Barbara Delinsky Reading Group and Q&A discussion


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message 1: by Amy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Amy Barbara,

I read Family Tree and was very captivated by the novel. I do have a questions about where the idea came for this specific storyline.

I am in an interracial marriage and had a really hard time with the fact that the characters in the novel where so aghast about/terrified of african american genes being part of their bloodline. Even friends of the main couple had a hard time with it. I realize that in certain parts of the country, racism still exists rampantly, but I guess it really is about people from another slice of life, b/c all the people I know wouldn't have reacted as terribly.

Growing up, were you surrounded by prejudice and racism, and did those experiences help set the tone for the novel?

message 2: by Jia (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

Jia | 1 comments I was drawn into this book for its unique subject matter. Today, race remains a lightning rod topic, though it is more institutionalized (not spoken about) than overt. In the past many African-American authors have written about passing (i.e. Nella Larson)and the lure of "living on the other side of the fence." I hadn't really seen a modern look at the implications of this practice and was very interested in this particular book.

message 3: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Tara (tara_n) | 7 comments I apologize, but I have forgotten the names of the characters so my references to them are going to be vague. I was immediately drawn into the lives of these characters and how strongly race played a role in their lives. I don't think I was surprised by the reaction of the family to the appearance of the baby and the fact that there was African ancestry somewhere in the bloodline, but saddened. I thought it was unfortunate that there was so much shame by the paternal side of the family, but I thought it was a very realistic portrayal. I think there are many people in today's society who would be shocked and ashamed if they found out that somewhere along the bloodline there was a black/African-American ancestor.

I thought the handling of the issue of race and belonging was handled beautifully, and I actually cried. My great, great grandmother was able to "pass" but chose not to once she became an adult. She had great pride in her blackness (although she had toffee colored hair and blue eyes and snowy skin), and I think she could chosen a different path, one that could have resulted in a child born a few generations down much like the newborn baby in this book -- one that would cause a lot of questions. Race is such a "hot topic" and yet isn't discussed. It was nice reading a modern novel that addressed race and acceptance.

message 4: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Barbara (barbaradelinsky) | 33 comments Mod
I may surprise you all here, but I don't see FAMILY TREE first and foremost as a book about race. I see it as being about how we see ourselves and what happens when that perception differs from reality. Hugh's father Eaton reacted one way, Ellie Jo another, and the Senator different again. All of these people (Corinne, too) had a public face and a private face.

No, Amy, I don't see myself as having grown up in an atmosphere of racism and prejudice -- though there were places I couldn't go and groups I couldn't join because I was a Jew. Nor do I see New England as being a hotbed of bigotry. To the contrary. Part of the inspiration for my writing FAMILY TREE was seeing so many biracial families in my local supermarket and realizing how far we've come.

That said, there remain narrow-minded people everywhere in the world -- people who fear those who are different and would rather be with people like themselves. This is a sad fact of life. I like to think that as our worlds broaden -- as more babies like Lizzie are born -- this will end.

So here's a question. What do you think Eaton is going to do, at the end of FAMILY TREE, with the new knowledge he has about his family and himself?

message 5: by Ruby (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Ruby Nielsen | 4 comments I've read Family Tree and I know what Eaton does. I don't want to say what it is he does do, in case there are people out here who haven't read the book yet. I agree with some of the people in here who say that they were shocked by the reaction's of both family and friend's. I had thought that those around (I'm sorry but I have forgotten the character name's) them who truly loved them would have pulled around them and gave them support. But everyone reacts differently and usually will come to support. As some in here have said, racism unfortunetly does still exist. I wish I could say that it doesn't, that my nephew's will never have to see it, but that isn't the case. I have people in my family who are half african-american and some who are of asian desent (s/p?). I don't see color, never have and never will. God created all of man kind. He created every race there is. If more people would realize this then perhaps the world would be a better place.

message 6: by Tammy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Tammy | 6 comments (I think this is what you're asking about Eaton, but it's been a while since I finished the book, so if I misunderstood, please correct me.) I'm not sure I see that Eaton has much choice. Can he really live with his decision if he lets the book go to market with such a glaring error? Wouldn't it ruin his reputation or at least call into question the research he has done on past books.

I briefly entertained the idea that he went ahead with publishing under the current form, but in a year when the paperback comes out they use the "new and updated! shocking new chapter!" type of sales pitch.

I don't know what's really plausible for the publishing industry (can you yank a book off the press at such a late stage? cancel all the signings? can you knowing publish something as "non-fiction" with errors? -- here I am reminded of "A Million Little Pieces").

message 7: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Barbara (barbaradelinsky) | 33 comments Mod
I have my own suspicions, but let's wait so see if anyone else gives it a shot before I tell mine!
Stay tuned.

message 8: by Libby (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Libby Kuntz | 9 comments I think Eaton is going to be wise and humble and tell the truth about his whole family tree. He has already started the process of coming to terms with his origins by talking to Hugh and Dorothy. He continued the growth by telling Robert and going to see Saundra. Since he is portrayed as a man with a conscience, he wouldn't be comfortable with keeping silent or with denying the truth (like the Senator did). He wouldn't want to go backward to the denial and the alienation from his own integrity.

message 9: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Barbara (barbaradelinsky) | 33 comments Mod
Will Eaton write a book about his discovery?

message 10: by Libby (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Libby Kuntz | 9 comments Sure. It's what he does(for a living).

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