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

by  | July 1
Theater Lights

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.

The Coldest Winter Ever

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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Kings County

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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The Rules of Magic

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 Deep

The Deep

by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes

“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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Behold the Dreamers

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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Chasing Chopin

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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Lady Romeo

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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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“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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Never Caught

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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Emily Lewis is a marketing associate at Simon & Schuster who loves every book genre but has a soft spot for sci-fi/fantasy. She recently moved to NYC from Chicago a month before quarantine and will enjoy crossing things off her NYC bucket list…eventually. For now, she enjoys playing guitar, board games, and chilling with cats. Find her on Instagram at @emlewis22.