Wait for It: 9 Show-Stopping Hamilton Songs Paired with Books

July 1 2020
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Hamilton the musical will be available to stream on Disney Plus on July 3, and I’m fully losing my mind. I saw the show in real life, but squinting from the mezzanine isn’t the easiest way to absorb every little eye twitch and tear drop. Now, with this live capture of the original Broadway cast’s stage production, we will be able to see close-ups of Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr, and the rest of the team in all their glory! To help stave off the anticipation, I sang through the musical multiple times and put together a reading list based on my favorite songs. These books have some of the same things I love about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton creation—historical relevance, multifaceted friendships, flawed yet lovable character—so please, someone tell him to add these books to his line-up of musicals to adapt next.

This post was originally published on GetLiterary.com.

The Coldest Winter Ever
by Sister Souljah

"My Shot"

Winter Santiaga starts out as the spoiled daughter of a drug dealer, but when her destructive habits cause her to lose everything, she must use her quick wit to survive a particularly harsh winter on the streets of Brooklyn in the 1990s. Activist and hip-hop artist Sister Souljah drew upon her own experiences to depict a situation that feels authentic, and it makes for one eye-opening, absorbing read. Winter tackles life and relationships with the same kind of cocky yet lovable attitude that exudes from “My Shot.” She’s “young, scrappy, and hungry,” and she’s “not throwing away her shot.” If you love stubborn characters who fight through insurmountable odds in inventive ways, you have to pick up The Coldest Winter Ever.

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The Coldest Winter Ever
Sister Souljah

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Kings County
by David Goodwillie

“The Story of Tonight”

Just as “The Story of Tonight” draws you into a small corner of a NYC tavern where drunk friends hold revolution in their hands, Kings County spotlights a corner of Brooklyn in the 2000s that seems small to the outside observer, but covers massive emotional territory. New NYC transplant Audrey and rising indie rock star Theo fall in love, but a life in New York is filled with the unexpected, and this book certainly takes us through that exciting whirlwind. With a plot that oscillates between comedy, mystery, and romance, along with surprisingly hyperfocused descriptions of people and objects that surround the two lovers, this book is art that imitates life—and it will have you raising a glass to freedom in all its forms.

via GIPHY

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Kings County
David Goodwillie

A Brooklyn love story, set to music.

Kings County crystallizes how it feels to be young and in love in New York City.” —Stephanie Danler

“A true and continual delight...Goodwillie captures the rapturous soul of a bygone Brooklyn.” —Joshua Ferris

It’s the early 2000s and like generations of ambitious young people before her, Audrey Benton arrives in New York City on a bus from nowhere. Broke but resourceful, she soon finds a home for herself amid the burgeoning music scene in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But the city’s freedom comes with risks, and Audrey makes compromises to survive. As she becomes a minor celebrity in indie rock circles, she finds an unlikely match in Theo Gorski, a shy but idealistic mill-town kid who’s struggling to establish himself in the still-patrician world of books. But then an old acquaintance of Audrey’s disappears under mysterious circumstances, sparking a series of escalating crises that force the couple to confront a dangerous secret from her past.

From the raucous heights of Occupy Wall Street to the comical lows of the publishing industry, from million-dollar art auctions to Bushwick drug dens, Kings County captures New York City at a moment of cultural reckoning. Grappling with the resonant issues and themes of our time—sex and violence, art and commerce, friendship and family—it is an epic coming-of-age tale about love, consequences, bravery, and fighting for one’s place in an ever-changing world.

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The Rules of Magic
by Alice Hoffman

“Wait for It”

The Rules of Magic is a prequel to Alice Hoffman’s enormously popular Practical Magic that also works brilliantly as a stand-alone. Just as Burr wrestled with waiting on the sidelines versus taking a stand, the Owens siblings worry about loving out loud. Their whole lives, they’ve been warned by their parents against being their true selves since an ancestral curse promises damnation to anyone who loves them, because “love doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints,” *continues on to sing the whole song.* Where was I? Oh yes, I was recommending books. Over time, the three siblings learn how to embrace their unique qualities and stand up for what they believe in despite what their community might think—and despite whatever harm might befall them. As with Hamilton the musical, this big-hearted book covers family, grief, and love, and, honestly, should be a musical itself by now, Lin!

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The Rules of Magic
Alice Hoffman

An instant New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick from beloved author Alice Hoffman—the spellbinding prequel to Practical Magic.

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Yet, the children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the memorable aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Alice Hoffman delivers “fairy-tale promise with real-life struggle” (The New York Times Book Review) in a story how the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is “irresistible…the kind of book you race through, then pause at the last forty pages, savoring your final moments with the characters” (USA TODAY, 4/4 stars).

