Sons of Liberty by Bridgette Alexander


Sixteen year-old Celine Caldwell curates an exhibition and discussion on patriotism and US history in art, at her high school, Hamilton Day School, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This exhibition leads to an ugly and mysterious incident of vandalism and hate crime in her high school. Celine solves this crime through much of the novel while healing from the emotional wounds of the crime.

The controversy surrounding the crime causes a deeply emotional Celine to recall the trip she and her mother Julia Caldwell took a year prior to Washington D.C. and Mount Vernon, Virginia to conduct research for Julia’s upcoming exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and for the smaller show at Hamilton. Celine muses on the productive and prosperous economy of Mount Vernon based on the vision and wisdom of George Washington – the respect he had for enterprise and work; and the natural respect he held for his family and the African Americans of Mount Vernon. To Celine, Washington’s economic and political optimism in building his farm and a new nation contrast sharply with the reactive nature of the hate crime that shocked her so much.

A more far-reaching controversy collides with Julia Caldwell’s exhibition on the art of early American patriotism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In the exhibition, Celine’s mother, a powerhouse curator, focused new attention on the diversity of early American patriots, including not only white men, but also women, early African Americans, Native Americans and even lesser known gay Americans.  She never anticipated that groups calling themselves “real American patriots” would picket the Met, and even occupy the exhibit room in protest of these depictions of Americans. The protestors, however, are there and insist that Julia’s exhibition distorts the true American history. They demand that at the very least Julia and the Met take down the exhibit. Held captive inside of the Sons of Liberty exhibit galleries by an emotional protestor who claims to be armed, Julia and Celine are led into discussions with the protestor on the meaning of art, history, patriotism, and the role of government in supporting the arts and culture.