Ancestor trouble : a reckoning and a reconciliation

by Newton, Maud,

Format: Print Book 2022
Availability: Available at 14 Libraries 14 of 19 copies
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Braddock Carnegie Library Non Fiction 929.2 NEW
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CLP - Lawrenceville Non-Fiction Collection IN TRANSIT
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Shaler North Hills Library Non-Fiction IN TRANSIT
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Summary
"Extraordinary and wide-ranging . . . a literary feat that simultaneously builds and excavates identity."-- The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

Roxane Gay's Audacious Book Club Pick * An acclaimed writer goes searching for the truth about her wildly unconventional Southern family--and finds that our obsession with ancestors opens up new ways of seeing ourselves--in this "brilliant mix of personal memoir and cultural observation" ( The Boston Globe ).

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, NPR, Time, The Washington Post

Maud Newton's ancestors have vexed and fascinated her since she was a girl. Her mother's father, who came of age in Texas during the Great Depression, was said to have married thirteen times and been shot by one of his wives. Her mother's grandfather killed a man with a hay hook and died in an institution. Mental illness and religious fanaticism percolated through Maud's maternal lines back to an ancestor accused of being a witch in Puritan-era Massachusetts. Maud's father, an aerospace engineer turned lawyer, was an educated man who extolled the virtues of slavery and obsessed over the "purity" of his family bloodline, which he traced back to the Revolutionary War. He tried in vain to control Maud's mother, a whirlwind of charisma and passion given to feverish projects: thirty rescue cats, and a church in the family's living room where she performed exorcisms.

Her parents' divorce, when it came, was a relief. Still, her position at the intersection of her family bloodlines inspired in Newton inspired an anxiety that she could not shake, a fear that she would replicate their damage. She saw similar anxieties in the lives of friends, in the works of writers and artists she admired. As obsessive in her own way as her parents, Newton researched her genealogy--her grandfather's marriages, the accused witch, her ancestors' roles in slavery and genocide--and sought family secrets through her DNA. But immersed in census archives and cousin matches, she yearned for deeper truths. Her journey took her into the realms of genetics, epigenetics, and the debates over intergenerational trauma. She mulled over modernity's dismissal of ancestors along with psychoanalytic and spiritual traditions that center them.

Searching, moving, and inspiring, Ancestor Trouble is one writer's attempt to use genealogy--a once-niche hobby that has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry--to expose the secrets and contradictions of her own ancestors, and to argue for the transformational possibilities that reckoning with our ancestors offers all of us.
Contents
A doorway
Not forgotten
Like a lenticular print
Skeletons and magnolias
Family secrets
DNA sleuthing
A universal family tree
Taking a bite
It skips a generation
An impulse to leap
The idea of heredity
Genes expressing themselves
Grandma's eyes
The family face
Mugshots from DNA
Grudging kinship
Chasing the dream
Emotional recurrences
Heirlooms and disinheritance
Monstrous bequests
Not racist
Disconnection
Unacknowledged remains
The witch
Generational curses
Veneration
Lineage repair
The namesake
Beneficial and malignant creativity
Roots.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: ""Know thyself," said Socrates, and Newton takes this directive to heart in a memoir that strives to not only understand her specific personality but identify its development through multiple generations of ancestors. This knowledge of her family's colorful history, which includes a grandfather who allegedly married 13 times; a demanding, racist father; and a speaking-in-tongues evangelical mother, raises more questions than it answers. Fortunately, the burgeoning industry of internet ancestry research and accessible DNA testing helps Newton affix missing leaves to her family tree. Yet each new data point reveals further avenues of inquiry, rabbit holes that raise doubts about physical traits, emotional vulnerabilities, and mental strengths. In exploring her own background, Newton investigates current theories regarding DNA analysis, inherited trauma, and psychological profiling with Sherlockian verve and an academician's tenacity. Genealogy sleuths often undertake such quests hoping to discover hidden gems buried deep in those census records, such as a direct link to aristocracy or a Founding Father. Newton is just looking for some peace of mind, and her approach may help others realize what a worthy goal that is."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Newton debuts with a masterful mix of memoir and cultural criticism that wrestles with America's ancestry through her own family's complex past. While it's often "cast as a narcissistic Western peculiarity," she argues that "ancestor hunger circles the globe" as people have increasingly begun to search for "a deeper sense of community, less 'I' and more 'we.'‚ÄČ" Newton, though, was raised on fanciful stories of her relatives--including a grandfather with 13 ex-wives, and her great-aunt Maude (the inspiration behind Newton's writing pseudonym), who died young in an institution--and tales of murder, witchcraft, and spiritual superstition, all of which she interrogates here with a shrewd eye. As she "search backward" through her family's history in an effort to find redemption and healing, she contextualizes their stories within the nation's history of white supremacy and religious fundamentalism (her mother was a fervent evangelical who believed their "forebears had sinned in such a way as to open the door to a generational curse"). Most affecting is her rendering of her complicated relationship with her father and his own "racist bloodline," likening her existence to "a kind of homegrown eugenics project." The result is a transfixing meditation on the inextricable ways the past informs the present. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Mar.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Newton, Maud.
Newton, Maud -- Family.
Newton family.
Genealogy.
Genetic genealogy -- United States.
Racism -- United States.
United States -- Race relations.
Publisher New York :Random House,2022
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description xviii, 378 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographic references (pages 331-364) and index.
ISBN 9780812997927
0812997921
Other Classic View