Under Cedar Shades spans five generations of American women and their families as they struggle to endure displacement, color discrimination, famine, war and exploitation in 19th century America. The story begins with the forced removal of the Cherokees along the Trail of Tears in 1838 and continues as many of them intermingle with Welch, African, Portuguese, and Scots-Irish immigrants. Family secrets abound, as a modern-day descendant presses her grandmother for answers to who she is. But her grandmother harbors a terrible secret she can neither forget nor reveal. Under Cedar Shades is about endurance in the face of adversity, discrimination and injustice. It draws on the Cherokee belief in the sacred nature of the cedar, which never loses its branches, even in winter.