In this much-awaited biography, Newell G. Bringhurst portrays the
life and career of Fawn McKay Brodie, author of some of the most
widely read biographies of the twentieth century.
Brodie's best-known work, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History,
was the first scholarly treatment of Jefferson's relationship with
his slave Sally Hemings, with whom he allegedly fathered children.
Recent publication of DNA studies substantiating Brodie's claim
have drawn renewed attention to her careful, if controversial, use
of psychobiography to probe the intimate details of her subjects'
Born into a prominent Utah family (her uncle David O. McKay
would one day be president of the Mormon Church), Brodie abandoned
her childhood faith at the same time she pursued an education away
from home. Her first biography, a candid portrait of Mormonism's
founder Joseph Smith, led to her excommunication from the church.
Brodie was not a rebel in her personal life, however; she willingly
assumed the traditional roles of housewife and mother, sacrificing
career opportunities in order to be home with her children.
Bringhurst bases his account of Brodie's life on interviews with
more than seventy family members and friends as well as volumes of
correspondence. A richly drawn portrait of a woman whose life was
full of conflict and controversy, the book also sheds light on the
craft of modern biography as it emerged during the course of this
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