Sunday, April 15, 2007
A.M. Homes article and genealogy
I don’t read magazines very often, unless I’ve somehow walked out of the house without a book and I’m captive in a hair stylist’s or dentist’s chair. But the other day I was flipping through O Magazine (one of Oprah’s many media) at the supermarket checkout, and I threw it in the cart when I saw that A.M. Homes had an article in it called “Finding My People”.
I’ve never read A.M. Homes, but I’ve been meaning to, because one of my book peeps, Cousin Rog, says I should. And I listen to Rog.
The article is from her new memoir (with a great title), The Mistress's Daughter: A Memoir which is about her search, as an adoptee, to find out about both her families, adoptive and birth.
I’ve heard Homes’s work described as “shocking” and “twisted”, but the article (which I can’t find an online link to, but which is from the memoir) is neither—it is a lovely piece. In it she says, “Along the way, it becomes apparent to me that I am searching not just for biological history but for my combined history—the intertwined narrative of how I became who I am.”
She talks about the addictiveness of genealogical research, which has become a very popular on-and-off-line hobby in the U.S. I know this myself, because my mother is such a hobbyist.
And like Homes, I’ve become intrigued by my own past, by the many stories of the many people I had no idea that I was connected to, but whose collective experiences have in some way shaped me.
Homes writes: “I am back in time, wading across a clear running creek, I am a farmer on a plantation, I am captain of a ship, I am the woman in a long white dress, my curly hair high up on my head…I am conjuring sea captains and drinking glasses of bloodred wine. This is the stuff of poems and strange fever dreams.”
I’ve been inspired that way, too. My mother’s research tells me that I’m related to several women who were executed as witches during the Salem witch trials in 1692. The little bits I have pieced together of their lives has inspired me to write about them. Like Homes, I’m inspired by digging through this history, listening to the stories my family tells about itself, and finding the narrative.
I’m also inspired to read A.M. Homes, finally. Her most recent works are The Mistress's Daughter: A Memoir and This Book Will Save Your Life. Here’s a link to an interview she did with Powell’s books about her book This Book Will Save Your Life.