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Marcia Edwina Herman-Giddens

Unloose My Heart:

 A Personal  Reckoning With the Twisted Roots of My Southern Family Tree

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"This book chronicles braided journeys and back stories of exploration and discovery, full of angst, sorrow, and joy, as it seeks a mending. It tells of uncanny traveling adventures full of synchronicities and unexpected discoveries. Some included learning about African American cousins who taught the author grace and love. It is the story of a girl, finding herself in the apartheid world of Jim Crow Birmingham, Alabama, at the age of six. 
Her struggle to understand that world shadowed by her mother’s heritage of proud enslaving forbears lay fragmented until, near her ninth decade, she undertook the quest to find out what she did not know and record it for her beloved children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, for all her relations, and all others."

Upcoming Events

...For details see full description of event under the "EVENTS and PRESENTATIONS tab...

                                                                            ~ 2024 ~



"Unloose My Heart" Launch and Reading                                                          Jan 31, 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

Flyleaf Books, 752 M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Triangle Area Freelancers Roundtable (closed)                                                Feb 22, 7:00PM - 8:00PM

Durham-Raleigh, North Carolina

Unloose My Heart Conversation                                                                        Feb 23, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Ramsay High School, Birmingham, Alabama

Unloose My Heart Reading                                                                                 Feb 25, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM

Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham, Alabama

Unloose My Heart Reading                                                                                 Feb 26, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Unitarian Universalist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

Unloose My Heart Writing Class for Osher Lifelong Learning.                        Feb 27, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA

Unloose My Heart Reading & Signing                                                                Feb. 28, 5:30 PM 

Earnest & Hadley Books, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA

Conversation and Reading with PJ MacAlpine                                                  Mar 1, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

and Marcia Herman-Giddens

Hale County Library, Greensboro, Alabama

Conversation and Reading with Marcia Herman-Giddens                               May 23, 7:00PM-8:00 PM  

and Charles Dew                                             

Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Florida

Unloose My Heart Reading                                                                                     August 7, 5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Chase Emerson Public Library, Deer Isle, Maine

Unloose My Heart at the 2023 National Book Festival of the Library of Congress     August 12, All day                      -chosen as the adult selection from Alabama and is included in the "Great Reads from Great Places"                                             
Unloose My Heart Reading
Revere Memorial Library, Isle au Haut                                                                    August 14, 4:00-5:00

Presentation at the Multi-Cultural Club & Literary Clubs                                          Oct 17, postponed

York Technical College, Rock Hill, SC

Conversation at St. John's Bookstore                                                                   Sept 30, 2:00-3:30
St. John's College, Annapolis, MD

A Conversation. Better Together4NC                                                                  Oct 26 6:00 - 7:00 PM    

St.Michaels Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC

A Conversation & Tea with Master Gardeners                                                               Dec 5 3:30-5 PM

Unloose My Heart & Sipping My Garden

 Durham Agriculture Extension, 721 Foster Dt, Durham NC

"Unloose My Heart"A Reading & Discussion                                               February 25, 2024 2:00-3:00 PM 

Harmony Hall Village, 1615 River Road, White Oak, NC 

Unloose My Heart"A Reading & Discussion                                                March 17, 2024 7:00-8:00 PM

Chatham County CRC-C & NAACP Online

Unloose My Heart"A Reading & Discussion                                                April 17, 2024 Evening

Local Book Club

"Unloose My Heart"A Reading & Discussion                                                April 27, 2024 2:00-4:00 PM

Chatham County Community Library, Pittsboro, NC

In The Press


Unloose My Heart is an irreplaceable narrative that goes well beyond personal experience and the examination of the author’s maternal ancestors’ slaveholding. Woven into the book are many themes: coming of age, Southernness, the complexity and endurance of family relationships, class struggles, convention and rebellion, service to fellowman, empowerment of women, self-awareness, and civil rights activities in Jim Crow Birmingham. Its overarching subject, the evils of racism, which is sadly and rightfully dark, is brightened by the author’s sweet spirit, honesty, and hope for a better future.

Laurie Gentry, Recovering Troubadour, Journalist, and Designer

Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana

This book is more than a memoir set against the backdrop of Jim Crow and the civil rights movement; it is the work of a woman of conscience writing in the twenty-first century. Haunted by the past, her prose is a journey of exploration and discovery, full of angst, sorrow, and joy, as it seeks a mending. Her research unearthed an extensive history of slaveholding, arrogance, cruelty, trauma, and fear, forcing her to scrutinize the impact of this legacy in her life, as well as her debt to the enslaved people who suffered and were exploited at her ancestors’ hands. But she also discovers lost connections, new cousins and friends, and unexpected joys in the process, and, eventually, a measure of peace. With heartbreak, moments of grace, and an enduring sense of love, Unloose My Heart shines a light in the darkness and provides a model for a heartfelt reckoning with American history.

Unloose My Heart is a remarkable achievement of personal and historical journalism, a gripping account of how one young woman came to understand her family's debts in a segregated world and steps she took to settle them.

Jim Willse, former editor of The New York Daily News and reporter for The Southern Courier in the 1960s

New York

University of Alabama Press

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Unloose My Heart Author Bio

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Marcia Edwina Herman-Giddens was born in Washington, DC, to a Pennsylvania father and a south Florida mother. In 1947, the family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, arriving when the first bombings of African American establishments had begun. As Marcia grew up, she was profoundly affected by her exposure to the wrongs of Jim Crow, the ongoing atrocities, and pervasive injustice. Later, as a young mother, she and her then-husband participated in Birmingham’s Civil Rights Movement. 


Herman-Giddens attended St John's College in Annapolis, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina, receiving her DrPH there in 1994. Just as the political climate of her childhood inspired her interest in racial justice and genealogy, her educational and life experiences fostered her love of books, nature, gardening, and the wide world of adventure. Dr. Herman-Giddens spent her career years in North Carolina, in the areas of  medicine, public health, research, scientific writing, and advocacy, primarily involving children. Her scientific papers have been published in numerous medical journals and books.


More recently, Herman-Giddens has turned her research and writing skills to her family ancestral history. Her debut book, Unloose My Heart: A Personal Reckoning with the Twisted Roots of My Southern Family Tree, interweaves her experiences in Birmingham’s perilous apartheid world with an examination of her maternal ancestors’ slaveholding history.


She writes and gardens beside a canopy of trees outside her office window, and cherishes her large family, which now includes two great-grandchildren.

All Books


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Unloose My Heart


Sipping My Garden


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