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Release Date
October 15, 2024
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Noni Reid has grown up in the shadow of her mother, Dr. Radiance Castine, renowned scholar of Black literature, who is alarmingly perfect at just about everything.

When Dr. Castine takes a job as the president of the prestigious Stonepost College in rural Virginia, Noni is forced to leave her New England home and, most importantly, a prime internship and her friends. She and her mother move into the “big house” on Tangleroot Plantation.

Tangleroot was built by one of Noni’s ancestors, an enslaved man named Cuffee Fortune―who Dr. Castine believes was also the original founder of Stonepost College, and that the school was originally formed for Black students. Dr. Castine spends much of her time trying to piece together enough undeniable truth in order to change the name of the school in Cuffee’s honor―and to force the university to reckon with its own racist past.

Meanwhile, Noni hates everything about her new home, but finds herself morbidly fascinated by the white, slaveholding family who once lived in it. Slowly, she begins to unpeel the layers of sinister history that envelop her Virginia town, her mother’s workplace, her ancestry―and her life story as she knew it. Through it all, she must navigate the ancient prejudices of the citizens in her small town, and ultimately, she finds herself both affirming her mother’s position and her own―but also discovering a secret that changes everything.

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(Updated: March 26, 2024)
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Noni Reid is beyond upset when her mother, Dr. Radiance Castine, a renowned scholar of Black literature, uproots her from their Boston home to move to a Virginia town. Noni has to give up a prestigious internship, and her friends. Noni hasn't forgiven her mother. To make matters worse they move into Tangleroot Plantation which enslaved people, including Noni's ancestor, Cuffee Fortune, built. Her mother is trying to find proof that Cuffee Fortune was also the founder of Stonepost College, a former black college. When Noni stumbles on an old gravesite of a woman with her same name, she finds herself wanting to know more. Along the way, she finds secrets that link back to the past and her own truth.

What worked: I love stories that involve family history which can be hard, difficult, and so rewarding. Noni at first is the reluctant protagonist who always felt she never was good enough for her mother. She wants to live her own life which is in theater as a costume designer. What's totally engaging about this story is when Noni looks for the truth that she knows no one is telling her. On this trail, she encounters some harsh reveals about her family and racism that still is alive today.

Noni's searching for the genealogy of her family opens up a Pandora's box of racism and ugly truths. Also, it scratches at the ugliness hidden by some that we continue to read about today.

I really loved the adventure and more than a few times I was taken off guard on some reveals. As someone who personally did my own search on an ancestor, I know how some aren't too happy and that will try to sabotage the journey. The author does a great job of showing this with Noni. She even includes those old-time microfilm machines!

Noni's journey also includes one of self-awareness and coming to terms with her own story. The relationship with others in the town of Magnolia is shown with those who are accepting and those not so much. Secrets thrive in the small Southern town. Noni's journey comes full circle at the end.

Coming-of-age contemporary story of a teen whose search for the truth behind a gravesite name leads her to find out the truth of not only the town's Southern history but herself. Totally recommend!
Good Points
Mesmerizing contemporary story of a teen's search for the truth of her heritage
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