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Deep Roots, Broken Branches - A History and Memoir

Deep Roots, Broken Branches

A History and Memoir

By Victoria Bynum
Series: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography

Hardcover : 9781496855619, 288 pages, 45 b&w illustrations, February 2025
Expected to ship: 2025-02-17

A powerful, intimate portrait that weaves history across five generations of an American family


Best known for her award-winning book The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, historian Victoria Bynum turns now to her own history in this multigenerational American saga spanning from 1840 to 1979. Through meticulous historical research, personal letters, diaries, and the unpublished memoir of Mary Daniel Huckenpoehler, the author’s maternal grandmother, Bynum examines five generations within the broader context of the nation’s history, navigating pivotal events such as First Wave immigration, the Civil War, the Gilded Age, the Great Depression, two world wars, the Cold War, and beyond.

Child of a mother from Waconia, Minnesota, and father from Jones County, Mississippi, Bynum blends a historian’s voice with personal experiences, intertwining her grandmother’s unpublished memoir and letters with her own role as a diarist and historian. She explores class, race, ethnicity, and gender dynamics. From the rise of Welsh immigrant ancestors in the Upper Midwest and the Gilded Age privileges of her grandmother’s upbringing to Bynum’s own tumultuous childhood in the 1950s and early 1960s as she is shuttled between Georgia, Mississippi, Minnesota, Florida, and California, Bynum grapples with numerous dangers of being raised in a volatile environment marked by alcohol-fueled violence, sexual degradation, and neglect. Against the backdrop of racial segregation, civil rights movements, and the Cold War, Deep Roots, Broken Branches traces the author’s coming-of-age journey, and the profound influence of her grandmother.

Revealed through the lens and tensions of an Air Force family, Deep Roots, Broken Branches explores Bynum’s intellectual curiosity, voracious reading habits, and turbulent path through early motherhood, divorce, and higher education in California. Throughout, her grandmother remains a stabilizing force, offering inspiration and guidance. This book paints a vivid portrait of a southern identity’s growth amid personal challenges and broader societal shifts.