Marsha Hunt, an African-American novelist, actress and singer, returns to this country from her home in Europe to visit -- and meet for the first time -- a light-skinned, blue-eyed grandmother, all but abandoned by her family. Ernestine has spent some 50 years of her adult life in mental hospitals and is now more than 90 years old and living in a run-down nursing home in Memphis, her hometown.
As Hunt investigates the heartbreaking story of her family, she discovers ancestors like a German-Jewish slave-owner and his black mistress; Ernestine's redoubtable mother, Mattie -- the only dark child among her 13 brothers and sisters -- who raised her daughter's sons when Ernestine was committed; Blair T. Hunt, Marsha's grandfather, a prominent minister and educator in Memphis whose "child" bride, Ernestine, was also his high school pupil; and she even learns more about her own father, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist who commits suicide weeks after a second marriage.
Reclaiming Ernestine as she enters the middle period of her own life, Hunt uncovers an intimate history of race in this country. More timely than ever, Repossessing Ernestine  is a book about the inextricably intertwined lives of black and white in American history, and about the powerful and inevitable links that bind together the two races and the members of a single family. This is an extraordinary memoir, at once forthright and suspenseful, narrated with the skill of a novelist, with humor, dismay and a powerful love.
Marsha Hunt's book encourages the reader to think about the heritage of slavery in the United States and how it defines American racism, about the question of color and about the secret shame in families whose legacy can affect several generations. A sad and important story, it illuminates the shared history of blacks and whites in this country and offers a fresh perspective on what it means to be American.