Belfield: A Novel (Paperback)

Belfield: A Novel By Joan Aleshire Cover Image

Belfield: A Novel (Paperback)


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This is a novel based on an incident in the life of Charles Willson Peale, Early American painter, Revolutionary War veteran, inventor, museum founder, farmer. Although he opposed slavery publicly, Peale accepted an enslaved family into his household as payment for a debt. He freed the husband and wife after a few years, but held their son, Moses Williams, until he was 26, and taught him to be a profile cutter, working in his Philadelphia natural history museum. In imagining the Peale family’ s life on an 18th-century farm, the book explores ethics and inclusion: the contradictions at the heart of this country.
Joan Aleshire was born in Baltimore, Maryland with limb differences. She grew up in a large extended family, hearing stories about their Peale ancestors. She began to read and write stories, plays, and poems. Joan graduated from independent schools, and from Harvard/Radcliffe in 1960. She studied film and Russian, married, worked on a therapeutic farm in Vermont, and had a daughter. She received an MFA from Goddard College in 1980, became Interim Director of the Warren Wilson MFA Program, and was on the poetry faculty from 1983 to 2013.
Product Details ISBN: 9798988382072
Publisher: Green Writers Press
Publication Date: October 17th, 2023
Pages: 224
Language: English
“Beautifully written, meticulously rendered, Aleshire’s brilliant group portrait of the Peales — that fascinating family of American artists, collectors, and museum founders — has forever altered and deepened my sense of them and that time and place. Every page surprised and delighted me.” Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Voyage of the Narwhal, among others 

“Joan Aleshire’s Belfield transports the reader to a place and time resonant with sights and sounds and wonderfully rendered characters that bring a previously untold moment in history to life. Through the story of one family, Belfield examines our nation’s ongoing and foolish quest to celebrate a utopian vision of itself while at the same time ignoring the horrors of slavery and its consequences. What an amazing novel this is.” —David Haynes, author of Heathens, Somebody Else’s Mama, and Live at Five 

“In Belfield, we are reminded not only of the horrors of racism, by which, tragically, our national life remains saturated, but also of its complexities. . . . [Aleshire’s] Charles Willson Peale embodies the well-meaning liberal who, if only half-consciously, contributes to the very evils he reviles.” —Sydney Lea, author of six poetry books, Vermont State Poet Laureate, 2014-2018 

“The genius of Belfield, is how it combines family history with American history…. The riveting central character…is the painter and high-minded abolitionist; also a flawed human being [which] gives the novel its strong narrative drive. … Belfield is intimate and historical, passionate and clear-eyed. It depicts a world never to be forgotten and another never before seen.” —John Skoyles, author of A Moveable Famine: A Life in Poetry 

“My heart was with all the underdogs throughout the novel — both black and white, while chanting manumission. Aleshire resurrects Charles Willson showing his strengths and frailties. His memory haunts with the musing: ‘Did I do more good than harm?’”Glenis Redmond, author of six books of poetry and the First Poet Laureate of Greenville, South Carolina


“Inherently fascinating, deftly crafted, and historically accurate in background details, Belfield by Joan Aleshire is a thoughtful and thought-provoking read from start to finish—and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library Historical Fiction collections.” —Midwest Book Review

“With her artful novel, Aleshire has given us a memorable fictional realization of a history-making person and place. BELFIELD is less constrained by the documented facts than a conventional biography, but it is also more fleshly, more vibrantly particular, and more anguished in its dramatization of momentous human acts and choices.” —SevenDays