1970
    What an engaging, fascinating, funny, educational book! I wish more history was written like this entertaining, accessible, and deeply researched all at the same time. I learned so much about George Washington (who I wasnt particularly interested in; turns out he had a fascinating life!) and I particularly appreciated the level of detail the author put into discussing the people he enslaved. Highly recommend to any history buff or just anyone who wants to know more about how and why America What an engaging, fascinating, funny, educational book! I wish more history was written like this — entertaining, accessible, and deeply researched all at the same time. I learned so much about George Washington (who I wasn’t particularly interested in; turns out he had a fascinating life!) and I particularly appreciated the level of detail the author put into discussing the people he enslaved. Highly recommend to any history buff or just anyone who wants to know more about how and why America came to be and is the way it is.
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  • Mari
    January 1, 1970
    I picked this up on a whim after I was looking at a list of recent releases. I've always had a vague interest in reading presidential biographies, and I loved the way that this one was framed. I was not disappointed. Why you may not like this book: It is a breeze of a biography that skips over chunks of Washington's life, specifically the details of the Revolution. If you want something a bit more comprehensive, this may leave you feeling wanting. The degree to which this will feel like "I'm not I picked this up on a whim after I was looking at a list of recent releases. I've always had a vague interest in reading presidential biographies, and I loved the way that this one was framed. I was not disappointed. Why you may not like this book: It is a breeze of a biography that skips over chunks of Washington's life, specifically the details of the Revolution. If you want something a bit more comprehensive, this may leave you feeling wanting. The degree to which this will feel like "I'm not a regular biography, I'm a cool biography," will be super personal. It felt that way just a couple of times to me, but I can see it being more annoying for other readers. Finally, I listened to this on audiobook. The narrator did a good job, but Coe uses lists or tables in order to quickly convey information in a fun/funny way. It doesn't translate well to audio and it felt like it took something away from the experience. Why I liked this book: I loved the idea of exploring how a gendered bias has informed how we see Washington as an important figure. The focus on Washington as manly and viral and above reproach has informed so much of American history and feels to me like so indicative of general pro-America sentiment. There was a really great emphasis in this on the women in Washington's life and on the fact that through his entire life-time, Washington was a slave owner. I don't think I've ever read anything that explained so well the role that slaves played in Washington's daily life. There is no such thing as unbiased writing or reporting, but I appreciated the way this was more clear about it's intention and how often it presented what we knew with less interpretation. It was very readable and super interesting. It left me wanting to read more about Washington, and I think if and when I do, I'll be a more discerning reader.
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  • The Colonial
    January 1, 1970
    George Washington stands near the beginning in a line that features a continuous number of biographies on famous and infamous historical figures, though his latest chronicle from historian Alexis Coe perhaps may be the most unique and divisive to date. With a stirring and comical opening that mocks a few misconceptions on His Excellency, Coe sheds light on what she calls his greatest hitsnoting his likes, dislikes, frenemies, beverages of choice, a fascinating look at the diseases he survived George Washington stands near the beginning in a line that features a continuous number of biographies on famous and infamous historical figures, though his latest chronicle from historian Alexis Coe perhaps may be the most unique and divisive to date. With a stirring and comical opening that mocks a few misconceptions on “His Excellency,” Coe sheds light on what she calls his greatest hits—noting his likes, dislikes, frenemies, beverages of choice, a fascinating look at the diseases he survived throughout life, and even down to his favorite animals and authors. This leads into a preface that highlights the many plights female historians face in the industry (especially when writing a full-scale biography on a male subject), all the while explaining some of the myths and aggrandizing made by Washington’s prior biographers.This continues into the introduction, where Coe hits on many fallacies—yet at times puts too much emphasis on setting her work apart from those completed by other men in the field (Chernow, Unger, Brookhiser, among many others). This comes off as rather overstretched and nitpicky, especially when criticizing the very titles previously used such as “A Life” or “A Biography,” which loses the audience’s overall focus on her subject. Nonetheless, she makes a sound argument in favor of not putting Washington on a pedestal, primarily when these men describe his physical characteristics or conveniently leave out his faults as if he were an inconceivable god above humankind. Indeed, Coe justifiably points out that they often tend to place some of his perceived negative attributes (infertility) on his wife or his “whining” mother Mary.Broken into four parts on each of his life stages, the second chapter is fundamental in finally shedding new light on young Washington’s time spent in Barbados with his older halfbrother Lawrence. Upon setting the world ablaze with the start of the French and Indian War, Coe relates the disaster at Monongahela among his other expeditions, yet also gives proper attention to his courtship and marriage to Martha Custis. Coe’s writing is engaging and flows evenly with her overall familiarity of George, bringing the less discussed and oft-overlooked research material to the forefront—such as his relationship with his two stepchildren. There are however random tangents that would seem more suitable as a separate chapter, when for example she randomly introduces the tight quarters of the slaves at Mount Vernon, and yet immediately carries on to the causes