Kanika Marshall

‘I want to become a missionary for family history, encouraging everybody to document their own family stories now, while there is still time. I will feel successful if people read my book and become enthused about capturing information about their elders - not only names, birth/death dates, and locations, but also their family stories,’ said artist/author Kanika Marshall.

Courtesy Photos

Fans of Elk Grove artist Kanika Marshall have admired her stunning artwork showcasing women and African American culture.

Now admirers of her work will have the chance to enjoy her writing and find out a bit more about her background via tales of her ancestors in her new book, “The Ancestors Are Smiling!” a collection of thought provoking stories that will stir up a variety of emotions.

Marshall is writing genealogy and art books under the name of her alter-ego, Kathy Lynn Marshall. She will be among the several authors featured at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center’s First Saturday Art Reception’s book signing on Sept. 2, 4-7 p.m.


Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the author and learn more about the book that commemorates the lives of her ancestors.

“An alarming thought entered my head one day last spring as I found myself starting my 60th year of life: there are only three people older than I am in my mother’s family and fewer still in my father’s. Soon ‘I’ may be the Matriarch of the family,” Marshall said. “If I don’t write a book about my ancestors, who will? Now is the time to commemorate the lives of those enslaved and free people who have gone before me, and of those of us still living who are their proud descendants. I have a burning desire to ensure that my family is remembered in a tangible, written way.”

The collection of true, touching and oftentimes comical stories are told by Marshall’s parents, grandparents and her additional ancestors and their descendants in a captivating way that keeps the reader wondering what’s coming next.

For example, one story in “The Ancestors Are Smiling!” details the life of Marshall’s great-grandfather who lived only a few miles away from the Civil War Battle of Antietam, where over 20,000 people died in a single day in 1862.

Another story spotlights the life of the author’s grandmother whose family had to house a family of 16 in an extremely cramped rented factory-owned home during the Great Depression.


“Some of the conversations are from regular black folk born in the latter part of the 1800s and 1900s who led difficult lives in a racially-divided America. Other stories describe remarkable successes in highly regarded fields of medicine, education and engineering,” Marshall said. “Some tales dance around our family lore that we get mechanical abilities from our enslaved iron-worker ancestors.”

Marshall noted that the tenacity of her ancestors gives hope to modern-day Americans and encourages us all to push forward in times that threaten to divide the nation.

“My ancestors lived by example. Certainly, tenacity and perseverance drove them to ensure that each new generation was better off than the last. Knowing the difficult history of African Americans in this country should encourage current-day Americans to fight hard to ensure Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws from the 1960s are not reversed, and that current neo-Nazi sentiments do not take hold in this Land of the Free,” she said. “I believe knowing about your family roots and family experiences will help deter the scourge of racism, sexism, ageism, and other-isms that needlessly divide us.  I hope readers will write information about their own lives and share them with their family.  One does not need to publish a book on Amazon.com; they can easily present photographs and narrative descriptions of their lives in online books, scrapbooks, or personal journals. Writing these stories now is the key.”

“The Ancestors Are Smiling!” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and on www.KanikaMarshall.com/books.html.