AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
AN NPR CONCIERGE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
“In her form-shattering and myth-crushing book….Coe examines myths with mirth, and writes history with humor… [You Never Forget Your First] is an accessible look at a president who always finishes in the first ranks of our leaders.” —Boston Globe
Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first--and finds he is not quite the man we remember
Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, 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.
After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War cast him as the nation's hero, he was desperate to retire, but the founders pressured him into the presidency--twice. When he retired years later, no one talked him out of it. He left the highest office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created.
Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty must confront his greatest hypocrisy--what to do with the men, women, and children he owns--before he succumbs to death.
With irresistible style and warm humor, You Never Forget Your First combines rigorous research and lively storytelling that will have readers--including those who thought presidential biographies were just for dads--inhaling every page.
In this breezy yet fact-filled revisionist biography, historian and podcast host Coe (Alice + Freda Forever) takes George Washington's previous predominantly male biographers to task for obsessing over his virility, enshrining myths about his military prowess and moral exactitude, and mischaracterizing his relationship with his mother. Coe threads her narrative with charts listing Washington's "frenemies" (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison) and the diseases he survived (diphtheria, malaria, dysentery). She describes how Washington's widowed mother kept him out of the British Royal Navy and details his involvement in the 1754 skirmish that sparked the French and Indian War. Eschewing a lengthy recap of Washington's Revolutionary War battles, Coe focuses on his role as spymaster and propagandist. She recounts his reluctance to serve as president and sketches the era's partisan divides. While others have praised Washington for freeing his slaves, Coe notes that he actually left it to his widow to sign the deed of manumission, and that she likely did so out of fear for her life. The book's brisk pace and contrarian perspective leave significant gaps (Washington's two presidential terms take up less than 40 pages), but it succeeds in humanizing the Founding Father. Readers who like their history with a dose of wry humor will savor this accessible account.