Title: Black Family Reunions: Finding the Rest of Me
Author: Ione D. Vargus
Genre: Social Sciences
Reviewed by: Nicole M. Olson
Pacific Book Review
Family reunions are a huge part of American culture – Ione D. Vargus’ book Black Family Reunions provides a closer look at the significance of family reunions for African American families. Not only does Vargus describe how family reunions shape African American communities and culture – her book provides valuable information in planning a family reunion as well.
Vargus’ writing style is straightforward and pleasant to read – rather than reading I felt as if I was listening to an oral history. I could hear her voice shining through the words, it is apparent she is passionate about this facet of American culture and history. I learned something on just about every single page. My family is made up of European immigrants – I did attend a family reunion one time, as a guest of a friends’ in college. Compared to what Vargus’ described – the family reunion I attended was quite modest in attendees, though the activities, food, atmosphere, and conversations mirrored just what may appear in a black family reunion.
Black Family Reunions: Finding the Rest of Me offers great insight on the positive impact family reunions have on a community. The young learn from the old, relatives come together, and history is preserved and sometimes discovered. Families grow their bond and promise to come closer together over the years. This book is a wonderful read for anyone who is interested in learning more about American culture, black or white. Should you be planning a reunion or any family celebration, this book offers a variety of ideas and information valuable to planning any event.
Dr. Vargus covers everything from the expenses of planning, how families cover the costs of attending, as well as various activities and incentives families have in participating in a family reunion. One of the most interesting things I learned from her book was how diverse Black family reunions can be – guests come from a variety of backgrounds and religions. Some families even invite the ancestors of the plantation owners that their own family members belonged to as slaves. As painful as this history is – these families show forgiveness and acceptance towards those descendants.
Reading this book during the COVID-19 pandemic really brought to my attention how “new” the new normal really is. Just months ago – Americans were planning family reunions, weddings, birthday parties. Since the start of the pandemic many of these events were cancelled. Racial tensions at this time in the United States are also very high – this book shows they need not be! The Black community in the United States makes up a large part of history and culture. This melting pot country would not be the same without Black culture, who accept everyone as family.
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