Summary

Michelle Obama's family saga is a remarkable, quintessentially American story—a journey from slavery to the White House in five generations. In this prodigiously researched epic, New York Times correspondent Rachel L. Swarns traces that complex and fascinating tale—from the men who fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, to the mothers and fathers who endured the horrors of slavery and the indignities of segregation to build a better future for their children—uncovering details about Mrs. Obama's black, white, and multiracial forebears that even the First Lady herself did not know.

Though an intimate family history, American Tapestry is also the collective chronicle of our changing nation, a beautifully rendered and singularly inspiring story with resonance for us all.

Reviews

“Extraordinary. . . . A fascinating account of the First Lady’s family. . . . No political [book] has ever looked like this one.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Riveting. . . . A microcosm of this country’s story. . . . The real-life saga of struggle, survival, triumph and tragedy serves as an uplifting companion to Alex Haley’s Roots.” (USA Today)

“Richly detailed. . . . A lushly layered portrait of the nation itself. . . .Swarns weaves a narrative in which massive social changes (slavery, Reconstruction, the Great Migration) and the microscopic details of DNA play equally important roles.” (Boston Globe)

“Swarns has unearthed and disseminated crucial American history here. . . . A remarkable, only-in-America story that Swarns tells with care and thoughtfulness. . . . Her passion for the story is clear and striking. . . . This book is a worthy and significant endeavor.” (Washington Post)

“Swarns paints a vivid, intriguing portrait of people whose struggles, losses, and triumphs speak volumes about the pull of family and the power of American endurance.” (Los Angeles Times)

“Tremendously moving. . . . Swarns provides numerous tales of heartbreak and achievement, many of which essentially make up the American story.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“An engrossing book. . . . Swarns outlines the fascinating journeys taken by various ancestors of First Lady Michelle Obama—the people who, across the generations, helped make her who she is today.” (Library Journal)

About the Author
Image of Rachel L. Swarns
Rachel L. Swarns

A correspondent for the New York Times since 1995, Rachel L. Swarns was a Public Policy Fellow with the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center from September 2010 to May 2011, during which time she worked on this book. Read More