and first shots of the Revolutionary War.The chapters are short and highly comprehensible, with subchapters and breaks littered throughout—allowing for the ease of retaining each of the facts on George’s remarkable life. The second part opens with Coe summarizing every major battle Washington took command in during the entirety of the war—all in an effort to discuss his life away from the battlefront in the next chapters. It’s here that she recollects the commander-in-chief’s role in using propaganda (both real and embellished alike), his groundbreaking undertaking into espionage including a concise overview of the Culper Ring, as well as the constant fear of disease (smallpox and typhus) and the British confiscating his slaves and estate:If Washington had tried to match the Howe brothers in experience or armed forces, the war would not have been the second longest in American history. There likely wouldn’t be an American history. To pigeonhole him as a military leader is to underestimate how much the fledgling government needed Washington as a diplomat and political strategist. His ability to manage large-scale combat while also running spy rings and shadow and propaganda campaigns in enemy-occupied areas is a significant—and often overlooked—part of the Revolutionary War.Coe discusses Washington’s relationship with his slave and chalet William Lee in vivid detail, and gives an in-depth look at his frustrations with his cousin Lund Washington’s management of Mount Vernon during the course of the war. Also a unique and welcoming feature to her biography is the succinct breakdown of those friendships that either lasted, or were unfortunately broken entirely (sometimes to the point of downright hostility) during his presidency. His choice cabinet and their respective dinners, dealings, and compromises are showcased, and Coe scrutinizes both monumental and detrimental policy alike—from his dealings with the Genet Affair, the fleeting Whiskey Rebellion, and onto the controversial Jay Treaty.Before moving to his retirement years, Coe traces the Washingtons’ futile pursuit of their runaway slave, Ona Judge, where she relates the darker side of George’s life in conjunction with the hypocrisy of slavery. This final part that follows feels rather rushed and lacking in substance, with only two chapters that feature some musings on George’s step-grandchildren, the drafting of his last will and testament, and an unflattering yet apt portrait of Martha as widow and slave owner. Perfect for the casual and academic reader alike, Coe’s biography is well-researched and reads smoothly from beginning to end—leaving out his battlefield experiences, but capturing the intimacy and blemishes of the first President of the United States. Apart from the magnificent and entertaining cover, illustrations are unfortunately not provided, though an index is included. Read the Full Review and More
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  • Jackie
    January 1, 1970
    Won this in a goodreads giveaway. Wonderful book! Extremely interesting and shows how old history books need to be rewritten
  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    I never thought I'd answer the question "So what are you reading?" with "A biography of George Washington." But I did, and am so glad I picked this one up! I was first drawn to it because of the title, the hilarious cover and the fact that it is written by a woman. It's hard to find historical non-fiction written by women, especially when it comes to Colonial/Revolutionary history (though there are some amazing female authors out there!). And as I started reading, Coe did not disappoint. This I never thought I'd answer the question "So what are you reading?" with "A biography of George Washington." But I did, and am so glad I picked this one up! I was first drawn to it because of the title, the hilarious cover and the fact that it is written by a woman. It's hard to find historical non-fiction written by women, especially when it comes to Colonial/Revolutionary history (though there are some amazing female authors out there!). And as I started reading, Coe did not disappoint. This account of Washington's life is amusing, yet pointed (critiquing both Washington and even other biographers of him), succinct yet detailed where it needs to be. It is clear Coe did her research and examined the works of others as well. And while her approach or interpretation of history may not be 100% accurate (I am not one to judge this, as this is the only book about Washington I've ever read, and I am no fact-checker) but I really appreciated reading her perspective. She is not afraid to pick apart myths and inconsistencies that we hold about our first president, and lays out her argument and evidence in a convincing yet readable manner.The book is structured chronologically, following Washington from his youth growing up in Virginia to his death at Mount Vernon. My favorite parts of the book were actually in the beginning, when Coe examines the portrayals of Washington's mother, Mary, from other biographies. She points out where others may have gone wrong, and gives depth and life to a character who is often pushed to the sidelines in order to focus on her illustrious son. Coe's research into Washington's childhood was also quite interesting, and one might have assumed he grew up wealthy. But it seems as if he grew up just above what was considered poor (he still had a horse, albeit a very hungry one), and his family often struggled to make ends meet after his father passed away.Throughout the work, Coe's writing looses some of its humorous flair as we focus more on details of Washington's military and presidential career. Even so, her tone is engaging and readable—even if I wasn't grinning about a line, I still found myself making steady progress and enjoying my time reading. Who knew that reading about a military battle could be actually kind of nice and interesting?? Not me! If you're new to reading history/biographies, or just want a different take on such an esteemed historical figure, then definitely pick this one up when it come out in early February! You'll get feminism, myth-busting, a variety of jokes AND some hot historical knowledge. What could be better? I am super curious to read Coe's first book, which I hear is being made into a movie (or tv show?? I can't remember). Thank you so much to Viking & Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. :) So happy to read this one!
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 thought soon.
