Today, I spoke with LaTanya McQueen
, whose new collection of essays reckons with intriguing and timely questions about history, race, family, place, and self. It’s called And It Begins Like This
(Black Lawrence Press, 2018), and I immediately found myself asking, “What’s it? What’s this?” Not until over halfway through the book did McQueen make the answer clear, when she writes: “There is a story I once believed and it begins like this—a woman named Leanna Brown was a slave to Bedford Brown, Senator of North Carolina. Sometime during her enslavement she had a relationship with a white man who lived on a neighboring farm, and the results of their relationship produced three children, one of them my ancestor.” McQueen’s book is, in part, her attempt to learn the full and complicated truth of this story, to discover, as much as the record will allow, the history of her great-great grandmother. This search, it turns out, asks her no less than to grapple with the history of race relations in the United States and the ways in which it manifests in her own life and family. And It Begins Like This
is a clear-eyed and powerful account not only of the experience of being an African American woman right now, but also a testament to the importance of this experience and the insight it brings for all Americans.
Eric LeMay is on the creative writing faculty at Ohio University. His work ranges from food writing to electronic literature. He is the author of three books, most recently In Praise of Nothing: Essay, Memoir, and Experiments (Emergency Press, 2014). He can be reached at email@example.com.