This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Croatian Telegraph

            When I got hired a year and a half ago to write a family history that eventually came to be called, The Borina Family of Watsonville, there weren’t many expectations about how well it would sell.
The last of the Borinas (at least in the line I was writing about) died in 2000, and the attorney who was mostly administering the family foundation they left behind thought it would be fitting to get the story captured, to the extent possible after all this time. In fact, I recall his saying at the beginning that we’d probably need only a few copies for libraries and archives.
I thought it might have a bit more appeal than that. After all, it was a great rags-to-riches story, in which a Croatian immigrant rides into town at the dawn of the Twentieth Century, makes a huge fortune as an apple grower and shipper, and raises two daughters who were independent professional women long before that became the norm. One of them was the first female district attorney in the history of California.

A Good Story Long Forgotten

The more I worked on it, the more I felt it was a good story, but since most people locally, where it took place, knew next to nothing about it, how well could it sell? Sad to say there isn’t always a direct correlation between the quality of the story and its sales.
So when it was finally ready to go to the printer, the Foundation ordered a hundred copies. They arrived just before Thanksgiving, and I got them out into the three main local bookstores. We got out a press release, talked to the two major local papers, and held our collective breath.
At this point I should probably explain that in Santa Cruz County, and specifically in Watsonville, there is a significant Croatian-American population, most descended from people who came to America in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. The collective story of their migration and pre-eminence in California’s apple-growing industry was wonderfully told by Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller in their book, Blossoms Into Gold.

Christmas Present? Who’d Have Thought?

The first news story came out Saturday and the second yesterday. Already, it seems, the Croatian telegraph had been humming and word was getting out about the book. The bookstore in Watsonville sold out in three days and the store in Santa Cruz ordered extra copies.
One of the county’s judges heard about the book and rushed out to buy a copy to see what it said about the female DA. And although the Borinas are gone, the maternal line, the Secondo family, is still quite large and they bought copies. The owner of the Watsonville bookstore told me that some people were buying multiple copies to give as Christmas presents.
In the few days the book has been out, I’ve already received some emails from people telling me how much they enjoyed it. One was from the granddaughter of the sister of the woman who became Mrs. Borina, who said she knew many of the people in the book and was glad to see their story in print.
A second printing has been ordered, and I’m looking forward to this Saturday, when I’ll be doing a book-signing at Crossroads Books in Watsonville. I’ll undoubtedly be told I got some things wrong and left some things out, but that’s all right. The book clearly touched a nerve with people who felt that, even though it wasn’t specifically about them, it told their story. You can’t beat a personal connection like that.