Reading is Freedom: Hamilton Book Review for Summer Reading

Hamilton The Revolution in a garden's hyssop shining in the light

By now fans of the Garden in Delight blog agree that where gardening ends, reading begins.

When temperatures push the extremes of summer or winter weather, we cherish the garden for the rest and retreat it reminds us to receive. Head somewhere shady and breezy temperatures rise, and give up the trowel in hand for a great book.

Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

My latest recommendation, in celebrating our nation’s birthday and the freedom our government is trusted to uphold is Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter.

There are many facets crammed in this breath-taking story with a hip-hop beat, yet I love the treasure of forgiveness that lies at its heart. Forgiveness is the key to a well-built nation, an endeavor Alexander Hamilton worked fervently to establish.

As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
Luke 6:46-48 NIV

Floods and torrents, figuratively speaking, came throughout Hamilton’s life. And the power to overcome—the ability to move forward though the fallout, to persevere through the pain towards good, productive, lasting end— was rooted in forgiveness.

Whose forgiveness? Allow me to set the stage a bit…

The Story of a Story

Today’s reading is actually the story of a story, probably the most genius story to grip us as a nation in current times: Hamilton, the Broadway show, a musical in hip-hop and R&B. The show has dazzled and liberated audiences in New York, Hamilton’s hometown (…a sweet plunder…) and is now spreading to major cities, licensed and able to be produced in high school theater departments and community theaters out to the ends of the earth!

The brilliant, humble, and (in my opinion) supernaturally creative Lin-Manuel Miranda – author and creator of the show – is the one to imagine the outrageous idea of setting a Founding Father’s life story to hip-hop music, inspired by historian Ron Chernow’s historical account of Alexander Hamilton.

Chernow's Hamilton a book this thick CPMiranda brought Chernow’s book with him on vacation to Mexico — Who brings a book this thick on vacation?? As he read from a hammock, the story began to hop in rhythm and beat.
He thought a rap album would be really neat.
Came home, conferred with friends, his conviction complete.

wrote the first song—
performed it on a whim
to HIM:
the first black president of the United States.

Amid oohs, aahs, and tweets,
launched a revolution likewise
with this drama bittersweet.*

You can read all about it in this marvelous account Hamilton: The Revolution and I beg you to drop everything and read this book over your summer vacation!

Find Parallels

Gardeners, read and witness and behold how a show or project comes together. Drawn by the beat, prose, personal story, and national history, enter into the realm of possibility: something spectacular can come from a small idea or inkling, from humble beginnings, a mustard seed. Of course, that is the display of Alexander Hamilton’s life, and the wonder of our God.

So much of who we are as citizens of the United States, and the dynamics of how a rebel cause became a form a self-government that would shelter and transform the hope of freedom into a way of life is a result of Hamilton’s leadership, scholarship, insight, commitment, and vision, grounded in a growing faith.

Yet he was an immigrant, starting out with no advantage in life, poster-child for humble beginnings. A “have-not” writes Miranda,

“without a dollar to my name, an acre of land,
a troop to command, a dollop of fame”
All I have is “honor, a tolerance for pain,
a couple of college credits and my top-notch brain.”
—Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, “Helpless,” lyrics from Hamilton: The Revolution, page 76

Whatever is your charge, whatever cause you are advancing in your own life, find parallels … read and see how he did it. WAIT. Am I talking about Miranda…or Hamilton???

“This is not a moment, it’s the movement…”
—Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, “My Shot,” lyrics from Hamilton: The Revolution, page 29

The vision Miranda has, inspired by Hamilton’s immigrant life, dimension added by the beauty of Miranda’s own father’s immigration from Puerto Rico, is that freedom’s face will be transformed, that in his words,

“there will no longer be a majority or minority of races, only a vibrant mix of colors.”
—Lin-Manuel Miranda as himself, Hamilton: The Revolution, page 15

And he moves toward his vision by mixing it up! History, hip-hop, and a cast of acting professionals from all heritages play out the beat.

“A-L-E-X-A-N-D-E-R—we are—meant to be…”
—Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, “My Shot,” lyrics from Hamilton: The Revolution, page 26

Transformed by Forgiveness

But I promised you a story of forgiveness, and the heart of this amazing historical layering begins with Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Hamilton’s wife. This revolutionary couple was hit with storms, personal tragedies; sins and daring attempts grossly miscalculated flooded and threatened in torrents.

But she forgave. She overlooked offenses; she put the words of her faith into practice.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 NIV

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart
Luke 6:45 NLT

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
James 2:18 NIV

ANGELICA [Eliza’s sister]: They are standing in the garden,
Alexander by Eliza’s side.
She takes his hand.

COMPANY: Forgiveness. Can you imagine?
Forgiveness. Can you imagine?
— “It’s Quiet Uptown,” lyrics from Hamilton: The Revolution, page 254

And she took up this story – her husband’s legacy, and in the wake of his untimely death she persevered to preserve his legacy. She fought to have his biography published, along with his written papers, establishing his contribution to the early organizing of our government.

These documents that historians like Chernow rely on today…that led to this show transforming OUR way!

In celebrating the 4th of July, may we all continue to move toward that good, productive, lasting end. May we forgive the past. May we be a nation well-built.

Forgiveness at the heart of Hamilton

Bibliography:

Manuel, Lin-Miranda and McCarter, Jeremy, Hamilton: The Revolution, New York: Grand Central, 2016
Chernow, Ron, Alexander Hamilton, New York: Penguin, 2004

*See how inspiring is Lin-Manuel Miranda! He has me hip-hopping; I’m moved!
“I came away feeling like writing. Not writing like Lin, or doing a project like that—it was just that really, really good work makes me want to go to work.” John Kander, as quoted in Hamilton: The Revolution,” page 172

Photo Credits: ©2017 Shelley S. Cramm
Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter in a garden bed of hyssop, Biblical herb of forgiveness.
Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow in the garden, too.

2 Responses to Reading is Freedom: Hamilton Book Review for Summer Reading

  1. Lydia Plunk July 6, 2017 at 10:30 pm #

    My mother was Puerto Rican by birth. That is the citizenship equivalent of a hybrid engine. She was by birth, a citizen. Yet by culture, an immigrant.

    As I get older, life is teaching me it is more important to be engaged in all the conjugations of forgive- forgiven- forgiving- than to be right.

    Happy shade to you!

  2. Shelley Cramm July 7, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

    O Lydia, thank you for precious words and insight. So grateful to have you part of the Garden in Delight blog!!

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