My mother was a great fence for books. She always had something she’d read and wanted me to read and so, when I’d visit, she would hold up her latest at the kitchen table over tea and say, “Read this yet?” like some guy with a coat full of watches. Everything from Augustine to Marilynne Robinson. And then, at that same table at another time, we would talk about what we’d read like a couple of wide-ranging literary critics. When I wrote The Sojourn I dedicated it to her. Without her I would never have made sense of the stories my grandmother told of the old country in her beautiful but impenetrable Slovak, which my mother translated for me.
Recently, in her days of decline, my mother and I often talked more about writing than about reading. She seemed happy that I had made that step to becoming a writer, and I let her know it was because of all those books she had foisted on me, and let me love. One thing I won’t forget was a letter she wrote after she had read The Sojourn in manuscript form and knew that I was having a hard time selling it. “Don’t give up,” she said, as any mother would to her son, of course. But then she wrote: “There is a publisher out there who will find this as beautiful as it is true. There has to be. Because that’s how stories survive.”
My mother and friend passed away in her sleep, but not without first having laid hands on The Sojourn published by Bellevue Literary Press. “I told you,” she said when she saw it. “It’s beautiful. They love books there, don’t they?” I told her they did. “Good,” she said. “Then we’ll survive.” Please help support Bellevue Literary Press. Thank you.