This inspiring book comprises short, engaging stories about dozens of black families’ reunion traditions, as well as a “how-to” guide any extended family can use to plan a lively event and strengthen its bonds.
Dr. Ione D. Vargus is affectionately known as the “Mother of Family Reunions,” having founded the Family Reunion Institute in 1990 at Temple University, where she is professor emerita. Setting a scholarly tone, she explains the special significance of reunions for black Americans. When they were enslaved, black people were denied the legal right to marry, have family, or have control over their children. In addition to carrying that tragic history, black families today face the same challenges as other American families: Members are geographically dispersed and often unfamiliar with old and new family stories alike.
Notably, though, black families as far back as the turn of the 19th century built a tradition of carefully planned annual or biennial reunions. Today, some even have a board of directors, local chapters, and substantial budgets. Vargus describes families that create skits about their history, schedule workshops so members can share skills and knowledge, conduct charitable activities, and give scholarships. And, of course, all celebrate food.
The author draws upon abundant original interviews, published materials, and a range of family newsletters, websites and scrapbooks. While her writing is generally tight, overly broad section headings, such as “Passing on Identity” and “Family Music,” allow some repetition to creep in. But the book powerfully illustrates how black family reunions transmit values, forge feelings of identity, bring members in touch with their past, foster communication, and provide role models.
Vargus has effectively written a powerful cultural memoir for black Americans, as well as a practical tool for anyone who longs for connection, guaranteeing wide appeal for this book.
Also available hardcover and ebook.