Cassandra Lane’s hybrid memoir We Are Bridges incorporates imagined histories and evocative memories into its multigenerational tale of trauma.
In the moment that Lane decided to have a baby, she also became determined to discover the ancestral stories that she knew existed, but had no record of. She grew up in Louisiana as the eldest girl of five children. As she wonders about the future of her unborn child, she reaches back to memories of her maternal grandparents, Papa Houston and Grandmama Avis. Grandma Mary, Papa Houston’s mother, was the oldest relative that Lane knew.
Drawing on family stories and scraps of truth, Lane reconstructs rich histories for Mary and her first lover, and for Papa Houston’s father, Burt Bridges. Her book’s short, emotive chapters reimagine the pain and suffering that her great-grandparents withstood. Lane expresses that she feels those bonds in her blood and bones, and carries each family truth as a lesson of survival.
The book discusses the inherited trauma of lynching, poverty, and being othered by a society that valued Black Americans less. It questions the roles of men in the lives of the Bridges women, including the men who left Lane’s mother, her grandma’s abusive husband, and the man whom Lane divorced. Knowing about the struggles her matriarchs endured, Lane is reticent to become a mother herself; she weighs her decision to keep her baby. She also reaches for healing through her writing, as she covers her own wounds and those of her ancestors. She winds up in a place of grace, with hope for her son.
We Are Bridges is an exceptional memoir of self-discovery through family histories, even without official records.
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