A Roots for a New Generation

For thousands of years, West African griots (men) and griottes (women) have recited the stories of their people. Without this tradition I would not have known that I am a descendant of the enslaved cook Coreen and her owner, and half-brother, President James Madison.

My family’s credo “Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president,” has guided us for 200 years, but, for me, it echoed with the abuses of slavery. Including rape and incest. So, in 1990, when I became the family griotte, I decided to confront those abuses. As I traced my ancestors’ footsteps, I learned that slaves possessed hope and inner strength, by which they survived, and talents, by which they contributed mightily to America. Then they passed down these same qualities to their descendants.

My book will inspire those descendants to use our inner strengths and talents not only to fulfill our hopes but to make contributions in all arenas of human endeavor. Learn more...


National Association of Black Journalists Outstanding Book Award 2020

International Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society Book Award for Best Non-Fiction Autobiography

2021 Bronze Medal Winner of the Readers' Choice Book Award--Nonfiction/Memoir

Library of Virginia People's Choice Nonfiction Award

Marsha M. Greenlee History Award given by the Afro American History and Genealogical Society



About The Author

I was born in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in Northern California. I have a B.A. in Genetics from the University of California at Berkeley, a Ph.D. in Biology from New York University, and an M.D. from Case Western Reserve University. My husband and I have a daughter, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Read more...