How the author discovered a remedy within the story of her enslaved ancestors

How the writer found a cure in the story of her enslaved ancestors

NPR’s Andrew Limbong talks to Dionne Ford about her new guide, Go Again and Get It: A Memoir of Race, Heritage, and Intergenerational Therapeutic.


Dig deep sufficient into your loved ones historical past and also you’re assured to seek out uncomfortable questions with unsatisfying solutions – particularly within the US the place the household tree for a lot of black People contains white slave house owners. However journalist Dionne Ford dug in anyway. Her new memoir is titled Go Again and Take It: A Memoir of Race, Heritage, and Intergenerational Therapeutic. It begins with an outdated household photograph—her great-great-grandmother, Tempy Burton, sitting on the porch steps surrounded by her daughters. On chairs above them sit the white couple who enslaved them, Elizabeth Stuart and Colonel WR Stuart, Ford’s great-great-grandfather. Ford advised me it was a whirlwind of feelings when she found the image.

DIONNE FORD: Shock and amazement is what I felt. Initially, discovering an image of my enslaved nice grandmother simply appeared out of the query. I sat there in my little workplace in shock for some time attempting to determine if I used to be hallucinating, if this was actual, after which what to do about it.

LIMBONG: Sure. I imply, all through the guide, it looks like Tempy is the one you kind a deep reference to. What was it like attending to know her, attempting to grasp her?

FORD: It was actually extremely shifting and in addition actually empowering. I believe, in my thoughts, I form of thought-about simply the side of her as somebody who was oppressed as, you realize, a slave. However that was half of her life, and to see this different side of her life was so empowering to me—that she would turn into a property proprietor, that she would, you realize…

LIMBONG: Having company, making selections, being appreciated, doing…

FORD: Sure, precisely…


FORD: …That she did all this stuff to make selections not just for herself but additionally for her kids.

LIMBONG: Sure. This guide entails your private restoration – proper? – from, for instance, alcohol abuse and coping with one’s personal sexual abuse in childhood. And my sense out of your guide is that the trail to therapeutic is non-linear, proper? Like, you strive a number of various things. You strive, like, completely different types of train, spirituality, remedy, and so they all form of work, proper? Nothing works 100%. And the way did this challenge of trying again at your loved ones tree have an effect on all of that?

FORD: Yeah, I suppose simply this concept that if I may form of discover how somebody who’s actually experiencing the last word type of oppression may go on, you realize, and be capable of do issues which are utterly hopeful – like elevating kids, you realize? – it will be my talisman, I suppose. So yeah, this honor of going again and exploring has completely given me, I suppose, like…

LIMBONG: Inspiration for the sequel, proper?

FORD: Inspiration, however yeah, additionally simply, like, one thing to – would possibly like, touchstone for positive.

LIMBONG: You quote Chinu Achebe at one level within the guide. You say, or he says, we do not pray to have more cash. We’re asking for extra family. And also you discovered some, did not you? I am considering of a cousin specifically.

FORD: I did.

LIMBONG: You discovered Monique, proper?

FORD: Sure.

LIMBONG: Are you able to inform me one thing about her – how did you discover her?

FORD: Sure. Oh my God. This was, like, so thrilling. After working for therefore lengthy to seek out this info with my pretty household, who aren’t actually all that desirous about such issues, it was simply, like, such a thrill to seek out somebody who was as obsessive about their household historical past as I used to be. I discovered Monique via ancestry message boards and in addition via an image as a result of we each discovered this image and have been looking for details about our family. And after we linked, we realized that we each lived in New Jersey lower than, like, 40 minutes away from one another.

LIMBONG: Oh, wow. That.

FORD: And we began assembly with one another and discovering these tales of our individuals collectively. So yeah, it has been a stupendous journey.

LIMBONG: Do you will have a guide with you? Do you will have a guide at hand?

FORD: Sure.

LIMBONG: I used to be questioning in case you may learn the introduction to chapter 14.

FORD: In fact. ALRIGHT. (Studying) If you are going to reclaim the remainder of your enslaved household, you are going to should get a Ph.D. within the historical past of their enslavers. It takes the common scholar 8.2 years to earn a PhD, so you have to to apply persistence and persistence. Additionally, you will should forgive your self day by day. Spending this a lot time with individuals, even people who find themselves useless, even individuals who enslaved your ancestors, will inevitably open you as much as their humanity as you ponder their brutality. Forgive your self for laughing once they taunt one another of their letters, in your heartbreak once they lose a baby to yellow fever, or in your awe on the care their descendants have taken to protect their 200-year-old diaries, correspondence, and hand-drawn maps of their land grants . Sorry and transfer on.

LIMBONG: I used to be questioning, was it tough to permit your self to be just a little charmed by the individuals who enslaved your ancestors? Did you, like, catch your self, like, getting too in love with them?

FORD: You already know, I imply – yeah, I suppose I did…


FORD: …I’ve caught myself a number of occasions being, you realize, very unhappy about losses. And, you realize, there’s nothing fallacious with feeling my humanity in direction of somebody who has died. And I simply caught myself on the finish of the place these tales have been going to happen in my story on this guide. That is the place I needed to form of do my job of remembering, you realize, what I am attempting to do and placing these different tales of their correct perspective.

LIMBONG: One story that you simply uncovered is that of Warren Stuart Matthews, who was lynched, and that begins this era of mourning. Do you suppose in a roundabout way that a part of this challenge, a part of your work is creating an area for a form of naming and celebrating and mourning your loved ones members?

FORD: Oh, completely. Particularly somebody like Warren who was killed in such a violent means, and I think about his family members could not correctly mourn him – so, sure, that is undoubtedly a testomony and a memorial.

LIMBONG: You began this challenge severely whenever you began a household. Have your daughters learn the guide?

FORD: That is a very good query. They’ve learn so many iterations of this guide.

LIMBONG: (Laughs).

FORD: I am not so positive they learn the finale…

LIMBONG: The ultimate model. That.

FORD: …This final copy. However they – I ought to say additionally they did some analysis with me as kids.

LIMBONG: Oh, you made them work, did not you? Sure (laughs).

FORD: I requested them to work, and we might usually interpret my analysis journeys as household holidays, so that they…

LIMBONG: And so they fell for it, huh? They…

FORD: They fell for it to some extent. After, I believe, the oldest turned 13, they began insisting on – each journey to the archives, there also needs to be a visit to Disney, so…


FORD: We had to think about one thing else, you realize…


FORD: … Another methods to do it. However sure, I imply, I could not have wished for extra supportive and loving kids.

LIMBONG: Dionne Ford. Her new guide is “Come Again and Get It.” Thanks very a lot in your time.

FORD: Thanks for having me.


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