This book is the story of the author’s quest to understand her family history. As she tries to untangle the briars of the past, she sees lines of cause and effect back to the early 1800s. As slaveholders, her South Carolina ancestors lived inside a psychological briar patch of American history. Journeying through family documents and cultural histories, the author explores the likely results of slaveholding upon the family character and the beliefs passed from parents to children. History helps shape the moral psychology of a Southern family through five generations. Deep within the briar patch lies the will to survive. Belief in one’s own goodness is necessary to survival. The author studies evidence of her family’s self-professed virtues—physical bravery, nurturing, and purity—and speculates about their roots in slaveholding. Her family may have subconsciously intensified their virtues to an extreme, in order to reassure themselves of their own goodness while they were participating in slavery and Jim Crow. From these unspoken depths of the briar patch may also emerge those familial and cultural stories about blacks and whites that turn and wind in order to reassure whites that they are good. Into the Briar Patch interrogates the roots of racism and the interplay of culture and soul. The subconscious entanglements that begin with slavery have produced both good and bad in family history, both fruit and thorns. As the author engages in this meditation upon human nature, the family tree becomes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Each branch bends differently, and each of the family’s stories and anecdotes—wistful, amusing, tragic, zealous, ironic—is distinct from all the others. “With succinct, rich language that rings in one’s ear like a wind chime … [Regan] delineates how many of her family’s demonstrable characteristics … were probably … hardened during the prominent period of slave ownership…. An expansive, accomplished memoir.” — Kirkus Discoveries, July 2011 For further information about Into the Briar Patch, and more reviews, go to