I attended a reading at a local bookstore this weekend, something I always enjoy and recommend to everyone. Readings are usually free, last about an hour, have an aura of intellect and celebration about them, and are just simply a pleasant way to spend part of an evening.
I went with my five-month old, Vincent, to hear Croatian-American author Toni Mirosevich read three moving selections from her book, Pink Harvest. Mirosevich grew up in the Croatian-American fishing community in Everett, WA, and is now a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University. Before leaving, Vincent and I cornered the author and asked her to sign our copy of the book.
Mirosevich wrote a wonderful message to me in which she acknowledged our similar Slav commercial fishing backgrounds and wished me luck with my own writing harvest. It is one of the nicest messages I have received in a signed book.
My dad had pre-ordered a copy of Pink Harvest, but left to go catch Dungeness crab (for a couple of weeks) with George before his copy of the book arrived. Hence, he also missed the reading, which he too would have enjoyed, as there were fellow Slavs in attendance and the mood was light.
Here is an excerpt from an article written about Mirosevich in The Bellingham Herald:
Q: How did the Slav and the Pacific Northwest fishing communities influence your temperament, your way of viewing the world?
A: There’s a great quote from an interview with the writer Jamaica Kincaid that I use in one of my stories. “You grow up on a street and it’s a tiny street. The street may not be as big as this yard out there. But it becomes your world. It’s the only thing you know and you know it unbelievably well with this thickness, this heaviness, and you have no interest in anything else. It would not occur to you that there might be something else.”
I’ve always felt this quote described what growing up in the Slav community felt like. Until I went to public school, the world I knew was all Croatian-American; the fathers fished, the mothers stayed home and raised the families. Everyone knew everyone else and everyone else’s business, too. I knew of no other world. It was as if the entire world was that “tiny street” in Everett or on that 14th Street dock.
As I grew up I became more adept at moving between two cultures or straddling two cultures — the Slav world and “the other world,” which was anything outside of Slav world. Adept at listening in on the two languages spoken at home, familiar with eating Dalmatian brodet one night — the one fish dish I know how to make — and having American macaroni and cheese the next.