One of the realities of writing a book is that people will have opinions about it. In today’s Providence Journal, Paul Davis, who previously has written about the DeWolf family’s slave-trading past, writes The DeWolf Family Burden about my book and our journey through Traces of the Trade. Davis calls Inheriting the Trade a “powerful new memoir” and says it “offers something the film does not: a long deep look at one man’s interior journey.” This is what I intended the book to do and am gratified that Mr. Davis understood.
Also in today’s ProJo (as it is locally known in Rhode Island) is a review of Inheriting the Trade titled The DeWolfs confront their past, by Brown University Historian Luther Spoehr. He doesn’t like the book, saying about me, “…he writes with a convert’s zeal, which provides much of the book’s energy – and undermines its effectiveness.”
Both the film and the book have had, and I suspect will continue to have, both positive and negative reviews. For the film, you can read positive notices in the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and The Village Voice, which says Traces of the Trade “contains some of the most extraordinary moments I witnessed onscreen at Sundance this year…” There were also negative reviews, such as the one online at Filmthreat.com, that said “The documentary turned into a self-indulgent travelogue, whether or not the participants wanted it to be different.” Carrie Rickey, the movie critic with the Philadelphia Inquirer captured what I believe is the essence of our family’s goal when she wrote, “Katrina Browne may be the rare director at the Sundance Film Festival more fired up by the prospect of social justice than a distribution deal.”
The book has received positive reviews from Kirkus (available by subcription), which said, “His conclusions will be controversial, but DeWolf’s intimate confrontation with white America’s ‘unearned privilege’ sears the conscience,” and Library Journal, which heartily recommends Inheriting the Trade for “public, high school, and college libraries, especially those seeking literature examining different perspectives about racism, slavery, and economic history.” Publishers Weekly gave it a mixed review (you have to scroll down a ways to get to it). The Christian Science Monitor, which published a story about the film this week, is scheduled to review the book on February 19. I’ll provide a link at that time.
We’re dealing with issues that are controversial, complicated, and emotional. We approach them from a deeply personal place. That works for some readers and viewers, and not for others. The exciting thing is that people are talking about Inheriting the Trade and Traces of the Trade. Katrina and I, along with many of our cousins and partners, will continue throughout the year traveling around the country with our message, with the film and the book, encouraging people to continue talking, thinking, and engaging in issues of race, oppression, injustice… issues that matter.