  • Sahitya
    January 1, 1970
    I think of myself as someone who likes reading historical stuff, but Im also too impatient to read biographical tomes of historical figures. So I usually stick to articles or any relevant items I come across during some other endeavor. So this book would ideally not even be on my radar, but I stumbled upon it when I saw that the first biography of GW by a woman historian in a long time is being criticized a lot, and I really wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I also really enjoyed I think of myself as someone who likes reading historical stuff, but I’m also too impatient to read biographical tomes of historical figures. So I usually stick to articles or any relevant items I come across during some other endeavor. So this book would ideally not even be on my radar, but I stumbled upon it when I saw that the first biography of GW by a woman historian in a long time is being criticized a lot, and I really wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I also really enjoyed reading the author’s interview and wanted to know more of her writing style. And I’m so glad I picked up this book because I was in a slump and this might just have pulled me out of it.The first thing I want to say about this book is that it’s fun and accessible and once you start reading it, you will want to continue. Also unlike Chernow’s biography or any of the others which have been written about Washington, this one is not intimidating and and is comfortably just around 300 pages. That makes it definitely much more enticing to a rare history/biography reader like me who just wants to gain some basic knowledge about the subject but doesn’t need to do a deep dive into their entire life. The author has also been criticized for not being sufficiently reverential towards GW, and while I understand the place Washington has in American hearts, I don’t know why she is expected to be reverential when she is in actuality not writing a hagiography. The author spends a good amount of page time into aspects of Washington’s life that we probably are not very familiar with (or maybe just I am not) like his relationships with his various family members, his worries about leaving a pristine legacy, his later estrangement with many of the members of his first cabinet, his handling of criticism during the presidency and ultimately his handling of the people he enslaved, and never actually freed. I thought the author managed to give a well rounded picture of the person behind the myth that is Washington and she makes it very enjoyable to read, and I never wanted to put the book down. I also thought she was very objective in her writing, never overly praising nor criticizing where it wasn’t due. But she does reserve a bit of criticism for the previous famous (male) biographers who are largely responsible for creating exaggerated stories about Washington, making him into a larger than life figure and she rightfully calls them out for being obsessed about his virility and athletic prowess, and some even misrepresenting his treatment of his enslaved people. She has a table listing all the derogatory terms various historians have used to describe Washington’s mother, which left a lasting impression on me and it brought to mind one of my recent reads, Pretty Bitches, where many women authors talk about all the words that are used as weapons against women - I thought it was appalling that these biographers found it necessary to put Mary Washington down to elevate his stature. To conclude, if you want to get started with some light historical reading about our first President but don’t really want to begin with award winning large tomes, I promise you can’t go wrong with this one. The writing is very easy to read, it’s fun and very enjoyable while also being informative, and with a huge list of sources. I really loved reading it, but I think I would recommend it to readers unfamiliar with the subject rather than history nerds who are looking for more in-depth accounts.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I had high hopes for this book. By the end, however, I was regretting the money Id spent on the e-book. Theres $13.99 I will never get back.It probably didnt help that the author starts off by insulting anyone who has ever read and enjoyed the more academic and thoroughly researched presidential biographies on Washington, including Ron Chernows Washington: A Life. She derisively dismisses them as thousand-page books that will always appear as if they are for men of a certain age, intended to be I had high hopes for this book. By the end, however, I was regretting the money I’d spent on the e-book. There’s $13.99 I will never get back.It probably didn’t help that the author starts off by insulting anyone who has ever read and enjoyed the more academic and thoroughly researched presidential biographies on Washington, including Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life.” She derisively dismisses them as thousand-page books that “will always appear as if they are for men of a certain age, intended to be purchased on Presidents’ or Father’s Day.” I personally am very tired of seeing presidential biographies and certain kinds of historical narratives referred to as “Dad books.” My father does not read these books. My husband, who is also a father, does not read them either. I, most assuredly not a man or a father, read them. I love these kinds of books. Can we please stop generalizing books and making assumptions about the people who are reading them? I can concede a point that Coe makes in the preface -- too many books about white men in history are written by white men today. I am a huge fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin and will read anything she writes. Brenda Wineapple, Drew Gilpin Faust, Deborah Lipstadt, Amy Greenberg and other female writers and historians also have important things to say about American history. But I'm not sure what Alexis Coe contributes to the genre, other than pointing out the gender inequality and snarkily attacking white male Washington biographers like Chernow for apparently getting it all “wrong.” The problem? Coe’s work doesn’t rise to the same level of scholarship and academia. To paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen (another historical figure – look him up), I have seen Ron Chernow’s works. I have read Ron Chernow’s work. You, Ms. Coe, are no Ron Chernow.In the preface, Coe berates these white-male biographers for making assumptions and supposedly perpetuating myths about Washington (like the oft-told tale of his chopping down the cherry tree and wearing dentures made of wooden teeth). And then she goes right into her text and proceeds to do exactly that very same thing. In one section she makes a claim – based on nothing other than a few words in a letter from Washington’s colleague that asks him if he’s been “enchanted by charms even stranger to the Ciprian Dame” (this being 18th-century slang for “a woman you are having sex with other than your wife”) – that this insinuates “it is therefore possible Washington had a sexual relationship with a woman other than Martha, and that possibility includes nonconsensual sex with an enslaved woman.” Um, what? It’s quite a leap from “Washington may have had a mistress” (a theory for which there is actual physical evidence in the form of several randy and flirtatious letters to and from Sally Fairfax, the wife of Washington’s friend) to “Washington was probably raping his female slaves.” Is it possible? Sure. Washington had the means (a penis) and the opportunity (he enslaved nearly 300 human beings, including many women). But that’s a huge assumption to make. It’s like saying every college male who has ever been in a fraternity has more than likely committed date rape because they are a) men and B) in a fraternity. Is it possible? Yes. It is definite fact? Not even a little bit. For all that, the worst part of this book might actually be the brevity of it. In Chernow’s book, you delve into Washington’s life and actions and—yes, flaws—in depth with a greater understanding. This book, which clocks in at just over 200 pages of text, stays on the surface only and skims over pretty much every event or fact of Washington’s life. His daring and heroic crossing of the Delaware River on the night of December 25–26, 1776, which raised the flagging spirits of the American colonists who feared that the Continental Army was incapable of victory and were just about to throw in the towel? Less than half a page. Yes. Just a few sentences. In the end, I am giving this 2 stars (mostly because my bar for 1-star read is “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and very few books are THAT bad). If you don’t have the time, patience, intellectual ability or attention span to read an excellently researched and superbly written 900+-page book like Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life,” then go ahead and pick this up. It’s a quick read and includes short lists and amusing text boxes. You won’t learn a whole lot about George Washington, but you might retain a few factoids that can help you win trivia night at the bar the next time.
