Wheelock College Alumni Authors: Focus on Family Histories

Wheelock College has more than 14,000 alumni out in the world doing the work of Lucy Wheelock, improving the lives of children and families. Among those amazing alums are an ever-growing number of published authors, whose books can be found in libraries and bookstores around the globe. Together, their works—written for teachers, parents, children, and a variety of other audiences—educate, challenge, provoke, and entertain. As Wheelock approaches its 130th anniversary, we decided to celebrate some of our incredible alumni authors.

This blog post centers on alumni memoirs and poetry collections that are about family history. Ranging from hilarious to sobering, these deeply personal stories deal with elderly parents, a Jewish family’s experiences in World War II Poland, and what it means to be an alien in your own country. See all the blog posts about Wheelock’s alumni authors.

They Left Us Everything book coverMaria “Plum” Lind Johnson ’68
They Left Us Everything: A Memoir (2016)
A warm, heartfelt memoir of family, loss, and a house jam-packed with decades of goods and memories. After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father, and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year old mother—author Plum Johnson and her three younger brothers have finally fallen to their middle-aged knees with conflicted feelings of grief and relief. Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, twenty-three rooms bulging with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks. See the book on amazon.com.

A Lone Candle book coverCarol Rubin Fishman ’83 and Bernice Graudens Fishman
A Lone Candle: Secrets Too Heavy To Bear (2012)
As you read this history of a family caught in the midst of World War II, you will shed tears, be horrified by perpetrators, and amazed by the family’s resilience, tenacity and luck, as they tried to survive the harrowing world in Poland. This is a glimpse of life through a child’s eyes of a typical Jewish family before, during and after the Holocaust. Carol Rubin Fishman helped her mother-in-law Bernice Graudens Fishman publish her story for current and future generations of her family so that the details would not be lost and the stories would live on forever. See the book on amazon.com.

Raised by Humans book coverDeborah Miranda ’83
Raised by Humans (2015)
Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (2013)
The poems in Raised by Humans are about surviving childhood and colonization. Childhood did not agree with Deborah Miran­da, mostly because the adult humans in charge of her life were not prepared to manage their own lives, let alone the life of a human-in-training. Humans raised Deborah, but it wasn’t a hu­mane childhood.  This poetry collection is also about how indigenous people survive civilization and become readers and writers of the same alphabet that colonized their culture. The complexity of being forced to find her way into relationship with the very people or cultures that have hurt/raised Miranda is a paradox at the heart of her poetry, which pushes language past what Miranda calls the “alphabet of walls.” See the book on amazon.com.

In Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, Deborah Miranda toldBad Indians book cover stories of her Ohlone Costanoan Esselen family as well as the experience of California Indians as a whole through oral histories, newspaper clippings, anthropological recordings, personal reflections, and poems. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry, and playful all at once. The book, which won the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award, is part tribal history, part lyric and intimate memoir. This beautiful and devastating book should be required reading for anyone seeking to learn about California Indian history, past and present. See the book on amazon.com.