Why subscribe?

You might want to subscribe if you feel an affinity with some aspect of my book, Ancestor Trouble (Random House 2022), or if the name makes intuitive sense to you. Like the book, this newsletter is concerned with complications and yearnings around ancestors and family histories writ large. It’s an extension of lifelong preoccupations that will feed into my next project (a novel), and probably whatever comes after that… These are my notes along the edges, things I’m mulling over or learning about, as well as other people’s work I’m drawn to on the subject. I’m also interested in the possibilities that open up when we look beyond humanity to the earth as kin.

This newsletter is always free, and I usually send it monthly. Sometimes I do giveaways. One of my prior most-read posts was on acknowledgement genealogy.

About Me and My Book

I’m a writer and critic. Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation, my first book, has been called “a literary feat” by the New York Times Book Review and a “brilliant mix of personal memoir and cultural observation” by the Boston Globe, praised by Oprah Daily, NPR, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Vulture, the Los Angeles Times, Wired, and many others, and named one of Esquire’s best books of 2022. Excerpts from the book have appeared in Esquire, Time, and the Wall Street Journal.

My essay on “America’s Ancestry Craze,” a seed of the book, was a Harper’s cover story. Both the book and the essay are outgrowths of old posts on my blog, which I started in May 2002. I also write personal essays, cultural criticism, and fiction. Beyond Harper’s, my work has appeared in the New York Times MagazineEsquire, NarrativeHarper’s Bazaar, the New York Times Book Review, GrantaBookforum, the Oxford American, Time, the Wall Street Journal, Humanities, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Curbed, and many other publications and anthologies, including Best American Travel Writing 2015 and the New York Times bestseller What My Mother Gave Me..

I have discussed ancestors and family history with NPR’s All Things Considered, the New York Times Book Review podcast, American Ancestors (New England Historic Genealogical Society)WNYC, the Dallas Morning NewsKERA’s ThinkSlate/Future TenseWisconsin Public Radio, and PEN. Among other lectures and conversations, I participated in “Ancestor Trouble: A Religious and Political Dialogue” with Rabbi Tamar Manasseh for UC Davis Jewish Studies/Religious Studies.

You can read more about me over on my website.