Latest Issue

Family stories help forge an identity—even when they’re not entirely true

Our own personal costume dramas, they’re vehicles for passing down values, animating our genetic inheritance through accounts of pluck and hard graft

By Hephzibah Anderson   May 2020

Illustration: Kate Hazell

Family stories are as varied as their tellers. They can beguile and they can bore, inspire and puzzle, but whether they leave their audience in stitches or cringing with embarrassment, they all share a crucial function: helping to forge identities.  

That goes for the identity of the family as a whole as well as its constituent members. Whenever it’s said of my daughter “She’s such an Anderson girl!”, volumes of family lore are being footnoted.…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect