H T One Drop: A True Story of Family, Race, and Secrets. By Bliss Broyard. 2007. Little,
Brown/Back Bay, $17 (9780316008068).
When Bliss Broyard learned that her
father, Anatole Broyard, a longtime New
York Times book critic, had concealed his
black heritage, she launched an intrepid
genealogical quest that brought new relatives and galvanizing insights into Creole
culture, African American history, and the
grand diversity and true interconnectivity
of the entire human family.
Proud Shoes: The Story of an American
Family. By Pauli Murray. 1999. Beacon,
paper, $21 (9780807072097).
Murray, a civil rights activist whose
extraordinary story is told in Patricia Bell-Scott’s The Firebrand and the First Lady
(see review on p. 16), vividly records her
mixed-race family’s experiences as slaves
and free blacks, as well as their descendants, including some who lived as white.
A commanding work ever since it was
first published in 1956.
Something to Declare. By Julia
Alvarez. 1998. Algonquin, $20.95
Alvarez portrays her family during her
Dominican Republic childhood and,
after her parents fled the dictatorship,
in the U.S., where they struggled to acclimate in a society that automatically
denigrated them by virtue of their accents and appearance.
The Turquoise Ledge. By Leslie
Marmon Silko. 2010. Penguin, $16
Silko, of Laguna Pueblo, Cherokee,
Mexican, and European ancestry, recounts
gripping tales from each branch of her
family tree that reveal the indelible consequences of racism, the war against Native
Americans, and the abuse of nature,
reminding us that for all our crimes and
tragedies, “The sacred surrounds us.”
The Woman Warrior and China
Men. By Maxine Hong Kingston.
2005. Everyman’s Library, $25
In Kingston’s seminal and indelible accounts of her Chinese immigrant family,
presented together here, The Woman Warrior (1976) and China Men (1980), she
contrasts her ancestors’ and parents’ lives
in China, and the traditional stories that
shaped their lives, with life in America,
focusing on her mother and herself in the
first book and her father and other male
relatives and Chinese immigrant men in
the second, entwining myth and fact to
The Black Calhouns: From Civil
War to Civil Rights with One African
American Family. By Gail Lumet
Buckley. 2016. Atlantic Monthly, $26
Buckley’s dramatic family history runs
from the era of slavery through the twentieth century and includes the stellar story
of her mother, Lena Horne. For a full
review, see p. 12.
Daisy Turner’s Kin: An African
American Family Saga. By Jane C.
Beck. 2015. Univ. of Illinois, $24.95
Daisy Turner, who died in 1988 at
104, was the repository of family stories reaching back to how her African
ancestor came to America and forward
to her enslaved father, who learned to
read, fought with the Union during the
Civil War, and returned south to seek
justice. The Turner family eventually
settled in Vermont.
Finding Samuel Lowe: China,
Jamaica, Harlem. By Paula Williams
Madison. 2015. Amistad, $25.99
Growing up in Harlem, Madison
wondered about her mystery relatives,
especially her Jamaican Chinese mother’s father, Samuel Lowe, long-brewing
curiosity that led to her uncovering
astonishing tales of ambition and
heartache spun from a web of imperialism, slavery, and immigration that link
together families in China, Jamaica,
How the World Moves: The Odyssey
of an American Indian Family. By
Peter Nabokov. 2015. Viking, $32.95
Nabokov’s vivid story of a remarkable
Native American family focuses on Day
Break, who was born in 1861 in New
Mexico’s Acoma Pueblo and raised in
a traditional family until, defying his
parents’ wishes, he attended an Indian
boarding school; became Edward Proctor Hunt; opened a trading post; and,
with his sons, toured Europe with a Wild
Nisei Daughter. By Monica Sone.
2014. Univ. of Washington, $18.95
Originally published in 1953, Sone’s engaging and tender portrait of her Japanese
American family living on the waterfront
in 1930s Seattle covers the shock of their
“relocation” and imprisonment in a camp,
along with thousands of other Japanese
American citizens during WWII.