My Book Will Be Out from Random House in Early 2022

Maud Newton, her yellow lab, Daisy, and Daisy's lab-shepherd friend Roma, eating newly-picked alpine strawberries
Maud, Daisy, Roma, backyard strawberries, and a tangle of vines, (c) Jane P. 2019

Hi. I’m told my book is headed into production soon, and it will be out in early 2022. Whew, and hooray! Date and title to come. I’m excited for you to read it, if you’d like to.

Meanwhile, my old Ancestor Hunger newsletter is warming up in the driveway. I’m aiming to send new dispatches every two weeks. Here are the recent ones:

  • Lineage Unconscious: On Jung and family symbols, including some of mine: black cats and mugwort, acorns and oaks, cardinals and quartz, clover and seashells. Also singing.
  • Other People’s Family Stories: Including some from Maaza Mengiste, Alexander Chee, and Elizabeth Bachner that I’ve particularly cherished as I’ve been holed up the past couple years.

I didn’t intend to disappear from this site for so long, but the book and my other job kept me busy. And in the unlikely event you were wondering what I was up to in the midst of a pandemic and election and attack on the freaking Capitol and so forth, my Twitter feed probably filled you in.

Recently, though, I deleted all my tweets over a month old in disgust over what social media hath wrought in our democracy and the idea that it was monetizing me in the process. Mostly I feel glad that I did this, and freer, but it was a rash act. I’ve been tweeting since 2008. I often used my archives to remember articles and interviews I’d enjoyed but misplaced. Although I downloaded them before deleting, I don’t see myself perusing the file in the same way.

My personal Facebook page has been blessedly abandoned for three years, so deleting just about everything there didn’t feel difficult at all, though Zuckerberg & Co. do not make it easy and only the insurrection prompted me to sit my ass down for all the hours it took to make it so.

In any case, as my mom used to say in her most theatrical Texan way when I kept trying to reach her, and couldn’t, and did finally: Here I ahhm!

A super-smart fact-checker I was working with on my book late last year called this site the most 2000s blog, design-wise, they’d ever seen, and I could only agree! I also thought, ha ha, you brilliant youngster, you didn’t even see the original paint spatter background (captured in part below) that Max made on actual paper at our kitchen table or the “more subtle” graph paper background we decided on a couple years later.

Part of the original paint-spatter background of MaudNewton.com, glimpsed here behind the header. The colors are black and red. The letters are (cut from newspapers and magazines, scanned in, and arranged alongside a childhood photo of Maud at a typewriter.
Original MaudNewton.com header, (c) Maximus Clarke 2002

Truly, it has been a journey here at MaudNewton.com, which will soon undergo a proper redesign. Here’s hoping you’re as well as you can possibly be in these times.



Ancestor Hunger and Religious Conversions

I don’t usually cross-post from my newsletter, but I’m making an exception here. This might be my last post before the site is finally redesigned.

If you’ve been reading my work for a while, you may know that my mom started a church in my living room when I was a kid. It was a tongues-speaking, Rapture-awaiting, exorcism-full ministry focused on hippies, drug addicts, refugees from cults, and assorted others in need. Every Wednesday night, they worshipped in our house in a ritzy Miami suburb. They banged tambourines and Hallelujahed and bound up Satan in Jesus’ name until my father came home and shouted at them to get out or until the neighbors called the cops.

For most of my life, I feared I might have some extreme religious conversion, too. As an adult, after trying on atheism and then Episcopalianism and not feeling a commitment to either, I responded to this fear by becoming a fervent agnostic. I was deeply committed to not knowing. I clenched around uncertainty, all the more so once I learned that my mom wasn’t the only female preacher in her family.

Around the time I turned forty, I started meditating. I studied the Alexander Technique, which, as taught by my teacher, is basically another form of meditation. His approach is especially good for writers and other bookish people who have difficulty being in their bodies. Through all of this, and a billion years of therapy, I opened up to possibilities that had made me anxious before.

When I started writing my book, I could feel myself going in a spiritual direction. I was afraid of what I’d find and where I’d end up, but I decided to follow where the book led me. Recently I went to an ancestral lineage healing intensive, and I’m going to another this summer. It makes me uncomfortable to tell you this, but I’ve decided to own it.

I hand in the draft of my book on June 3! I’m starting another newsletter, Ancestor Hunger, for anyone who’s interested in knowing more about that. You can sign up at Substack, if you’re interested. (More info on the About page.)

Updated August 6 to link to the Ancestor Hunger newsletters so far:



Random House Will Publish My Ancestry Book

I’m ecstatic to announce that Andrea Walker of Random House has acquired my forthcoming book on the science and superstition of ancestry, a subject that has obsessed me for years because of my own family and also because of the way it obsesses the culture at large. While writing my new story for Harper’s, “America’s Ancestry Craze,” I realized that it was mounting — and over the years had been mounting — into a much bigger project.

Here’s the announcement: “Random House will publish writer and critic Maud Newton’s first book, an examination of her obsession with genealogy and her own colorful family history, along with the science and superstition of ancestry in the culture at large.  Newton’s essay, ‘America’s Ancestry Craze,’ is the cover story for the current issue of Harper’s magazine.  This interdisciplinary study will draw on memoir, reporting, cultural criticism, scientific and anthropological research to understand the fear and fascination behind genealogy, and why it has become the second most popular hobby in the United States.  Newton began blogging about books and culture in 2002; within a few years her site was one of the most widely praised and quoted in the industry, and she began writing for the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and NPR, among others.  Random House senior editor Andrea Walker pre-empted North American rights from Julie Barer at Barer Literary.”

Andrea and I first met while she was at the New Yorker, after she wrote nice things about a novel excerpt of mine that Narrative published, and since then I’ve followed her career with admiration and excitement. I’m thrilled to be working with her and the rest of the Random House team! And now you know what I’ll be doing for the next couple years.