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  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    Biography is generally not my favorite nonfiction genre, but this is the best book EVER. If, like me, you love Revolutionary War and founding fathers stuff but could really do without hundreds of pages of battle strategy and lionization of imperfect men, then this is the Washington bio for you. Coes honest, unsentimental account of the life of our first President is fun, funny, and fascinating, dense without being dry and respectful without being either naive or hit with a case of the Biography is generally not my favorite nonfiction genre, but this is the best book EVER. If, like me, you love Revolutionary War and founding fathers stuff but could really do without hundreds of pages of battle strategy and lionization of imperfect men, then this is the Washington bio for you. Coe’s honest, unsentimental account of the life of our first President is fun, funny, and fascinating, dense without being dry and respectful without being either naive or hit with a case of the anachronistic outrage that so commonly besets us modern liberals.Come for the Culper Ring intrigue and stay for the “thigh men” jokes. This book is at once immensely informative and loads of fun, and I’ll be recommending it to absolutely everyone I know.
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  • Kim
    January 1, 1970
    Did I need a George Washington biography in my life? No. But did I need one written by a woman? Yes. I learned about Alexis Coe via No Man's Land, the podcast by The Wing. I learned Alexis is a woman American historian, of which there are few. This book is great. It's like having your smartest friend tell you about our first President. Whatever you've heard or learned about Washington, you've undoubtedly heard it from a male perspective. Trust me, you want to hear a woman's recounting.
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  • Tiffany
    January 1, 1970
    Alexis Coe's You Never Forget Your First is a fresh examination of what is a myth and what is a truth about our first president. I have to admit just knowing that someone would actually critically look at Washington the man rather than the "humble, military genius" that most authors take really excited me. This book did not disappoint. Coe explores Washington's ambitious and often tunnel vision style approach to getting what he wanted while also maintaining the reputation a social climber Alexis Coe's You Never Forget Your First is a fresh examination of what is a myth and what is a truth about our first president. I have to admit just knowing that someone would actually critically look at Washington the man rather than the "humble, military genius" that most authors take really excited me. This book did not disappoint. Coe explores Washington's ambitious and often tunnel vision style approach to getting what he wanted while also maintaining the reputation a social climber strives to maintain. This is not an attack of Washington, but more an in-depth look at who the man really was outside of what propaganda and even Washington himself strove to portray to the world. I think this book is one of the first biographies I have read of Washington that didn’t seem afraid to say “okay, he did do a lot, but he was far from the perfect, never tell a lie, god-like figure most of us learn about in history class and from reading other biographies.” Coe’s writing style is easy, engaging, and follows a narrative flow that makes this a great book for anyone interested in learning more about the USA’s first president. Even if you, like me, have read numerous books about Washington, the American Revolution, and the founding of our nation, you can find something new in Alexis Coe’s newest book. *Thank you NetGalley and Viking Press for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Jason Diamond
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent! Teach this book in schools. It's one of the most engaging and honest biographies on a founding father I've read maybe ever.
  • Jennifer Schultz
    January 1, 1970
    Read if you: Want a fresh look at Washington and/or want to read a biography of Washington, but are intimidated by the many enormous biographies of our first president. In 2012, I began a "presidential biography" reading plan, in which I read a biography of every president (including Obama).. I finished this project in 2015. Biographies of presidents has always been an interest of mine--going back to childhood--but after that undertaking, there has to be something unique about a president's Read if you: Want a fresh look at Washington and/or want to read a biography of Washington, but are intimidated by the many enormous biographies of our first president. In 2012, I began a "presidential biography" reading plan, in which I read a biography of every president (including Obama).. I finished this project in 2015. Biographies of presidents has always been an interest of mine--going back to childhood--but after that undertaking, there has to be something unique about a president's biography in order for me to pick it up. The title and marketing for You Never Forget Your First was appealing, so I sent in my request to review. Alexis Coe has an irreverant, but not obnoxious, view on Washington (and on his previous biographers!), which will appeal to those who are interersted in reading a Washington biography, but find the 700-900+ page tomes daunting. She also doesn't sugercoat Washington's opinions on slavery and his treatment of the enslaved African-Americans at Mount Vernon. Many thanks to Penguin Group Viking and Netgalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Gail
    January 1, 1970
    Alexis Coe's new biography of our country's first president had me wishing that more women could take a stab at rewriting history. In the first 50 pages of this book, Coe dives into some solid rhetorical criticism about how Washington and his family have been portrayed by men in previous biographies written about them. I was SO there for that kind of dish and was really captivated by her writing.But within a few chapters, the book settled into a pretty standard biography (albeit a great one at Alexis Coe's new biography of our country's first president had me wishing that more women could take a stab at rewriting history. In the first 50 pages of this book, Coe dives into some solid rhetorical criticism about how Washington and his family have been portrayed by men in previous biographies written about them. I was SO there for that kind of dish and was really captivated by her writing.But within a few chapters, the book settled into a pretty standard biography (albeit a great one at that) and I struggled (ie, started to nod off in bed) a few times while reading it. This was mostly due to the fact there were a lot of 18th century personalities mentioned whose names were immediately forgotten soon after coming across them. Also, whenever Coe included sample text from an article/journal/letter of the period, I had to re-read it because the writing of yore was SO different.I think my greatest takeaways from this book were 1) the attention Coe paid to covering Washington and his treatment/attitude to his slaves and 2) learning specific details about the great rivalries that existed among our Founding Fathers—proof in historical form that this Nation has ALWAYS struggled with a political divide.
