It’s important that children see the adults in their lives reading. Sometimes that means adults sharing their children’s books, but it also means that children should see adults reading adult books. Children need to see adults reading for professional growth and development, reading to improve their personal lives, reading to learn something new, reading for the shear pleasure of reading. They need to know that the adults in their lives value reading and spend time immersed in text. When children see adults reading, they can see the future value of the skills they are learning today. This month, Mrs. Carter recommends a great grown-up read, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This biography relates the true story of French novelist Alexandre Dumas’s heroic father.
Almost every adult has heard of or read one of Alexandre Dumas’s classic adventure novels, the most famous being The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Man in the Iron Mask. What you may not know is that many of the great feats of daring and incidents in both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers were based on the real-life figure of Dumas’s father, General Thomas-Alexandre (Alex) Dumas.
It may be even more surprising to readers that General Dumas was born in the French sugar colony of Saint-Dominique and was half black, being the son of a white French nobleman and a black slave mother. Being born to slave mother made Thomas-Alexandre a slave, but because his noble born father claimed Thomas-Alexandre as his heir and in 1776 took him back to France where slavery was illegal, the boy was educated as a free French nobleman. Thomas-Alexandre, now calling himself Alex, entered the French military at the age of twenty-four just as the events were being kindled that would burst into the inferno known as the French Revolution, drastically changing his life. During the Revolution, Alex would rise quickly through the ranks, becoming General-in-Chief of the Army of the Alps and rivaling his fellow general, Napoleon Bonaparte, in prestige and recognition. General Dumas fought so valiantly in battle that he became known as “That Black Devil” by his enemies.
When General Dumas’s novelist son began writing, he had to look no further than his larger-than-life father for inspiration. Tom Reiss tells the fascinating story of General Dumas’s life from slave to war hero to unjust imprisonment on the orders of a vindictive Napoleon in The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. As is often the case, history involving persons of color has been neglected or ignored. Tom Reiss sets out in his biography of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas to right this wrong. Hopefully, in the very near future some author will write the story in a young reader’s version, but until then New Hope Grown Ups should treat themselves to this Great Read.