Apr 2, 2016
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” Muriel Rukeyser
A story adapted from Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants (Outskirts Press), a book coauthored by Diane Dettmann and her aunt, Miriam Dloniak Kaurala. Book reprinted in 2008 in memory of Miriam Dloniak.
My grandmother holds no awards recognizing her accomplishments. Her name is not embossed on a star in Hollywood or etched on a granite memorial wall. Yet like many women of the past, she made valuable contributions to the quality of her family’s life and to the lives of others. Sharing stories of the strength and perseverance of everyday women of the past inspires women of today to see the value in their own lives.
My grandmother, Hilja Lukkarila Kaurala, was born on October 8, 1888 in Simo, Finland located a short distance from the border of Sweden. When she was twenty-one, she packed up her belongings, left her family behind and came to America. After three years of working as a housekeeper for the wealthy members of society she became disillusioned with her unfulfilled dreams of America. She returned to Finland, but life there was dull and unpromising. In 1913, on the ship coming back to America, she met my grandfather, Paul Kaurala. She entered the United States through Ellis Island, my grandfather through Montreal, Canada. Some how they found their way to northern Minnesota where they reconnected and married in 1917.
Before she married, my grandmother like many of the young women immigrants in the early 1900s, worked as a domestic. Determined to build a life in the new country and become an American, she took jobs as a cook, laundress, childcare worker, and seamstress. After she married my grandfather, they rented a house in Ely, Minnesota where she devoted herself entirely to making a home for her family. In 1923 they outgrew their house and moved to a small piece of land in the country that my grandfather had purchased before they were married.
With four children under the age of six and a baby on the way, Hilja tackled the rigors of life in the wilderness with nothing but her two hands to help. My grandfather purchased an old, two-room house with a small attic, which he hauled to the site with horses. The bed bug infested house was not exactly my grandmother’s “dream” house, but she used her resourcefulness and ingenuity to turn the house into a home. Every Saturday for the first year she saturated a rag with kerosene and wiped down the coil springs on the beds. Then she dusted the mattresses with Watkins Bedbug powder. Her diligence paid off, within the year the bedbugs disappeared.
The first year in the wilderness of northern Minnesota the family faced chickenpox, measles, and the bitter cold winter, but my grandmother never gave up. With her hands, always busy, she nurtured her newborn son, picked berries for pies, knitted warm woolen mittens, and created clothing out of cloth flour sacks. Life on the farm required a commitment to family and hard work. Hilja never hesitated to pick up a hay rake during the hot summer hay season or take the long cold walk to the barn in the subzero winter to milk cows. There were times that my grandmother probably thought of giving up or yearned for a more rewarding life, but she forged forward committing her skills and talents to her family’s survival and success.
During the week my grandfather worked in the mines in Ely fifteen miles north of the farm. On the bitter cold winter nights, with wolves howling in the distance, alone Hilja gathered her four young daughters around their wooden kitchen table. Under the glow of a flickering kerosene light with a wood fire crackling in the stove, she taught the girls how to embroider. Even the youngest three-year old daughter joined in with a needle, thread and small piece of fabric. The long Minnesota winters provided the women with many happy hours of stitching and chatting that bonded them together.
During World War II my grandmother belonged to a local Victory Club. At one of the meetings she suggested the group make cookies to send to the servicemen. When she was voted down, she came home with a firm resolution to undertake the project herself. Sugar rationing was in effect at the time but my wise grandmother had purchased a fifty-pound sack of sugar before the rationing started. For days Hilja and one of her daughters baked cookies. They mailed thirty boxes overseas so each soldier from their community received a box. When the thank-you notes arrived, my grandmother treasured each one. Four months later, she had a shoebox full of notes from grateful servicemen. She cherished those special notes until her death in 1965.
Strong, courageous women surround us every day at work, in our neighborhoods and in the broader community. Like my grandmother many of them positively impact other’s lives and make a difference in our world. I hope my grandmother’s story inspires other women to see their strengths, value and potential. By sharing our stories we empower others!
Diane Dettmann, a writer, teacher and presenter, is interested in issues related to women and education. She is the author of Courageous Footsteps: A WWII Novel and Twenty-Eight Snow Angels A Widow’s Story of Love, Loss and Renewal. Diane is currently working on the sequel to Courageous Footsteps that will be released in the summer of 2016. She is also the co-author of Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants and a contributing author for the national Women’s Voices for Change organization in New York City. Information about her books available at https://www.amazon.com/author/dianedettmann
To order autographed copies contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mar 18, 2016
AUTHORS WEAR MANY HATS!
When the email arrived, I almost deleted it. After reading the whole message, I wondered why are they asking me, an author over sixty, to be a model in a style show? I’m kind of a recluse, who spends most of my day in my black yoga pants sitting behind a laptop. I have only a few dresses in my closet that I seldom wear except for weddings or funerals. When I found out six other authors were participating and that the “Style Speaks Volumes” show was a benefit for our local Stillwater Public Library Foundation, my author conscience kicked in. How could I possibly say no to that?
The fact that it was a collaboration between three local businesses: Valley Booksellers who would be selling our books, the Sash clothing store that offered a special discount, and Reve’ Bistro which included a complimentary lunch, I figured what the heck. I decided even if I had to wear a push up bra and give up my yoga pants for a couple of days, the experience would be well worth it.
