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I picked up this book as it touched on two central interests of mine: pottery, and western North Carolina, where my husband is from and his parents still live. Part documentary, part essay, Chris Benfey chronicles a deeply personal search for family history across generations and continents while diving into the various artists that his search comes across. The result is a delightful amalgamation of art history and exploration, always centered around the human and vividly described.

I myself had spent the first four months of the pandemic in my in-laws house, digging clay in their backyard and refining it for later pottery use. Benfey’s story of Josiah Wedgwood financing the search for white clay in Cherokee land, not too far from where I was, therefore felt extremely tangible to the point where I could smell the clay from the writing. This is a book that makes me want to write.