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Uncovering the Secret History of a Brooklyn Businessman

My essay on Literary Hub explores how writing about families can lead you down twisting paths. You need to be ready to shift focus. Even the sources closest to the story may not have a clear picture until much later. This is often the case with stories involving immigration, where generational barriers of language or the traumatic disruptions that migration often entails complicate the telling. A parent or a child may be reluctant to open the doors of memory. Or, as in one case, perhaps a parent working as a spy never had permission to tell their children.

For my book Cork Wars, I faced the usual hurdles for narrative nonfiction: finding the story, learning how to tell it, how to respect the people involved. But I also had to confront the story’s multi-generational scope, and find a way to weave memory with documented history.

The Marsas’ passport photo from when they relocated to Spain in the mid-1930s.

Read the full essay on LitHub. If you’re in New York on May 14, join me and Yukie Ohta at the 92nd Street Y in New York City to discuss the narration of intergenerational immigrant stories. You can learn more about the event and purchase tickets here.

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