Marcia Edwina Herman-Giddens • Book Signing & Talk


Join us Tuesday, February 28 from 5:30-7:00 PM, as we welcome Marcia Edwina Herman-Giddens to Ernest & Hadley Booksellers, to discuss her memoir, Unloose My Heart: A Personal Reckoning with the Twisted Roots of My Southern Family Tree.

~ A deeply personal memoir that unearths a family history of racism, slaveholding, and trauma as well as love and sparks of delight ~

Marcia Herman’s family moved to Birmingham in 1946, when she was five years old, and settled in the steel-making city dense with smog and a rigid apartheid system. Marcia, a shy only child, struggled to fit in and understand this world, shadowed as it was by her mother’s proud antebellum heritage. In 1966, weary of Alabama’s toxic culture, Marcia and her young family left Birmingham and built a life in North Carolina.

Later in life, Herman-Giddens resumed a search to find out what she did not know about her family history. Unloose My Heart interweaves the story of her youth and coming of age in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement together with this quest to understand exactly who and what her maternal ancestors were and her obligations as a white woman within a broader sense of American family.

More than a memoir set against the backdrop of Jim Crow and the civil rights struggle, this is the work of a woman of conscience writing in the twenty-first century. Haunted by the past, Unloose My Heart is a journey of exploration and discovery, full of angst, sorrow, and yearning. Unearthing her forebears’ centuries-long embrace of plantation slavery, Herman-Giddens dug deeply to parse the arrogance and cruelty necessary to be a slaveholder and the trauma and fear that ripple out in its wake. All this forced her to scrutinize the impact of this legacy in her life, as well as her debt to the enslaved people who suffered and were exploited at her ancestors’ hands. But she also discovers lost connections, new cousins and friends, unexpected joys, and, eventually, a measure of peace in the process. With heartbreak, moments of grace, and an enduring sense of love, Unloose My Heart shines a light in the darkness and provides a model for a heartfelt reckoning with American history.

Marcia Edwina Herman-Giddens is adjunct professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and consultant on tick-borne infections. Before retiring, she was a pediatric practitioner, child advocate, family health consultant, and a teacher. She is best known professionally for her studies on child abuse homicides, which led to new laws, and landmark studies documenting the earlier age of onset of puberty in American children. This is her first work of narrative nonfiction.

Event date: 
Tuesday, February 28, 2023 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Event address: 
1928 7Th St
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401-1829
Unloose My Heart: A Personal Reckoning with the Twisted Roots of My Southern Family Tree By Marcia Edwina Herman-Giddens Cover Image
ISBN: 9780817321451
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University Alabama Press - January 17th, 2023