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  • Writer's pictureSara Tucker

Thank You, Dr. English

This African-American family history begins with a ten-year-old girl who is captured by slavers and ends with her great-great-great-granddaughter, an anthropologist with a PhD from Yale.

Lydia English was a member of the first writing group I ever led, back when we held our meetings at the Korongo Gallery on Merchants Row. Lydia was a force, a girl from the Southside of Chicago who went to Brown at age 40 and then to Yale, where she earned a PhD in social-cultural anthropology. As a senior program office for the Mellon Foundation, Lydia helped other minority students obtain their PhDs. After she retired, she and her spouse, Pat Menchini, moved to Randolph. Lydia met one of my life-writing students, 99-year-old Margaret Egerton, at the VTC pool, and Margaret introduced her to me. Oh, happy day! Lydia became a dear friend and one of my biggest cheerleaders.

The book Lydia produced in my Pictures Into Words workshop begins with the story of her great-great-great-grandmother, Fanny Grundy, pictured above on the far right. Fanny was captured by slavers in Guinea, West Africa, and sold in New Orleans at the age of 10. "Hers was a remarkable life of tenacity and courage," Lydia wrote.

Fanny's story was passed down as oral history by her daughter Alice, Alice's daughter Lucy, and Lucy's daughter Lauretta, who was Lydia's grandmother. The book is an homage to these women, as well as to Lydia's mother, Portia; Lydia's friends Shirley and Linda; and her life partner, Pat. A Woman's Legacy is not only a wonderful book but has become one of my favorite teaching tools. I wish to thank Lydia's spouse, Pat Menchini, for allowing me to share it with you.

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My current Pictures Into Words workshop meets online, hosted by Kimball Library, on the first Friday of the month through June 2023. For info, contact

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