In this gorgeously written and “vividly fascinating” (Elle) account, a prize-winning journalist digs deep into his ancestry looking for the origins of his unusual last name and discovers that he comes from one of America’s earliest mixed-race families.
“My dad’s family was a mystery,” writes journalist Joe Mozingo, having grown up with only rumors about where his father’s family was from—Italy, France, the Basque Country. But when a college professor told the blue-eyed Californian that his family name may have come from sub-Saharan Africa, Mozingo set out on an epic journey to uncover the truth. He soon discovered that all Mozingos in America, including his father’s line, appeared to have descended from a black man named Edward Mozingo who was brought to America as a slave in 1644 and, after winning his freedom twenty-eight years later, became a tenant tobacco farmer, married a white woman, and fathered one of the country’s earliest mixed-race family lineages.
Tugging at the buried thread of his origins, Joe Mozingo has unearthed a saga that encompasses the full sweep of America’s history and lays bare the country’s tortured and paradoxical experience with race.Haunting and beautiful, Mozingo’s memoir paints a world where the lines based on color are both illusory and life altering. He traces his family line from the ravages of the slave trade to the mixed-race society of colonial Virginia and through the brutal imposition of racial laws.
“A captivating debut… that reads like an adventure novel” (Los Angeles Times), The Fiddler on Pantico Run is both the moving story of one man’s quest to understand his past and the larger story of lineage, identity, and race in America.
Joe Mozingo is a projects reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of the earthquake in Haiti and helped lead a Miami Herald reporting team whose investigation into the crash of the space shuttle Columbia was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The Fiddler on Pantico Run was named a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, administered by Columbia University and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.
“Joe Mozingo has unearthed an extraordinary story and tells it powerfully. Beautifully composed, his narrative weaves together the past and present as he plunges deeply into his family’s history. It is a brave journey, yielding one illumination after another.”
– Henry Wiencek, author of Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves