RaveThe Washington PostGenealogy is a national obsession right now, and there’s no shortage of books about the family revelations uncovered by research and DNA testing. But genealogical accounts are almost always inward-looking exercises; few writers can offer a tale as riveting and timely as Maud Newton does in Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation. This is testament not only to her lyrical writing and wide-ranging scholarship but to the story told by her family tree — one of profound intergenerational racism intertwined with the worst moments of American history ... At its best, Ancestor Trouble becomes a kind of personal reconciliation project, one that tells of generations of White violence, cruelty and theft, as well as entrenched intergenerational brainwashing ... There is something moving about Newton’s efforts to honor the forgotten, and I found fascinating the idea that in literally attempting to know the dead, we better understand our place in the world. But her insistence on seeing intergenerational patterns, no matter how far back or far-fetched, threatens to undercut the nuance and rigorous research that characterize the rest of her book ... If Newton’s attempts to connect with the past are unusual, her clear-eyed look at her ancestors’ complicity is nonetheless a valuable and bracing portrait of one American family tree that we know represents many, many more. This is why we look back, and it’s why genealogy can be so powerful — because the past is still with us, because we can’t change the present until we’ve retraced the path that led us here.
PositiveThe New York TimesSmall Animals interrogates how we weigh risk as parents, how we judge one another’s parenting and what the costs might be — not just to parents, but to children, too — of a culture of constant surveillance ... At times, Brooks’s summaries of academic thought can seem dutiful and rushed; she’s best when she takes the time to digest the material and present her own insights.
PositiveSlate...makes for delectable reading ... Schutt’s chapters on cannibalism among humans are the most fascinating, though it’s a tough subject to study systematically ... my favorite portion of the book deals with the preposterous and rococo cannibalism that takes place as part of the sexual practices of redback spiders. Schutt’s wry tone is well-suited to this scientific retelling, and I found myself reading portions of the book aloud to my husband.