Here’s an excerpt from the intro:
Comprised of poetry, prose, and archival documents, Descent is an ambitious exploration of family history and identity. Russell began work on the project after she acquired a copy of the diary of her great-great-grandfather Robert Wallace Hubert, who served as a captain in the Confederate Army. After the Civil War, Hubert fathered children by three of his former slaves, one of whom was the poet’s great-great-grandmother. Noting the omissions and silences in the diary’s text, Russell researched and imagined the lives of the “many faceless names” in her family tree, the people and stories otherwise overlooked by history. “What happened between or out of or in the holes of the story is the real story,” she writes.
Here’s an excerpt from one of Lauren’s interview responses — to which Lauren’s publisher is partial, since he’s also a hermit who tends to avoid eye contact:
Researching a book like this forced me to connect with people in ways that didn’t always come naturally. I had to make phone calls, I had to ask questions of strangers, and eventually I traveled to East Texas and, with my parents, met relatives I didn’t previously know I had, as well as local history experts. Actually it was on that trip that I began to practice making eye contact—now I’ve been doing it for five years, so it doesn’t require as much effort, though I still get the sense that by neurotypical standards my eye contact is a little bit off. All said, while my shyness is a challenge, it is also a gift because what’s most fundamental is being able to listen.