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  • Lizzy
    January 1, 1970
    A very readable, lighthearted, with plenty of detail look at George Washingtons life (also full of fun and interesting facts like the names of all his animals!). It looks unflinchingly at the figure of Washington- his strengths and weaknesses and most of all hypocrisy (especially when it comes to owning slaves and not freeing them until his death). This is a look at the man behind the legend and I ended up liking him as a real person who made mistakes and got angry but seemed to try hard and who A very readable, lighthearted, with plenty of detail look at George Washington’s life (also full of fun and interesting facts like the names of all his animals!). It looks unflinchingly at the figure of Washington- his strengths and weaknesses and most of all hypocrisy (especially when it comes to owning slaves and not freeing them until his death). This is a look at the man behind the legend and I ended up liking him as a real person who made mistakes and got angry but seemed to try hard and who can’t relate to that?
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  • Miriam
    January 1, 1970
    Ill give this 3-1/2 starsAlexis Coe approaches George Washingtons life and accomplishments from a decidedly twenty-first century perspective. Using primary sources from George Washingtons writings (journals, letters, and accounts) and those of his contemporaries, Coe weaves together a biography of our first President. In the introduction, Coe states that shes the first female biographer of Washington who writes on the man himself.I learned a few things about Washingtons life before the American I’ll give this 3-1/2 starsAlexis Coe approaches George Washington’s life and accomplishments from a decidedly twenty-first century perspective. Using primary sources from George Washington’s writings (journals, letters, and accounts) and those of his contemporaries, Coe weaves together a biography of our first President. In the introduction, Coe states that she’s the first female biographer of Washington who writes on the man himself.I learned a few things about Washington’s life before the American Revolution, with Coe pointing out his failures rather than successes during the French & Indian Wars. In fact, Coe spent lots of energy on the negative or failures injecting her comments with today’s attitudes. Part of Coe’s approach is to strip away myths and dig down to the dirt or bedrock revealing and sometimes reveling in Washington’s relationships with his slaves and servants. Coe frequently points to Washington as a slaveholder and discusses that point at much length and seeming distaste. In the end, I grew tired of Coe’s approach and attitudes. Despite my disaffection with her writing style and bias, I’d say she does an adequate job of describing Washington and his career(s). There’s not a lot of analysis so while this is biography is, perhaps, written for teens, it is written from a definite bias with today’s attitudes and distaste for colonial slavery and indentured servants. There are some factual errors in the section about Washington’s accomplishments as President, so fact-checking is in order. Now I want to read other biographies of our first President written by the male authors she’s trying to upstage.Thanks to the BookLoft of German Village (Columbus, OH) http://www.bookloft.com for an ARC to read and review.
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  • John Teneyck
    January 1, 1970
    Won this on one of the giveaways, really enjoyed this book, Fairly easy read. This is the first book Ive actually read in its entirety in over 20 years. Won this on one of the giveaways, really enjoyed this book, Fairly easy read. This is the first book I’ve actually read in its entirety in over 20 years.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I am a little surprised to find myself writing a rave review of a biography of George Washington and wanting to describe it as both funny and timely, but it's 2020 and I guess weirder things are happening. This is not my usual genre, but I do love a clever title and that + the description of the book as also being for "those who think presidential biographies are just for dads" (yup) prompted me to pick up a copy. Just Coe's preface and introduction are well worth a read- she takes aim at the I am a little surprised to find myself writing a rave review of a biography of George Washington and wanting to describe it as both funny and timely, but it's 2020 and I guess weirder things are happening. This is not my usual genre, but I do love a clever title and that + the description of the book as also being for "those who think presidential biographies are just for dads" (yup) prompted me to pick up a copy. Just Coe's preface and introduction are well worth a read- she takes aim at the overwhelmingly male perspective in American history and how that influences our perception of Washington. She goes on to paint a complex portrait of our first president. Some endearing details are included, such as the fact that while reading through his copy of the new US constitution he noted "President" in the margin by the parts that applied to him. His service, dedication and leadership skills are clear, but Coe also focuses on Washington the slave owner and the cruelty and evil inherent in that role. She includes his political mistakes (a few serious overreactions) alongside his triumphs and the parts of his legacy that we're more familiar with. And as we move into this presidential election year, it was interesting to go back to the beginnings of the US presidency and politics and see what's changed and what's stayed the same (spoiler: political partisanship and petty behavior are nothing new). A thoroughly researched and enjoyable read.
