Testimonials

Praise for Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity 

This book shows us how precious and fragile one’s sense of identity can be. For some people, questions about their sense of self, their family roots, and their place in society, never come up. There is an unspoken assurance that who they are and how others see them, and how they see themselves are right out there in the open for everyone to see. Split at the Root represents a gradual and then radical departure from that kind of reassurance of self.  Catana Tully’s memoir is a wrenching, painful and necessary excavation for a woman of color who spent her formative years growing up as a “younger daughter” in a German-Guatemalan family. How Catana unearths the many sided truths of herself and her racial and cultural inheritance is the core of this moving narrative.

–Beverly Ann Smirni, Retired ESC Professor

Split at the Root is a portal to Catana Tully’s exotic past and an absorbing account of her search for identity.   She laces this journey of self-discovery with the suspense and mystery of a compelling detective novel.   We turn the pages immersed in her story as she strives to uncover the truths of her past.  We witness her struggle to reconcile her racial displacement with her multiple roots.  We celebrate her ultimate embrace of her heritage.   An engrossing and moving tale filled with psychological and social insight, this memoir shows us what it means to be whole and how that wholeness makes us fully human.

–Richard Gotti, PhD, MFA - Professor and Psychotherapist

Firstly, this is a riveting oral history, autobiography, detective story, as well as a family history and an individual’s striving for knowledge, personal identity and closure. Catana Tully combined an impressionistic study of her natural environment with an impressive research effort to re-assemble her origins. The story resembles a palimpsest, a parchment that has been written on, partially erased, then written on again. While the German historian, von Ranke raised the bar of his profession by striving for Geschichte wie es eigentlich gewesen (history as it actually happened), Catana has arrived at a certitude that has allowed her to assert ownership over her own history and life. She has reached a very high plateau of historical understanding and re-creation while raising the bar for anyone who aspires to follow in her footsteps. The writer was actually “uprooted’ from her birth family and, in a sense orphaned because the German family never shared their name with her through adoption; rather they colonized her mind and Mutti s/mothered her with a dutiful love aimed at producing a trophy child who could bring honor into her unfulfilled life. There may be no second acts in life, but Catana has empowered herself and others to compose an epilogue that captures the essence of their personal histories – while raising the bar for this genre. Those who control the present control the past, and those who control the past control the future. When the German family expelled her birth family from her life, they erased Catana's memories to control her life. The guilt she felt about this reality was mostly sadness over being apparently abandoned by Rosa, her birth mother, and consequently encouraged to deny her own roots. However, she became the beneficiary of greater opportunities for worldly success, but also a victim (of captivity) and an accessory to a crime of rejecting/abandoning her origins. It explains why Mutti disapproved of the Haitian artist’s portrait: its colorfulness was too accurate a depiction of her genuine cultural roots. Catana's soulful re-creation of the first three years with Rosa was brilliant as was the excellent use she made of her multi-cultural heritage with her students in Albany. –Frank Rader, Phd

I have read Split at the Root and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your story is fascinating and at the same time very touching. You are very much a modern-day version of Leon l'African, the main character in the novel by Amin Maalouf, the Lebanese writer – a book recommended to me by Marcel Hinain. Though Maalouf is a contemporary writer, his characters and settings are all historical, and Leon's spectacular story is probably his best, I believe based on a real person. The exploration of issues of identity for someone with a mixed cultural background resonated in my own experience, as I also belong in all sorts of places and have had to deal with people, pretty well everyone at times, foisting their concept of identity upon me, or trying to place me in a box in their mind. Sometimes it has been rather comical. But I knew my parents and all about myself from the beginning. –Tanweer Ali, MA Finance

Catana Tully’s book goes beyond narrating an unusual life’s story with a global backdrop. She explores issues of identity and cultural influences on a deeply personal level. The honesty and clear voice in her writing made this book a pleasure to read and an inspiration. –Patricia Hoisch, Artist, Poet, Musician