Sociologist, motivational speaker and novelist Berry (When Love Calls, You Better Answer, 2005, etc.) digs deep to expose the roots of her family tree.
In the introduction to this intensely personal journal of her life, the author admits to a major injustice in her debut novel (Redemption Song, 2000). For the character of an antagonistic plantation owner, she used the actual name of the man who had owned the plantation she was raised on in Delaware. Though her mother told her John Hunn was a good man she refused to believe it. Her memoir seeks to make amends to Hunn, an altruistic Quaker abolitionist and “the southernmost conductor of the Underground Railroad,” while concurrently presenting her family history, saturated with stories, lyrics, proverbs, literary quotations and sage words of spiritual inspiration. Berry praises the inner strength of her mother, a hard-drinking, pious single parent raising seven children on her own in Wilmington. Though they were “cold and poor,” she writes, their gloomy fatherless family life was leavened with laughter and an unshakable sense of reverence and hope. Determined to be educated and successful, the author also pined for love and married twice, once right out of graduate school and again for the sake of her children. She doesn’t dwell on the painful, tragic moments of her past, she writes, “so that we can move right on to the healing.” Berry also retraces the path of liberation of black people from the chains of slavery. The discovery of Hunn’s benevolent history offered her first taste of spiritual freedom. Following a great deal of research and introspection, the author has created a positive book that spotlights family bonding and personal emancipation. “When we remember our ancestors and their stories,” she notes, “we light a pathway for our own journey to spiritual, emotional, and intellectual freedom.”
Berry continues to demonstrate an uncanny aptitude for weaving African-American history into entertaining, empowering stories both fictional and personal.