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  • Jane Rousseau
    January 1, 1970
    Why is it that those like Coe who were so offended by men like Washington arent moved to equally be offended by those who were so much worse? Ive long been curious why modern history texts never delve into the bolshevik revolution of 1917, how the communist revolution financed by bankers Baruch, Schiff of NY, Rothschilds of London, Paris etc... which killed 60 million Russian and Ukrainian Christian civilians, men, women and children within 17 years time, the communist Maoist revolution that Why is it that those like Coe who were so offended by men like Washington aren’t moved to equally be offended by those who were so much worse? I’ve long been curious why modern history texts never delve into the bolshevik revolution of 1917, how the communist revolution financed by bankers Baruch, Schiff of NY, Rothschilds of London, Paris etc... which killed 60 million Russian and Ukrainian Christian civilians, men, women and children within 17 years time, the communist Maoist revolution that slaughtered 40 million civilians so communist wannabe elites could run roughshod over the people they had reduced to slavery. Or how leftist run France in 1825 bled it’s former slave colony Haiti dry, before recognizing it’s independence, or how socialist run France bled it’s plantation state slave colony in Vietnam and Cambodia dry before being chased out, while the US gets the blame for the Vietnam war, it was caused by the French and their feuding fellow Marxists in communist China. Why no expressions of angst at the facts African slaves are still sold, by black Africans, to black Africans as well as to their Muslims trading partners across the Middle East? Or how despite slavery being illegal in the US, the democrat/leftist imposed open borders has allowed Latin American cartels, Africans, Middle Easterners, Indian nationals, Egyptians and others to traffick slaves into the US as well as kidnap American children and women and sell them as slaves. Washington was a man of his time. He has his wrongs, but the government he helped form was able to achieve the fulfillment of it’s promises for freedom, unlike the cesspits Coe and her peers cover up for.
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  • Ang
    January 1, 1970
    This was so delightful. It's not a doorstopper of a biography, so you can forget it if you want to know about every single movement Geo. Wash. made during the Revolutionary War.But if you want a broad, realistic, modern view of our first president, this is just the ticket. It's also slightly irreverent, which is just my speed. (If you couldn't tell by the title and/or cover illustration lol.)I feel like I should listen to the author's podcast now....
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    I shall rely therefore, confidently, on that Providence which has heretofore preservd, & been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall.I'm not generally a huge biography buff, but I quite enjoyed this. Alexis Coe took a fairly comprehensive look at Washington the man, beyond the many myths surrounding him (his dentures were definitely not made of wood). She wasn't afraid to point out the mistakes and hypocrisies, while also examining his strengths as a I shall rely therefore, confidently, on that Providence which has heretofore preservd, & been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall.I'm not generally a huge biography buff, but I quite enjoyed this. Alexis Coe took a fairly comprehensive look at Washington the man, beyond the many myths surrounding him (his dentures were definitely not made of wood). She wasn't afraid to point out the mistakes and hypocrisies, while also examining his strengths as a leader and as a person.
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    Great biography on Washington. The author tries to deal with issues previously not dealt with in other biographies that might have caused us to see Washington more as a godlike figure. A very nice read on Washington's life.
  • Mary M
    January 1, 1970
    There needs to be no zero options. As a far leftist who is more than a bit of a misandrist against white males, especially those like our founders of the US, Alexis Coe sought to denigrate George Washington using the sort of unsubstantiated smears she counts on being swallowed and regurgitated by the increasingly mindless left, who are too intellectually lazy to research facts for themselves, ask hard questions and expect honest answers backed up with cited sources. Was Washington a perfect There needs to be no zero options. As a far leftist who is more than a bit of a misandrist against white males, especially those like our founders of the US, Alexis Coe sought to denigrate George Washington using the sort of unsubstantiated smears she counts on being swallowed and regurgitated by the increasingly mindless left, who are too intellectually lazy to research facts for themselves, ask hard questions and expect honest answers backed up with cited sources. Was Washington a perfect human being? No. But anyone, who was as respected as Washington wouldn’t have been if he had been guilty of what Coe accuses him of. She treats the subject of the Seneca warriors who were allies of the English against the French as if they were imbeciles. Just a prop to use to hide her lie behind. The French boasted about quashing the pride of the Iroquois, a nation with a strong and very civil culture (they were the inspiration for Washington, introducing Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and others to what Washington referred to as “participatory democracy”, which was the Iroquois voting system which our founders incorporated into the US Constitution) and had been attacking and killing Iroquois as well as English settlers, attacking and overthrowing English forts from the 1600s onward. One of the things Indians have been stereotyped as originating, the act of scalping, was actually something the French instructed Indian tribes to do. The tribes the French allied with were paid by the French to kill English settlers, the French required proof of each person killed so instructed the Indians to hack off the scalp of each victim so they could claim and be paid. What started the French and Indian war was the French violating a treaty, and raiding English settlers held land and an English fort named Prince George. 