Searching for Nannie B.: Connecting Three Generations of Southern Women

| April 28, 2018

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How would you be affected if your mother died giving you life? And how would such a loss affect your children? These questions are the foundation of many issues raised by the author, Nancy Owen Nelson, in her search for the missing pieces of a grandmother who in 1905 died giving the author’s mother life, all told in her wonderful memoir, Searching for Nannie B. It was a tragedy that seemed to affect multiple generations, the voids in identity and ill-spent guilt flowing from the stream of blood that kept mother from daughter, and then from granddaughter. But it was a search well-spent.

The Reverend Roger Mohr, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit, may have said it best. “Often the tapestry of family history does not seem to offer us the sort of clarity about who we have become, and why. And sometimes the narrative tells us a story about ourselves that we do not wish to accept.”

Nancy Owen Nelson’s search resulted in raising more questions about herself, even as it answered questions about her mysterious grandmother. Nonetheless, in the end her journey toward discovery was one of startling self-awareness and connection. No matter whether you feel connected or lost in family, you will be unable to avoid the heartfelt pleasure and pain that comes from the author’s brave attempt to connect three generations of Southern women.

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