MOTHER OF ORPHANS: THE TRUE & CURIOUS STORY OF IRISH ALICE, A COLORED MAN’S WIDOW by Dedria Humphries Barker is the compelling true story of Alice, an Irish-American woman who overcomes restrictive white-on-white discrimination to form a family with a black man and their mulatto children in Ohio in 1899, until his death forced her back to deeply-held values and pass for white. In 1961, Alice, the matriarch of the family arrived in Detroit to live with her black family. A few months later she was dead, leaving three generations to wonder why she had surrendered her three mulatto children to an orphanage after her black husband died in 1912. Forty years after her death, Alice’s great granddaughter, Barker, who suffered her own clashes with American race relations, decided to find out what really happened and why. MOTHER OF ORPHANS uses memoir, biography, research, historical documents and photographs to reel through a story of early twentieth century race mixing in the Ohio River Valley. Barker switches narrative vantage points frequently, offering fragments of the past and glimpses of the present. The result is a haunting, introspective meditation on race and family ties that tackles the tricky questions involved in constructing identity. Part personal journey, part cultural biography, MOTHER OF ORPHANS examines a little-known piece of this country’s past: interracial families that survived and prevailed despite Jim Crow laws, including those laws prohibiting mixed-race marriage. In lyrical, evocative prose, this extraordinary book pierces the heart of issues of race and racial identity, leaving us ultimately hopeful about the world as our children might see it.