Maud Newton has written for The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, and Oxford American. She grew up in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in English and law. Newton’s ancestors have vexed and fascinated her since she was a girl. Her grandfather from her mother’s side was said to have married 13 times and been shot by one of his wives. Mental illness and religious fanaticism went back to an ancestor accused of being a witch in Puritan-era Massachusetts. Maud’s father, an aerospace engineer turned lawyer, extolled the virtues of slavery and obsessed over the “purity” of his family bloodline, which he traced back to the Revolutionary War. Maud’s mother, given to feverish projects, had a church in the family’s living room and performed exorcisms. In Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation (Random House), Newton writes about her fear that she would replicate their damage. So she researched her genealogy, immersing herself in census archives while yearning for deeper truths. As she exposes the secrets and contradictions of those who came before her, she argues for the transformational possibilities that facing the legacy of our ancestors offers all of us.