Monday, March 25, 2013

Piecing the Past Together

My knowledge of my family’s immigrant past is collection of fragments—a memory of my Nona Rosa’s wrinkled smile, a brief report I gave in elementary school, a faded photograph from Ellis Island. I know that my great-grandparents came to California from Northern Italy in the early twentieth century, but the details are blank.

As one of my intern duties at TCU Press, I have been assisting in editing The Harness Maker’s Dream, an ancestral narrative by author Nick Kotz.

In this book Kotz tells the story of his family’s patriarch, Nathan Kallison, on his mission to build a life in the United States after escaping from czarist Ukraine in 1890. Drawing from newspapers, interviews, official records, and a variety of other sources, Kotz pieces together a history that most members of his family had long since forgotten.  After a period of struggle and adjustment, Nathan works to become one of the most successful retailers and ranchers in San Antonio, Texas. Throughout his life, Nathan was respected for his character; his children, his business, and his status in the community reflect his unwavering integrity. The narrative records the life of a man whose efforts earned him “the American Dream.”

Kotz hopes this book will inspire its readers to study their own past, learning more about themselves and our nation in this process. Through his research, he discovered that “the most important history of our country is not found in the grand events of wars and presidencies, but rather in the everyday lives of our citizens—how they worked hard to support their families, how they coped with hardships, discrimination, and human tragedy, and how they contributed to their own communities and nation.” These people built the foundations for the thriving society we enjoy today, and their stories deserve to be told.

After reading The Harness Maker’s Dream, I am encouraged to dig into my own past. My grandfather is now the only living child of his immigrant parents—the last guide into a vast landscape of invaluable memories.  I intend to ask him all that I can about our history while I still have the chance. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to my own book one day. 

by Leah Fiorini, intern

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