Cover image for Claiming kin : confronting the history of an African American family
Claiming kin : confronting the history of an African American family
Scruggs, Afi.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xxv, 178 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : genealogical tables, portraits ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.97 .S38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E185.97 .S38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E185.97 .S38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
E185.97 .S38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A touching story of a woman's search for her family roots in the wake if the sudden death of her father.

Claiming Kin is a powerful and compelling story about a woman's quest to search out her roots upon the death of the father she barely knew. A former journalist hungry for the truth, her search into the past leads her from her hometown in Nashville, Tennessee, back to the birthplace of the Scruggs in nearby Williamson County. There she traces the family back to 1847 and the Scruggs Farm where her ancestors were once slaves. Her journey soon becomes spiritual and emotional, forcing her not only to examine her own beliefs in the importance of family, but also her religious beliefs as she turns toward honoring her ancestors. This is a tale that will capture the heart and mind.

Author Notes

Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs graduated from the University of Chicago and earned her Ph.D in Slavic Linguistics from Brown University. She has been a full-time journalist since 1987. She is currently a visiting assistant professor of journalism at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. She was a metro columnist for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and has worked for the Dayton Daily News and the Clarion-Ledger . She lives in South Euclid, Ohio with her husband. She is also the author of the children's picture book, Jump Rope Magic .

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The sudden death of her father sent Scruggs on a genealogical search that culminated in a spiritual journey. Since her youth, she'd sought to keep her family at a distance, choosing colleges in the Midwest and the East over the Tennessee institutions long favored by her relatives. Careers in academia and journalism hadn't satisfied a personal longing that began with research of her family back to 1847 and led to a farm in a nearby county where her ancestors had been slaves. Talking to elderly and distant relatives, visiting archives, and piecing together her history, she put meat on the factual bones, imagining the life of Dick Scruggs, a slave ancestor who lived to see emancipation. The author later learns the long-buried family secret that Scruggs may not have been a direct relative, but she holds onto the sense of family she has discovered in the process. A columnist with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Scruggs has written a sensitive and compelling recollection of a woman's search for her family roots and personal spirituality. Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Researching her family history after the death of her father, Scruggs came across the following entry in a 19th-century Mississippi county assets census: "1 pair waffle irons, 2 washing tubs, one waggon (sic) one carriage, eleven plows, one grinding hoe Also the Following Negroes, viz Lynda and her children": it was there that she discovered her grandfather. This moving, beautifully written memoir charts Scruggs's uncovering of her family history and her own, as well as the resolution of her conflicted feelings about her critical, domineering parents and her awakening into a new spiritual life more closely associated with African traditions. In the process of weaving these three strands, Scruggs tells stories about her kin, including how her 15-year-old uncle was shot and killed by a white store owner. She can be ironic describing how in her 1960s Nashville childhood (she could not understand why the water in the fountain marked "coloredwater" looked no different from what was dispensed in other fountains ) or can simply convey her pain and confusion after discovering that she cannot buy an Afro-comb when she is studying Russian at Middlebury College in Vermont. After training for an academic career in Slavic languages, Scruggs ended up a journalist, and her search into her past triggers a calling (in the form of dreams) to African spiritual practice. With an ear finely attuned to language and emotions, and an investigative reporter's sense of driven narrative, Scruggs has written a book that explores and clarifies both the personal and the political. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved