Blog

i.m. Stephen B. Oates (1936 – 2021)

Among the lessons I learned from Stephen B. Oates: avoid the curséd passive voice (pronounced with a Texas Panhandle twang and an accented “ed”); always put arms and legs on your minor characters; biography is a spring art of bringing the dead back to life; you too can write, you too can publish. And so […]

June 5, 1985

Two weeks ago, on a weekend trip to Chicago, I read Natasha Tretheway’s Memorial Drive. Couldn’t put it down. I hadn’t been that keen to read it—the story of her mother’s murder in Atlanta when Tretheway was 19. I’ve been interested in Tretheway’s poetry—in her use of form, particularly, and of course in her subject […]

Family Graphics

Last year while writing about my slaveholding Scarlett ancestors, I tried my hand at rendering three of them visually. The process surprised me—not because I saw that I had mixed feelings about these people (duh)—but because, as I hacked and slashed with my paintbrush, I saw that I wanted to eradicate them. I later shared […]

Robert Leslie Pettigrew (December 9, 1923 – March 25, 2021)

He was invariably there, my Uncle Bob, as I worked to unpeel the family history we both knew lay stuck inside those boxes of my grandmother’s—the ones she’d collected for half a century, then surrendered to him, who held onto them for another decade or so before he packed them up and shipped them to […]

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