21 year old George Washington was sent with 160 soldiers from the Virginia Regiment to retake Fort Prince George near what is now modern day Pittsburgh. The French had renamed it Fort Duquesne. Washington decided to move his troops to the nearby fortified storehouse at Red Stone Creek and wait for reinforcements before attempting to take Fort Duquesne back from the French, there he and his men built a small stockade they named Fort Necessity. During that time Washington received reinforcements of 300 men, and they were aided by available Iroquois.Washington learned a large force of French and Indian soldiers from Fort Duquesne were heading their way so Washington and his men decided to take a stand at Fort Necessity. On the morning of July 3, 600 French soldiers and 100 Indians began attacking the fort. Fort Necessity took heavy casualties and Washington lost about 1/3 of his men. After that point the French commander requested a truce to discuss Washington’s possible surrender. Washington sent two of his men, Jacob Van Braam and William Peyronie, to meet with Villiers. After negotiating for several hours, Van Braam was handed a document outlining the terms of surrender, which he delivered to Washington. Washington agreed to the terms and signed it, not knowing that the document, which was written in French and translated to Washington by Van Braam, stated twice that the British had “assassinated” a French official Jumonville, who was on a diplomatic mission to deliver a message. When heLearned of this Washington ldenied this assassination charge and explained that Van Braam told him the document only said the British were responsible for the death of Jumonville. Since the murder of a diplomatic envoy was illegal under 18th century law, Washington’s signature on a document charging him with the crime did not cast him in a favorable light among the French. When the Battle of Fort Necessity was officially over, the British were allowed to withdraw their troops, retain their weapons (except for their cannons.) The British left the fort for Willis Creek on July 4. The French burned Fort Necessity and returned to Fort Duquesne, thus starting the French and Indian war. Alexis Coe is no historian, but she is the sort of “academic” that has reduced our colleges and universities to bastions of attacks on free speech and our constitutional civil liberties.
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  • David Dunlap
    January 1, 1970
    If only more biographies were like this one! -- In clear, direct prose (with lots of footnotes, demonstrating the author's mastery of her sources), the life of George Washington is laid out in all of its important details. (Ms. Coe suggests. BTW, that she may well be the first female historian to write about the Father of our Country in 100 years: most females write of Martha, or the family, or life at Mount Vernon. The author puckishly refers to the male historian-biographers of Washington as If only more biographies were like this one! -- In clear, direct prose (with lots of footnotes, demonstrating the author's mastery of her sources), the life of George Washington is laid out in all of its important details. (Ms. Coe suggests. BTW, that she may well be the first female historian to write about the Father of our Country in 100 years: most females write of Martha, or the family, or life at Mount Vernon. The author puckishly refers to the male historian-biographers of Washington as 'the thigh men of dad history'!) There is much of interest here, some of it new to me. To give but one example: the fact that many in the early U.S. were content to see Washington become the first president precisely because he had no children to found a dynasty. She also offers something of a revisionist view of Washington's mother, Mary, who has traditionally been depicted in less-than-flattering terms. The last scenes, in Washington's 1799 death-room, are painfully poignant. -- Coe does not shrink from showing her subject in all of his dimensions, even the less attractive ones. Washington's ambivalence toward his slaves is seen; on the one hand: he favored gradual emancipation and made provision in his will for the freeing of his slaves (although not until Martha's death); on the other, he relentlessly pursued two of his slaves who ran away and did not avoid breaking up families through sale. The author suggests that Washington's reaction to the Whiskey Rebellion during his administration was, in fact, a grievous over-reaction. Etc. -- Although all his major battles during the American Revolution are listed in a multi-page chart (the charts and asides throughout the book are uniformly well-done!), Coe chooses to focus on the General's feats off the battlefield. Thus, for the fullest portrait of Washington -- his battlefield strategies, his successes and defeats -- one will need to consult other books; but this volume -- a little more than 300 pages in length -- would be my first choice to recommend to someone wanting to learn about our first President.
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  • Chaitra
    January 1, 1970
    This was fun! Actually I think it was fun because it used a whole lot of bullet pointed lists, and then a brief look at the man George Washington. It's short, but gives a clear enough picture of who he was. And there are some interesting details about him that are focused here that would have been kind of lost in an information glut in another 700 page biography. I get her point about size actually. It's why the book worked for me. Once upon a time, I wanted to read biographies of all presidents This was fun! Actually I think it was fun because it used a whole lot of bullet pointed lists, and then a brief look at the man George Washington. It's short, but gives a clear enough picture of who he was. And there are some interesting details about him that are focused here that would have been kind of lost in an information glut in another 700 page biography. I get her point about size actually. It's why the book worked for me. Once upon a time, I wanted to read biographies of all presidents on US, and I only got around to reading one - the Ron Chernow biography of Washington. I liked it, but it took ages to get through, and honestly I didn't want to read another presidential biography after that. I appreciate Coe getting to the heart (or somewhere not the thigh) of Washington, in 200 pages. However, the bullet pointed lists obviously skips a whole lot of stuff, battlegrounds and the politics that followed. I didn't mind that, having already read the Chernow, but this book is not where you get ALL the skinny on Washington. You still have to read the thigh men if you want all that. This is more a complement. But, I wouldn't mind reading Alexis Coe's version of all the presidents, right down to #45, provided they all clock 200-ish pages and have many bullet pointed lists.
