A multi-generational memoir based on hundreds of letters and documents spanning more than a century…
I have always written from a deep need to explore the mysteries and complexities of so-called ordinary lives. (I do not believe any life is ordinary; if so, then all lives are.) Most of the work I've produced over the past thirty years, whether poetry or prose, centers on family and community relationships, the myriad ways in which lives intersect. So when I inherited more than a thousand family documents spanning a hundred years of intersecting lives--letters, postcards, diaries, and ephemera--I could not resist the impulse to stitch these lives back together, in part to discover my own place in the tribal constellation. After ten years of researching, drafting and redrafting, cutting and pasting and cutting again--losing hundreds of pages in the process--I completed The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change.
The Tribal Knot explores the complicated nature of communal bonds in various forms: blood families, neighborhoods, rural and small town communities, and religious and fraternal organizations, including exclusionary groups such as the Improved Order of Red Men and the 1920s Ku Klux Klan. Though the book spans several locales, its geographical core is central Indiana, where many of my ancestors migrated during the 1880s. Like the image of a family hair weaving that informs the book's title, individual stories are braided into a single narrative. The timeline is long, the cast of characters large, but at its center is the Mounts family, a tribe of subsistence farmers, hunters, trappers, and laborers who survived numerous dark chapters—poverty, war, illness and accident, filicide and suicide, economic depressions and personal disasters—while struggling to balance independence and community and to hold tight to the ties that bound them.
Niche (online review) READ
"Book like no other I've read, The Tribal Knot combines genres to become
-- David Huddle, Author of The Story of a Million Years and The Writing Habit
"Rebecca McClanahan has written a
-- Lee Martin, author of From Our House and Turning Bones
"To enter Rebecca McClanahan's memoir is to truly enter her life--her history, her geography, her tribe. The blending of photographs, letters, and diary entries into McClanahan's intelligent, lyrical and thoughtful prose makes this book
-- Ann Hood author of Comfort: A Journey Through Grief and The Knitting Circle
"Rebecca McClanahan's multi-generational memoir artfully weaves together more than a century of family documents, oral history, and historical records. With poetic elegance, McClanahan
-- Sharon DeBartolo, Certified Genealogist and author of You Can Write Your Family History
"This lovely, unsentimental memoir spins the multiple strands of McClanahan's family past into a
-- Suzannah Lessard, author of The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family