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Acknowledging Wrongs of Enslaver Ancestors

Image reads: My father's family kept slaves - and he defended it. Acknowledging it matters. Byline reads Maud Newton. Illustration by artist Jon Key depicts confederate monuments on a blood red background.

The Guardian U.S. has published my argument for what I’ve called acknowledgment genealogy, the importance of reckoning with our individual families’ participation in slavery. “Amid a rise of laws forbidding discussions of racist histories, sharing our ancestors’ shameful wrongdoings is more urgent than ever” is the subhead. Acknowledgement is a crucial first baby step toward the repair we need.

The illustration above was created for the piece by the artist Jon Key. I’m grateful to the Guardian for pairing my words with Key’s tremendous art—and to editor Jessica Reed for giving me space to expand on an argument I first made in this newsletter last year. I’m committed to this acknowledgement, as a first and continuing step toward reckoning and reparation(s).



For Just a Little While

Anger to my mom is strength and unimpeachable truth, a companion to determination. I write about this a little bit in Ancestor Trouble, how the idea of identifying, much less acknowledging, difficult feelings such as fear or sadness fills her with rage.

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A Southerner One-Step-Removed

On the one hand, it feels a bit self-centered to catch you up on the praise for Ancestor Trouble since my last post in April, but on the other hand it would feel rude not to acknowledge people who put time into saying thoughtful things about the book. I am always and forever a Southerner-one-step-removed.

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Ancestor Trouble is Out!

Ancestor Trouble is out in the world! If you follow me on social media or receive my newsletter, you may have heard plenty about it by now, but if not, here are some highlights. The New York Times review by Kerri Arsenault is a dream (“extraordinary and wide-ranging,” “a literary feat”), as are reviews by Lorraine Berry for The Boston Globe (“beautiful and complexly nuanced,” with . . .

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You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.