Why subscribe?

You might want to subscribe to Ancestor Trouble if the name makes intuitive sense to you. While this newsletter is related to my forthcoming book, Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation (Random House, March 29, 2022), it’s also deeply concerned with complications and yearnings around ancestry writ large. These are my notes along the edges, things I’m still mulling over or learning about, as well as other people’s work I’m drawn to on the subject. Sometimes I do giveaways of books (purchased by me) that have influenced my thinking and feeling on ancestors and made their way into my book.

I’m also increasingly interested in earth connection and the possibilities that open up when we look beyond humanity to the rest of the world as kin.

The newsletter is free, and I usually send it monthly. Some posts to give you a sense of what I do here:

(To avoid confusion, I changed the name of this newsletter from Ancestor Hunger to Ancestor Trouble. They're often close cousins, in my experience! But with the book on the way, I don't want to have two different titles floating around.)

Early Praise for My Book (in the Order Received)

  • Ancestor Trouble is a memoir like no other I’ve ever read: it's an addictive mystery story, an unflinching examination of America’s darkest history, and a plangent meditation on the power of long-buried secrets to assert themselves in our lives. With astonishing erudition and empathy, Maud Newton has woven together sociology, science, and her own genealogical sleuthing to craft a narrative at once universal and intensely personal. A haunting, thought-provoking, and utterly mesmerizing book.” — Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park

  • “Ancestor Trouble is a superbly written and meticulously researched book about the people and stories that shape us. Through careful examination of census records, genealogy, and DNA data, Maud Newton patiently excavates her family's troubled history, revealing how the past continues to inform the present, in ways that are sometimes invisible to us. An extraordinary work.” — Laila Lalami, author of The Other Americans

  • “One of the most uncompromising and compassionate books about the tangled web that binds us to our past. Maud Newton writes with fierce brilliance about family, racism, mental illness, and the personal and national burdens of history. What do we owe our ancestors? How much of their sins become our responsibilities? In this magnificent book, Newton refuses to look away from her most intimate and painful moments, and in the process she leads us toward a vision of what individual and national healing might look like. Startling in scope and breadth, Ancestor Trouble firmly establishes Newton as one of our most exciting — and necessary — writers.” — Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the Booker Prize

  • “Ancestor Trouble lifts the veil between our present moment and past generations, some long buried, who shape our lives whether we realize it or not. With cultural analysis, global historical contexts, and her own compelling hunt for family history, Maud Newton invites us to consider our ancestors with a reverence Western thought often forgets.” — Sarah Smarsh, New York Times bestselling author of Heartland

  • “Whether they are writers, womanizers, preachers, or enslavers, Maud Newton soberly reckons with her ancestors in this absorbing narrative, as addictive as genealogy itself. In reflections ranging from the scientific to the spiritual, Newton builds a bridge between her and her ancestors that is fascinating, deeply moving, and sure to make every reader want to spend some time with their kin.” — Dionne Ford, co-editor of Slavery’s Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation

Newsletter Testimonials!