Generations of illiterate farmers and housewives—my family’s people, stretching back two hundred years at least—seem to pull me toward them saying, “Look how well your fingers fit a clothespin, how well you hold a dishrag. Look how that baby fits your hip, how he smiles for you.”

But I think, no, no; I’m a writer, too. An artist. And it’s a part of me that comes from some vein running long and deep, so surely one of them had it, too, and I keep looking; going back, back. But on each census, in each generation, in the columns marked can read and write? and attended school? there it is again: NO, NO.

I keep looking, but on those days when I can’t make it to my desk or the words won’t come, my family’s people say to me, “See, you are one of us. Now stop this foolishness and get to work,” and I think maybe I should just go plant some tomatoes, put on a pot of beans and wash the windows.