Spotlight, Review & Giveaway: Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art by Nancy L. Pressly

Book Blurb & Info

While recovering from a near fatal illness, Nancy Pressly discovers a treasure trove of family material stored in her attic. Haunted by images of her grandparents and her parents in their youth, she sets out to create a family narrative before it is lost forever. It takes several more years before she summons the courage to reconstitute a path back to her own past, slowly pulling back the veil of amnesia that has, until now, all but obliterated her memory of her childhood.

In this sensitive and forgiving meditation on the meaning of family, Pressly unravels family dynamics and life in a small rural town in the 1950s that so profoundly affected her―then moves forward in time, through to her adulthood. With an eye attuned to visual detail, she relates how she came into her own as a graduate student in the tumultuous sixties in New York; examines how she assumed the role of caretaker for her family as she negotiated with courage and resilience the many health setbacks, including her own battle with pancreatic-related cancer, that she and her husband encountered; and evokes her interior struggle as a mother as she slowly traverses the barriers of expectations, self-doubt, and evolving norms in the 1980s to embrace a remarkable life as a scholar, champion of contemporary art, and nationally recognized art museum strategic planning consultant. Full of candor and art-inspired insight, Unlocking leaves the reader with a deep appreciation of the power of art and empathy and the value of trying to understand one’s life journey.

Buy Links
Amazon / Barnes&Noble / Indiebound

Toot's Review by Betty Bee

Moving, emotional, inspiring and gripping—all words I would use to describe 'Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art' by Nancy Pressly.

If you know me, you know I absolutely love a good memoir. Truth is always stranger than fiction, and the inner struggles and triumphs of people's lives are always so fascinating to me. I love to read these types of books because it makes me feel like I am experiencing the highs and lows of their lives along with them and it is also a great opportunity to have a little cry over a book.
This is the perfect memoir for readers like me. The perfect memoir for memoir-lovers!

In her late 60's, Nancy Pressly was diagnosed with ampullary cancer, a type of cancer that is related to the pancreas. After going through a difficult surgery, chemo and radiation, Pressly found herself at loose ends with what to do next.
Eventually, she decided to fully organize her house and this was when she remembered the boxes of old family belongings that she had stashed away in her attic for years.

Sorting through the old pictures, cards and letters only fueled Pressly with the urge to learn even more about her family and, as she began to do further research, she uncovered a timeless story of family life. This is a story about Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, about a hopeful move to America and small-town life in the 20th century. This is a story about preparing for the end of life by looking deeply at where you started out, and about how your family impacts who you are as a person.

Pressly's writing is profound. She clearly has a great sense of non-fiction story structure and how much detail is just enough.

'Unlocking' gives me a wonderful reading experience and a renewed interest for researching my own family history! I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

Author Info

Nancy L. Pressly, a graduate of Goucher College, received her master’s degree in Art History from Columbia University. She began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and subsequently held curatorial positions at the Yale Center for British Art and the San Antonio Museum of Art, where she organized several important exhibitions, most notably the acclaimed Fuseli Circle in Rome: Early Romantic Art of the 1770s.

In 1984 she became Assistant Director of the Museum Program at the National Endowment for the Arts; was a visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts during the fall of 1992; and in 1993 founded Nancy L. Pressly & Associates, a nationally recognized consulting firm specializing in strategic planning for art museums. She has authored numerous publications, most recently a book titled Settling the South Carolina Backcountry (2016.) She and her husband live in Atlanta, Georgia, close to their son and two grandchildren.

Author Links


This giveaway is for 3 print copies open to the U.S. only. There will be 3 winners. This giveaway ends August 1, 2020,midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Tour Info

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus June 4 Kick off & Interview

Miller Amazon June 5 Review

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Vicki I’d Rather Be At The Beach June 9 Review

Linda Lu Goodreads June 15 Review

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus June 18 Review

Betty Toots Book Reviews June 24 Review

Bookgirl Goodreads June 26 Review

Just Another Reader July 9 Review

Gud Reader Goodreads July 14 Review

Infantina The periodical gazette July 29 Review & Excerpt

Amy Locks, Hooks and Books July 31 Review

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