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The Deep
by Rivers Solomon

“Guns and Ships”

Maybe one day I’ll be able to successfully recite the “Guns and Ships” rap without getting tongue-tied, but that day has not yet arrived. You might be wondering how that song connects to this book, since there aren’t a whole lot of underwater societies in Hamilton. However, there is a whole lot of DAVEED DIGGS, who played the roles of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette and also wrote this book along with Rivers Solomon, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes. The Deep is an epic novella—inspired by a clipping. song from the This American Life episode on afrofuturism “We Are in The Future”—about an underwater society created by descendants of African slaves who can now breath underwater. The main character, Yetu, is a historian, responsible for solely remembering the traumatic history of her people, so that everybody else in her community can live in peace. But when it becomes too much for her to bear, she flees to the surface to discover the world above and carve a potential new path for her people. Lin, please grab Daveed and start writing this musical next!

via GIPHY

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The Deep
Rivers Solomon

Octavia E. Butler meets Marvel’s Black Panther in The Deep, a story rich with Afrofuturism, folklore, and the power of memory, inspired by the Hugo Award–nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’s rap group Clipping.

Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

The Deep is “a tour de force reorientation of the storytelling gaze…a superb, multilayered work,” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) and a vividly original and uniquely affecting story inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping.

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Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue

“Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”

Of course I had to pair a book to one of my favorite lines from this number (and the one that got the loudest applause at the theater): “We’re finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run. Immigrants: We get the job done.” In the musical, Marquis de Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton profess this truth on the battlefield in Yorktown, 1781, but the battlefield of America in 2008 is another story. Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue, tells the story of Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonda, who moves to Harlem during the economic crisis and works hard to achieve the American dream, while chauffeuring a Lehman Brothers executive. But Jende’s hardworking, hopeful demeanor is tested by his privileged boss, his dreams for his son, and the world truly turned upside down.

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Behold the Dreamers
Imbolo Mbue

“Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” Of course I had to pair a book to one of my favorite lines from this number (and the one that got the loudest applause at the theater): “We’re finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run. Immigrants: We get the job done.” In the musical, Marquis de Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton profess this truth on the battlefield in Yorktown, 1781, but the battlefield of America in 2008 is another story. Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue, tells the story of Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonda, who moves to Harlem during the economic crisis and works hard to achieve the American dream, while chauffeuring a Lehman Brothers executive. But Jende’s hardworking, hopeful demeanor is tested by his privileged boss, his dreams for his son, and the world truly turned upside down.

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Wait for It: 9 Show-Stopping Hamilton Songs Paired with Books

By Emily Lewis | July 1, 2020

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Chasing Chopin
by Annik LaFarge

“Non-Stop”

Hamilton’s relentless energy is inspiring, if not a little exhausting, and no song makes that more apparent than “Non-Stop.” The final musical number before intermission breathtakingly wraps up the first half themes of revolution, obligation, and legacy. In building to a similar climax, Chasing Chopin, by Annik LaFarge, traces three particularly productive years in Chopin’s life— from 1837 to 1840, covering musical, political, social, and personal threads—with the iconic “Funeral March” serving as a foreboding motif throughout. While reading this book, the musical’s fans might be surprised to uncover a similar story progression for both Chopin and Hamilton: child prodigy leaves his homeland and unleashes his genius on the world before an early death marks him as a tragic icon of history. And similarly, as LaFarge shows, Chopin’s ideas and ambitions had a rippling effect, becoming ingrained in the very fabric of our society.

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Chasing Chopin
Annik LaFarge

A modern take on a classical icon: this original, entertaining, well-researched book uses the story of when, where, and how Chopin composed his most famous work, uncovering many surprises along the way and showing how his innovative music still animates popular culture centuries later.

The Frédéric Chopin Annik LaFarge presents here is not the melancholy, sickly, romantic figure so often portrayed. The artist she discovered is, instead, a purely independent spirit: an innovator who created a new musical language, an autodidact who became a spiritually generous, trailblazing teacher, a stalwart patriot during a time of revolution and exile.

In Chasing Chopin she follows in his footsteps during the three years, 1837–1840, when he composed his iconic “Funeral March”—dum dum da dum—using its composition story to illuminate the key themes of his life: a deep attachment to his Polish homeland; his complex relationship with writer George Sand; their harrowing but consequential sojourn on Majorca; the rapidly developing technology of the piano, which enabled his unique tone and voice; social and political revolution in 1830s Paris; friendship with other artists, from the famous Eugène Delacroix to the lesser known, yet notorious in his time, Marquis de Custine. Each of these threads—musical, political, social, personal—is woven through the “Funeral March” in Chopin’s Opus 35 sonata, a melody so famous it’s known around the world even to people who know nothing about classical music. But it is not, as LaFarge discovered, the piece of music we think we know.

As part of her research into Chopin’s world, then and now, LaFarge visited piano makers, monuments, churches, and archives; she talked to scholars, jazz musicians, video game makers, software developers, music teachers, theater directors, and of course dozens of pianists.

