Big Family Trees

When we first started reading The Turner House I was immediately hit with a rather strong sense of déjà vu as I came across in the paratext the family tree that Angela Flournoy prefaced her novel with. I took note of the many branches extending from the Turner patriarch and matriarch and saw an immediate correlation to my own extended family. My dad is the seventh child out of fourteen and grew up in a household that was a little bit different from the typical household at the time comprised of two parents and three and a half children. I felt the desire to compose my own family tree for a visual representation of the similarities that I see my family to have with the Turner family. Viewing that family tree laid out with three generations of Turners really reminded me of my family and prompted me to give a closer look to the sibling relationships within my own family.

I was definitely inspired to create this post after this past weekend where I was able to see a large portion of my family at my cousin Lauren’s wedding. It was a fantastic time had by all, but with The Turner House fresh in my mind I was especially aware of some familial relationships and roles that came into play during this occasion. In particular, it was interesting to see where everyone was seated for the reception, because with a family as large as mine, not all siblings are as close as they are with other siblings and naturally some ‘cliques’ have taken shape over the years as spouses and children have been added to the mix.

I was also inspired to write this post after reading Kaitlin and Eva’s posts about birth order in families and the reasons why Flournoy may have created such a large number of siblings within the Turner family. Eva’s post really struck me because it’s hard to think of members of my own family as supernumeraries, but to be totally honest it really took me a while to create my family tree because I kept forgetting someone here and there and had to add them in where they belonged on the tree. To me, it seems that the dynamics of a family as large as the Turner family really seem to operate with ‘main characters’ and ‘supporting characters’, in that there are siblings who stand out and have major roles in either heavily supporting the family (Cha Cha) / depending on the family (Leelah and Troy) or by doing a little bit of both (the rest of the Turner siblings). I see this in my own family as well with my Aunt Jeanne reminding me a lot of Cha Cha in that she has always held a strong leadership role in the family and even had children that were very close in age to her youngest siblings, just as Cha Cha did. I think that Flournoy created such a large Turner family to emphasize sibling roles like these, and from personal experience I can definitely say that having a family that large creates for many interesting experiences and dynamics!

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