For a writer with a reputation for penning books about ordinary people living through extraordinary times, Seattle author David Laskin hit the jackpot when it came to his own ancestors. “The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the 20th Century” tells the remarkable story — spanning the tumultuous last century — of what happened to three branches of Laskin’s mother’s family.
Laskin will read from “The Family” and discuss the new narrative nonfiction at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Vashon Bookshop. Laskin’s previous award-winning books include “The Long Way Home” and “The Children’s Blizzard.”
The Vashon Ecumenical Book Group will also have a discussion on the book from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 5, at Bethel Church, and all are invited to join.
With little stretch of the imagination, Laskin’s family history of emigration from Russia makes for a dramatic tale. His grandfather’s sister arrived at Ellis Island with $5 in her pocket and ended up a major American tycoon as the founder of Maidenform. Other relatives immigrated to Palestine in the 1920s and endured the historical machinations of that era and area. Still others perished in the Holocaust. Yet for Laskin, his family’s narrative is but a universal story about the plight of people forced to leave their native country, or who voluntarily exit, due to a tidal wave of events washing away the foundation of their ordinary lives.
“We all have amazing family stories and wrenching encounters with history,” said Laskin in a recent online interview. “My hope is that readers will look at their own families in a new light. ... Our families may not make it into history textbooks, but that doesn’t mean they did not make history. History has made and broken all of our families. When readers turn the last page of ‘The Family,’ my hope is that the next volume they pick up will be the family photo album or scrapbook.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: The print edition of The Beachcomber incorrectly stated that Laskin would speak at Bethel Church. He will appear only at the Vashon Bookshop event. We apologize for the error.