Ancestor Trouble

Writing a Nonfiction Book First

This year I abandoned the novel I worked on for ages. Fragments survive in the novel I’m working on now, but it’s a fundamentally different book, and that feels great. For years, I resisted writing a nonfiction book first, because I really didn’t want to write a memoir. But it turned out that (1) I really did need, as several . . .

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Time and TIME

Before I realized I was writing a nonfiction book about my ancestors, I wrote what ultimately became the second chapter of Ancestor Trouble as an essay for a reading with Alexander Chee at the KGB Bar. I’d been trying and failing for a couple years to write about my great-grandfather, Charley, and his story at last took a preliminary shape as I scrambled to put together something new for that night.

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Starred Kirkus Review

Ancestor Trouble received a starred review from Kirkus! “The current wave of interest in genealogy, heredity, family history, and responsibility for past injustices crescendos in a comprehensive work combining personal narrative and reporting,” the reviewer says. “Exhaustively researched, engagingly presented, and glowing with intelligence and honesty.” ⭐️  This part made me laugh out loud in recognition: “These ruptures seeded a project . . .

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Intuitive Writer Sticks to Outline

I always believed that as an intuitive writer I couldn’t stick to an outline, but I was wrong. The loose structure I came up with when I started writing Ancestor Trouble was my guiding light. If you’re curious, I write a little bit about my book’s structure and table of contents in my latest newsletter. I’d also like to thank Honorée . . .

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