Author Biography

Portrait by Eduardo Montes-Bradley

Author and Pediatrician, Bettye Kearse

I was born in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in Northern California. I have a B.A. in Genetics from the University at 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.

In 1990, I became the griotte for my family when my mother brought me the box of family memorabilia, and said, “I wanted to give you plenty of time to write the book.” The time had come for the story of my African-American family to take its place in recorded history. To write the book, I traveled around the United States and to Ghana, West Africa, and Lagos, Portugal.

After many years of researching and writing, I have completed The Other Madisons: An American Griotte’s Quest. It is both a personal family history and homage to millions of silenced, invisible African Americans. In recounting the struggles, perseverance, and contributions of ten generations of my family, it reveals the myriad ways African slaves and their descendants were marginalized in or excluded from dominant narrative of this country. My book is an intimate work of narrative nonfiction that discovers, discloses, and embraces a more inclusive and complete American story.

My commentary, “Our Family Tree Searches for Branches” appeared in the Op Ed section of the Boston Herald. “Destination Jim Crow,” a personal essay published in the fall 2013 issue of River Teeth, was listed among the notable essays in The Best American Essays 2014 and nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize.

I have written a series of children’s picture books about a joyful relationship between a grandfather, Grampy, and his granddaughter, BeBe. These stories were inspired by those I heard as a child sitting on my grandfather’s lap.

In my pediatric practice in Boston, I performed well-child care, treated a variety of acute and chronic illnesses, and empowered mothers and fathers to be confident parents. Among my most rewarding experiences as a physician were my travels to China on behalf of Wide Horizons For Children, an international adoption agency; and service on the Board of Directors of From Roots to Wings, a community-based organization for grandparents and the grandchildren they are raising. 

I enjoy writing; reading; travelling; gardening; going to the movies; attending art exhibits, dance concerts and live theater; and working out at the gym—especially Pilates.