The result is extraordinary: an engrossing, page-turning work of musical discovery and an artful portrayal of a man whose work and life continue to inspire artists and cultural innovators in astonishing ways.

A companion website, WhyChopin, presents links to each piece of music mentioned in the book, organized by chapter in the order in which it appears, along with photos, resources, videos, and more.

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Wait for It: 9 Show-Stopping Hamilton Songs Paired with Books

By Emily Lewis | July 1, 2020

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Lady Romeo
by Tana Wojczuk

“That Would Be Enough”

Embarrassingly, I used to listen to Hamilton on shuffle when people first began to recommend it to me. And this song was the one that made my ears prick up and led me to think, “Hey, maybe I should listen to the whole soundtrack again in order, so I know what’s going on!” Eliza’s question “Who tells your story when you’re gone?” is one of the most heartbreaking motifs of the musical, so I paired it with a book about a forgotten historical figure. I’m assuming that most Hamilton fans have already completed reading the requisite biography of Eliza Hamilton, and are now looking to find out about more women of early American history whose lives were left out of the narrative. Lady Romeo is the perfect biography! Charlotte Cushman was a celebrity of the mid-1800s who enchanted American audiences with her Shakespearean roles, and scandalized others with her unapologetically gay lifestyle, radical for the times. Author Tana Wojczuk reconstructed Charlotte’s early life with letters—which Eliza didn’t get ahold of, thank god—and sets the scene with the vibrant excitement of NYC in a time of immense transformation. When Eliza Hamilton/Phillipa Soo asks “Who tells your story?” anyone would be blessed to have a biographer like Wojczuk jotting it all down with such compassion and detail.

via GIPHY

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Lady Romeo
Tana Wojczuk

For fans of Book of Ages and American Eve, this illuminating and enthralling biography of 19th-century queer actress Charlotte Cushman portrays her radical lifestyle that riveted New York City and made headlines across America.

From the very beginning, she was a radical. At age nineteen, Charlotte Cushman, America’s beloved actress and the country’s first true celebrity, left her life—and countless suitors—behind to make it as a Shakespearean actress. After revolutionizing the role of Lady Macbeth in front of many adoring fans, she went on the road, performing in cities across a dividing America and building her fame. She was everywhere. And yet, her name has faded in the shadows of history.

Now, for the first time in decades, Cushman’s story comes to full and brilliant life in this definitive, exhilarating, and enlightening biography of the 19th-century icon. With rarely seen letters, Wojczuk reconstructs the formative years of Cushman’s life, set against the excitement and drama of New York City in the 1800s, featuring a cast of luminaries and revolutionaries that changed the cultural landscape of America forever.

A vivid portrait of an astonishing and uniquely American life, Lady Romeo reveals one of the most remarkable women in United States history, and restores her to the center stage where she belongs.

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“The World Was Wide Enough.”

The aspect of Hamilton the musical that transcends it to true Shakespearean levels is the interaction between Burr and Hamilton. They start out with polar opposite belief systems—wait versus go, speak versus listen—and halfway through the show they’ve crossed paths enough times that they’ve begun to influence each other. So that by the last scene, their behaviors switch for a split second, leading to its tragic conclusion. Another book detailing a refreshingly compelling story between two polar opposite characters is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Aristotle and Dante have nothing in common—one closes himself off from everyone, the other revels in the world. When the teens meet at an El Paso swimming pool in the ’80s, it’s almost as delightfully awkward as “Aaron Burr, Sir.” But they continue on to develop a relationship so big and beautiful, it’ll make your heart ache. Lin narrated the audiobook version and he should be well-versed in the story by now, so I’m left wondering where the musical is?!

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison and Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common, but as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime.

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Never Caught
by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”

I’ve watched almost every interview of the original Broadway cast and learned about so many subtleties in the show, most of which seem to go unnoticed! One of my favorite facts is that in the final song, when Eliza Hamilton sings “I speak out against slavery,” George Washington/Christopher Jackson stands behind her and bows his head in shame because he never did. I hope that Disney Plus will zoom in on that distressed face and linger on it for a hot sec. America’s first president, in fact, had many slaves, and brought nine of them with him to the capital, including Ona Judge, whose brave and resourceful story of escape is told in Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught. This biography details how Washington circumvented the Northern law to avoid setting his own slaves free and utilized his political power to try to recapture Ona after she escaped. History has its eyes on you, Washington, and it’s glaring. This is one story that especially deserves its own musical, Lin!

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Never Caught
Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful story about a daring woman of “extraordinary grit” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the President grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, she was denied freedom. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs. At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.

“A crisp and compulsively readable feat of research and storytelling” (USA TODAY), historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked everything to gain freedom from the famous founding father.

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