Finding Family by Tonya Bolden, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Finding Family

Finding Family

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by Tonya Bolden

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Delana has never known her parents. Raised by her aunt and a reclusive grandfather, Delana has lived a sheltered existence, nurtured on her aunt's wild family stories. But when her aunt dies, Delana embarks on a quest to unravel the truth. This moving fictional story is imagined from real antique photographs.


Delana has never known her parents. Raised by her aunt and a reclusive grandfather, Delana has lived a sheltered existence, nurtured on her aunt's wild family stories. But when her aunt dies, Delana embarks on a quest to unravel the truth. This moving fictional story is imagined from real antique photographs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bolden's (FDR's Alphabet Soup) historical novel about family roots revolves around a series of collected photographs from the 1900s. Raised in Charleston, W.Va., by her withdrawn grandfather and prudent Aunt Tilley, both liberated slaves, 12-year-old Delana finds her family history to be a mystery. And when Aunt Tilley dies suddenly, Delana struggles more than ever to grasp onto an identity. After her cousin Ambertine (a wild woman, traveler, and pawnbroker) shows up, revealing surprising information about Delana's parents, Delana begins to distrust everything she has been told. As Delana imagines herself in the photographs and collects insights from family members--many of whom speak in expressive Southern dialect--she begins to understand the role that imagination and personal prejudice can play in coloring the past ("Was this how it started with Aunt Tilley? When she couldn't remember or didn't know or didn't like a truth, she just made things up?"). In the end, Delana learns to disregard Aunt Tilley's cautionary "Book of Bewares," and to embrace her own life. While the overlapping histories can be hard to follow, the visual relics function as poignant patchwork pieces in Delana's self-discovery. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
Delana knows her family only through the stories her crazy Aunt Tilley tells about their pictures. She lives with Aunt Tilley and her grandfather, a former slave, because her mother died at Delana's birth and her father ran off. Then Aunt Tilley dies, and Delana meets many of the people in the pictures. Through the stories these people tell about themselves and her parents, Delana learns how sheltered she has been. She also learns the truth behind her father's departure and begins to heal her distant relationship with her grandfather. Inspired by the old photographs that illustrate the text, Bolden weaves a rich family history of earning freedom from slavery and establishing a position of respect. Delana's struggles as a twelve-year-old and her search for the truth move the plot at an engaging pace. She is an interesting character, and her experiences bring 1905 Charleston, West Virginia to life. But it is her grandfather, Mr. Hannibal, who truly stands out. After his family was split and sold away, he worked to earn his freedom and to establish himself as a freedman. He raised a family, then watched them slip away, leaving him with only one granddaughter as his legacy. His struggle to love her, protect her, and allow her room to grow is touching. The photographs add interest and depth to the story and the characters, though the need to include so many of them at the beginning of the story makes the text a bit choppy and the references confusing. This work of historical fiction covers a less well-known part of African-American history, between emancipation and the Civil Rights movement, and will add to studies of the time period and the regional and ethnic culture. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
School Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews

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)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

TONYA BOLDEN has written more than twenty books for children and adults, many of them award-winning, including the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl. She lives in New York City.?

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Finding Family 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Delana has never known her parents. Raised by her Grandpa and Aunt Tilley, she has very few clues to her past. And when Aunt Tilley suddenly dies, she fears that the last bit of her mother died, too. An unexpected visit from a relative leads Delana to discover that everything she had been told about her parents was a lie. Can she piece together her mysterious past to discover who she truly is? Find out in FINDING FAMILY. Tonya Bolden creates a story rich in Southern history in her latest novel. Using the perfect blend of unique characters and photographs from the time period, she leaves the reader feeling completely satisfied from beginning to end.