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  • Gregory
    January 1, 1970
    I read Alexis Coe's recently published You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington. Several things attracted me to it: it was written by a woman, which is rare for Washington biographies; it intentionally looked at his less-great qualities in order to humanize him; and it had an informal tone (for example, with an irreverent epigraph and early on a discussion of the crazy names he gave his dogs). What you end up with is a highly readable and illuminating book that helps us see I read Alexis Coe's recently published You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington. Several things attracted me to it: it was written by a woman, which is rare for Washington biographies; it intentionally looked at his less-great qualities in order to humanize him; and it had an informal tone (for example, with an irreverent epigraph and early on a discussion of the crazy names he gave his dogs). What you end up with is a highly readable and illuminating book that helps us see him as a human being.Doing so doesn't detract from his obviously critical role in the creation and preservation of the United States. I would say she has great respect for him but not reverence. You can also respect someone while noting the ways in which they are imperfect. Washington was already being put on a pedestal while he lived and we all imbibe that in U.S. schools.I do feel like the book became more formal/traditional as it went on. She makes the case for calling Mount Vernon a "forced-labor camp" rather than a "plantation" (p. 43) but then uses the word "plantation" many times thereafter. The profane epigraph finds no match elsewhere in the book. At the same time, she pulls no punches about his attitudes toward his slaves or his thin-skinned reactions to political opponents. The latter contributes to our understanding of why he famously stopped after two terms. He was sick of the constant attacks on him by anonymous authors who he generally believed to be Thomas Jefferson and accomplices.I enjoyed the book which, as Coe herself points out, isn't intended to be a massive brick of 900 pages full of detail, and I recommend it.From https://weeksnotice.blogspot.com/2020...
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  • Alyssa
    January 1, 1970
    I love history for the simple fact that people have always been people.This biography is fantastic! It never glorifies Washington, which is so refreshing. If you are unsure if you want to read this or not, just read the preface and you'll know what you're getting into.It's hilarious and I kept annoying people around me with fun facts I learned!And then you get to the slavery parts and you're like, Jesus, George! the fuck is wrong with you?. Also, they're all terrible spellers, like, my gracious. I love history for the simple fact that people have always been people.This biography is fantastic! It never glorifies Washington, which is so refreshing. If you are unsure if you want to read this or not, just read the preface and you'll know what you're getting into.It's hilarious and I kept annoying people around me with fun facts I learned!And then you get to the slavery parts and you're like, Jesus, George! the fuck is wrong with you?. Also, they're all terrible spellers, like, my gracious. Reading a letter between the founding fathers is sometimes like deciphering someone who talks-to-text. But that is exactly what makes this book SO GOOD!! Straight from the horse's mouth.(sidenote I had to keep flipping to the cover, I couldn't stop remembering he's not Christopher Jackson, but that's on me)
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  • Elaine
    January 1, 1970
    I don't read a lot of non-fiction, so when I do, it has to have a quirky or unusual premise.That's why I picked this up - a short book about our nation's Founding Father, offering new details about a man mythologized and idolized in our country and in our history books.I enjoyed the author's honest take on George Washington, and the title: You Never Forget Your First really jumps out at you and grabs your attention.I appreciated the author's take on previous biographers' approach to Washington I don't read a lot of non-fiction, so when I do, it has to have a quirky or unusual premise.That's why I picked this up - a short book about our nation's Founding Father, offering new details about a man mythologized and idolized in our country and in our history books.I enjoyed the author's honest take on George Washington, and the title: You Never Forget Your First really jumps out at you and grabs your attention.I appreciated the author's take on previous biographers' approach to Washington and distinct similarities she noticed among them. Ms. Coe's copious research shines through as she writes honestly about Washington as a slave owner, debunks many myths we've all heard (and kids are probably still being told in schools), and describes the man's real reason for leading the Revolutionary War, and his reluctance in becoming our nation's first president and Founding Father.I just wished there was.I had hoped for more insight into Washington as a general, how he kept his soldiers' spirits alive, and most of the action is briefly summarized in a few paragraphs and the author moves on to other subjects.I would have loved to hear more about the first spy ring Washington organized.One of the myths debunked was that Washington wasn't a great general, but a brilliant strategist and politician. He knew how to play the game and outwitted and outspyed the Brits. More info about this, please!I would have liked more information about Washington as a man, father, and husband. When his country didn't need him and he was a gentleman farmer, how did he interact with his family?The author mentions Washington and Martha didn't have any biological children, but he loved his stepchildren like his own and took in the children of relatives as his wards.This bio was short and sweet, and offered insight into a man we don't know much about, but this left me wanting more.
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  • Amanda Mae
    January 1, 1970
    This was an enjoyable read! This is the first biography of Washington Ive read since grade school (and I know that one contained the apocryphal cherry tree story), and was refreshing in its stories of Washingtons relationship to the women in his life and other human foibles that frequently get brushed over. Of course, everything involving the Founders gets colored through the lens of Hamilton the Musical, so being able to make those connections was also enjoyable. If youre looking for a solid This was an enjoyable read! This is the first biography of Washington I’ve read since grade school (and I know that one contained the apocryphal cherry tree story), and was refreshing in its stories of Washington’s relationship to the women in his life and other human foibles that frequently get brushed over. Of course, everything involving the Founders gets colored through the lens of Hamilton the Musical, so being able to make those connections was also enjoyable. If you’re looking for a solid biography of Washington, this is a great pick.
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