Antonia Hylton

Antonia Hylton (she/her) is a Peabody and Emmy-award winning journalist at NBC News reporting on politics and civil rights, and the co-host of the hit podcast Southlake and Grapevine. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she received prizes for her investigative research on race, mass incarceration and the history of psychiatry. She lives in Brooklyn.

Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Books of January.

In the tradition of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a page-turning 93-year history of Crownsville Hospital, one of the nation’s last segregated asylums, that New York Times bestselling author Clint Smith describes as “a book that left me breathless.”

I wrote most of MADNESS in this specific corner of my couch, right next to a messy tower of books. Comfy clothes were a must.

I’m the middle child in a group of seven children. I learned early that I would need to find my voice and my own space in the world by writing and thinking out loud. 

Throughout the book, I open up about my own family’s history of mental trauma in America. Writing and reporting out this story, as painful as it could be at times, brought me closer to many of my aunts, uncles, and elders. It helped us overcome the shame and fear that holds back so many families with histories of mental suffering. 

Two of my younger sisters – Consuelo and Margaret – provided edits, feedback, and research assistance the whole way through. So much of my family and my heart is in MADNESS.

I find myself listening to Remember by Seinabo Sey and Jacob Banks over and over again lately. It’s a song about searching for meaning, constructing a legacy, and honoring the memories of people we love. I consider it the official theme song for the final chapter of MADNESS. That chapter explores the closure of a segregated asylum, and follows a number of elders in a community in Maryland as they try to resurrect the memories, stories, and names of patients who were buried on the grounds. Years ago, the government buried those patients as numbers – not names. In the spring of 2024, following their efforts and the publication of MADNESS, the local government will unveil a memorial restoring all of those patients’ names. 

I would love to write a collection of short stories someday. To beat writer’s block while writing MADNESS, I would re-read some of my favorite stories by authors like Edwidge Danticat. As a journalist, I think it would be exhilarating to work on something fictional and unrestrained for once.

I’m a Libra sun, Libra rising, and Aquarius moon.  A triple air sign. It’s definitely accurate. I’m talkative, obsessed with justice, and constantly striving for balance in each area of my life. I love color, textiles, music. I spend a lot of my alone time daydreaming. 

Audio Excerpt – Madness by Antonia Hylton