The first offering will be My Heart Lies Here, a novel of the Ludlow Massacre, which happened in Colorado in 1914. The Ludlow Massacre has fascinated me for decades, and the plight of the immigrant American–especially those from the eastern European nations–has always resonated with me. I’ve often wondered how it feels to leave one’s home, one’s family, and one’s culture and move to a place where the language, customs and political structures are vastly different.
Not everyone who came to America found success, and not everyone was welcomed to our great melting pot. In fact, a startling number of “third-wave” immigrants, who came to America sometimes in the late 1890s and 1900s, returned to their native lands. My Heart Lies Here addresses the sometimes confusing message of freedom that is promised to all who live in the United States, but is not always realized.
The coal mines of Colorado attracted a variety of immigrants seeking fortune and a home. In my novel, I chose to portray Scottish and Greek immigrants. The Scottish characters, Alex and Christian Scott, resemble my own family’s ancestors; in fact, Alexander Scott was the name of both my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather, both of whom settled in Colorado. Alex and Christian’s transition to America is relatively easy and painless–they speak English, their customs, literature and religious beliefs are similar to their American counterparts.
My primary Greek character, Theo Sky (as he is known at the beginning of the novel), endures far greater difficulties in coming to America. Without knowledge of the English language, he and his countrymen are cast into ignorance. They are distrusted–even disliked–among their the other men in the mines, and their religious practices are never acknowledged in the coal mining camps. They struggle to understand the American system and to become part of it.
I chose to look at the Greek experience mostly because of Zeese Papanikolas’ book, Buried Unsung. The book is a powerful and detailed source that reads like a novel itself. However, I added into my Greek characters’ adventures stories that I had learned from the oral histories of the time and from an Italian miner, Joe Bonacquista, and his wife. Their nationalities may differ, but the recollections of oppression, resentment, and inequity sound very similar. Ironically, the Greek economic crisis helped me to imagine the speech patterns of my Greek character; I paid close attention to NPR interviews with Greek citizens and goverment spokespeople!
In future blogs, I’ll be discussing some of the creative decisions I’ve made in my writing, the writing process itself, and the history that surrounds my works. I hope you enjoy reading My Heart Lies Here as much a I enjoyed writing it.