The Modesto Girls are a Family Miracle

How Five Sisters (and Their Brothers) Survived Childhood and Stuck Together in Stanislaus County

California changes too fast. The new so quickly replaces the old. People come and go with a blur. I often feel like you can’t count on anything staying here anymore.

But you can count on the Modesto Girls.

These five sisters—my first cousins, once removed—have never had glamorous jobs. They didn’t get fancy educations. Little in life has come easy to them.

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But they are always there when there’s work to be done, when my mom’s side of the family is in need, or just …

What Kind of an American Am I?

From Witches to Baptist Ministers to Native Americans, My Family Heritage Holds Many Stories. But I'm Not Sure Which Ones Are Mine.

I am American. That much I know—but my life’s experience has never taken me beyond that in any way, up until this point. While many Americans embrace their ancestry …

How Our Grandmothers Disappeared Into History

A Historian Turned Novelist Ponders the Absence of Women From America's Historical Archives

I recently Googled my grandmother’s name. I wanted to know the date she died, so I could better place a childhood memory. In the 21st century, embarrassingly, the internet has …

What America’s National Parklands Taught My Three Boys About Their Country

A Michigan Teacher Wanted His Sons to Roam the Nation's Expanses, Grasp Its Opportunities, and Understand Its Injustices

Last August, my sons and I paddled canoes through the Missouri River Breaks National Monument in eastern Montana. The Breaks is remote country, a prairie river cutting through coulees and …

The Civil War Art of Using Words to Assuage Fear and Convey Love

Soldiers and Their Families, Sometimes Barely Literate, Turned to Letters to Stay Close

Sarepta Revis was a 17-year-old newlywed when her husband left their North Carolina home to fight in the Confederate States Army. Neither had much schooling, and writing did not come …