2016: 73. The Family Tree


The Family Tree, Karen Branan

"In 1984, G'mamma was ninety and I was a middle aged journalist sitting on the edge of her magnificent antique sleigh bed, atop her hand-crocheted ecru coverlet littered with orange peels, gazing at those perfectly manicured, fire-engine red nails I'd known since childhood.” 

I am torn about this book.  It is non-fiction - a reporter named Karen Branan exploring her family’s past, particularly their roles in a terrible lynching that took place in Georgia.  She explores the history of lynching, generally, in Georgia in specific, and her own family’s bloody hands.  She touches on mixed-race relationships, and on racial politics in her own history, including and not shying away from the brutal racism of the family and town she loved. She asks hard questions, and if the book is a little disorganzied and slow, the horror and the sorrow - and the remorse in it is real.

BUT, I’m a little tired of books by white ladies saying they are sorry.  The same book, the same exploration of the town and its bloody history by a black author would be so much more interesting.  We know liberal white people are sorry for their racist pasts, and they try to acknowledge their own racism.  But (myself included) can’t capture this sort of agony in a real way.  Like i know you feel dad your grandaddy was a racist - but imagine how someone feels whose grandfather was actually harmed by the racist system.  Read this if you are absolute newbie to the notion that America (particulalry the South) has a terrible history of mistreating the black body.  But I think we know that by now.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017