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Finding family
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 2010.
Physical Description:
181 p. : ill., geneal. table ; 21 cm.
Reading Level:
690 L Lexile
Raised in Charleston, West Virginia, at the turn of the twentieth century by her grandfather and aunt on off-putting tales of family members she has never met, twelve-year-old Delana is shocked when, after Aunt Tilley dies, she learns the truth about her parents and some of her other relatives.


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Delana has never known her parents. Raised by her Aunt Tilley and a reclusive grandfather, Delana has led a sheltered existence, nurtured on her aunt's wild family histories. But when Aunt Tilley dies, Delana confronts her pent-up curiosities and embarks on a quest to unravel her aunt's fictions and draw out her mysterious grandfather. In searching for her true history, Delana finds herself, and a home in the one place she never thought to look. This moving fictional story is imagined from real antique photographs that author Tonya Bolden has collected. Bolden's well-researched historical details about 1905 Charleston, West Virginia lend authenticity, while spare, lyrical writing make this young girl's coming-of-age resonate.

Author Notes

Tonya Bolden is the author of ten books, including "Strong Men Keep Coming", "The Family Heirloom Cookbook", & "33 Things Every Girl Should Know". She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Delana lives in Charleston, WV, in 1905 with her grandfather and great-aunt. She has never known her parents. Aunt Tilley is a bit eccentric and likes to "visit kinfolk" by showing Delana pictures of her African-American family, telling her stories about each one. When Tilley dies suddenly, Delana's world is turned upside down. On the night of the funeral, she finds her mother's long-lost wayward cousin in her bedroom. Cousin Ambertine begins to tell Delana about her mother, opening her eyes to the reality of her parents' past and the stories Tilley spun for her over the years. As Delana slowly begins to unravel the truth, she finds new understanding of herself and forgiveness for her family. Stories of family secrets always hold a certain allure, and this one is no exception. Bolden spins a unique tale by interspersing antique photographs in her story, weaving the plot around them and using the people in the pictures as characters. While this is a wonderful device, it doesn't quite work, mostly because the denouement falls rather flat and is too quickly resolved. The writing is lovely and poetic with phrases like "sunshine smile," giving the story an incandescence that doesn't quite shine the whole way through. Thoughtful readers will find much to ponder here, but this is a story that may appeal more to adults than children.-Necia Blundy, Marlborough Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

Delana, who is being raised by her grandfather and aunt in the early 1900s, has very little knowledge of her family history. When her aunt dies, Delana begins to discover secrets about her relatives that change the way she views them forever. Period photographs are interspersed throughout the text, helping further draw readers into this engaging story. (c) Copyright 2011. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Set in 1905 Charleston, W.Va., this richly lyrical and historically persuasive coming-of-age story explores the ties that bind, break and renew an affluent African-American family. Narrator Delana, 12, lives with her aloof grandfather and his overprotective sister Tilley, who has raised her with a long list of "bewares." Hungry for family connection, Delana is drawn to Aunt Tilley's assortment of family photographs and listens avidly to her summary, often harsh judgments on their kin; but where Tilley sees "trash and trouble," Delana spots "a hiding kindness." After Tilley dies, Delana summons the courage to probe the secrets that have divided her family and governed their choices and her life. How did the young man who labored to buy his freedom and secure his family's future change into the remote guardian she's grown up with? As she learns to trust her own heart, Delana uncovers the joyful, painful connections between Grandpa's journey and her own. Period photographic portraits from Bolden's personal collection illustrate the book. Each carefully posed subject is a fascinating enigma. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Set in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1905, this novel builds a story around real-life antique photos collected by Bolden. After the great-aunt who raised her dies, 12-year-old Delana takes to heart a comment by another great-aunt ( meek ain't weak ) and works to find the truth behind the stories she's been told about her family. Delana's grandfather saw his father hung and family sold apart; bought his own freedom; and became a successful businessman determined to preserve his future family and legacy. In the years after emancipation, he managed to make contact with lost relatives, who were successful in their own ways. When Delana's mother died in childbirth, he and his sister raised the baby to be a good but sheltered girl. However, no one can keep children and grandchildren cocooned forever, and a wayward aunt reveals a secret: the father that Delana has never known is still alive. This moving, first-person narrative is told in the convincing voice of an educated child using the language of the time. The black-and-white portrait photographs bring life to the richly imagined historical details and characters, and readers will sympathize with the grandfather as well as Delana, who takes her first steps out of her privileged but constricted world by going downtown on her own to have her picture taken. Much more than just a tale of finding oneself or one's family, this novel is a powerful, unique, and satisfying story of African American lives.--Isaacs, Kathleen Copyright 2010 Booklist

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