After I jotted a quick reply and hit send, panic set in. Since retiring I had seldom worn high heels, much less walked down a runway. The only modeling experience I had was at an outlet mall in a small town in Minnesota years ago. My younger sister had talked me into it and only a handful of women showed up. I thought about calling the organizer to tell her I had changed my mind, that I was too old and not a qualified runway girl, but a little voice inside of me said do it.
A few days later, I called Carol the owner of the clothing store to set up a time to try on outfits. The day I walked into the shop, Carol welcomed me with a big smile. We had a lot in common. She was a widow and had recently retired from teaching. Now she was following her dream of owning her own clothing store and loving it. After an hour of trying on a variety of clothes, I selected two coordinated outfits and a coat to model.
Then Carol walked me across the hallway to the Reve’ Bistro which was in the final stages of construction. She assured me it would be ready on time and showed me how I’d weave through the dining room, pause at each table and model my outfit. Then quickly go back to the dressing room and change. As I drove home, a sense of calm rolled over me. I was excited about the event and totally relieved that I didn’t have to wear high heels or navigate a runway.
The night before the event, a snowstorm hit, closing schools and making travel difficult. But this is Minnesota. With a sold out crowd and seven authors turned models, the show went on. The day was magical. Stylists from the Monde salon set up an area in a small alcove where they styled our hair and did our makeup. I, along with the other authors, loved the pampering.
Dressed in my first outfit, I strolled into the Bistro filled with women of all ages, stopped at the first table and twirled around. The ladies greeted me with a smile and an oolala as they admired my comfortable red and black outfit and ran their fingers over the fabric. Before I moved on, they found my picture in the program and asked about my books. With the room filled with laughter and energized conversation, I looked around at the other authors and their smiles said it all. Stepping out of our comfort zones was well worth it. As we sat around a table enjoying our complimentary lunches and signing copies of our books, I realized it’s never to late to try new experiences that enrich our lives and help us grow! Diane's Website: http://www.outskirtspress.com/footsteps
Jan 22, 2016
TWENTY-EIGHT SNOW ANGELS BOOK REVIEW
I learned about this book through an online widow’s support group. The title drew me in, and then I saw it. A picture of her and her husband, I could see their deep love for each other and it reminded of me and my husband. I had to read it. Of all the books I have read by widows since my husband died, Ms. Dettmann’s is the most honest. I appreciate her sharing her experiences with no sugar coating.
Other books I read shared the emotional trauma in generality, but not the details as this author did. Most didn’t share the physical aspects of deep grief and loss, but Diane did. There was a point in my grief journey I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me. My emotional state was much rawer and intense than what others shared. None talked in detail about the physical and mental toll the loss takes. I honestly thought I had some horrible disease or was mentally losing it. I couldn’t find anything in writing that matched my symptoms and mental condition. This frightened me even more. I had never had an anxiety attack before my husband’s death, and not to the point I thought I was dying. Page after page I found myself nodding my head and even saying, “Yes, yes,” as I related to her personal account.
Not that I want anyone to suffer through the loss of a spouse, but reading about her experiences as a widow, was comforting and I knew I was not alone. I wish this was the first book I had read. The book is skillfully written not only in its presentation but also in clearly expressing such a raw, vulnerable, intensely personal time. A standing ovation for Diane Dettmann and her courage, for not only being so transparent, but have the courage to revisit such a painful time by writing this book. It was a comfort and encouragement. Thank you!
I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. All the opinions I expressed were my own. Narita Roady, Book Reviewer and Blogger
Author Diane Dettmann Endnote: John and I were married twenty-eight years and madly in love. Narita Roady's insights capture the depth of my loss and my struggle to make it through the grief. The book's helping other widows and widowers and that makes the seven years I spent writing the book worth it. Many thanks to Narita Roady for taking the time to review Twenty-Eight Snow Angels.
Book information at http://www.outskirtspress.com/snowangels
Open To Hope Grief Foundation Interview at Open To Hope Foundation; Loss of A Spouse Interview
Open To Hope Grief Foundation Interview at Open To Hope Foundation; Loss of A Spouse Interview
Jan 7, 2016
Beth Virtanen, PhD, Finlandia University and Founder of the Finnish North American Literature Association
Diane Dettmann has created a heart-wrenching masterpiece in her latest work, Courageous Footsteps: A WWII Novel. In it, she tackles the topics of inequity, bigotry, and intolerance in an unemotional manner which allows the hard truths that underpinned (and perhaps still do) American culture to come to the fore for examination in this her latest work.
The novel shares the story of a middle-class Japanese-American family made up of a teenaged girl Yasu, her brother Haro, and their shopkeeper parents as the country is swept up in the anti-Japanese hysteria following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The primary narration is through the eyes of Yasu, the high-school girl whose future is upended
The Japanese-American family strives to preserve some dignity while they suffer the loss of nearly all they possess—their means of livelihood, their possessions, their home, their security, and almost their dignity. In this dark tale, life goes from bad to worse in terms of living conditions and prospects for the future, especially when Haro is drafted to serve on the European front and leaves young Yasu with her parents in the detention camp.
In a nearly absurd parallel, Yasu’s high school friend, a white, middle-class girl, completes the plans that both girls had set before themselves of going to college and seeking their individual success. The letters shared between the two serve to highlight in stark contrast their prospects, which at the opening of the story had been identical. One girl is detained and forced into manual labor in the detention camp while the other completes high school and is accepted at Berkeley.
The maddening and relentless progression of the story is unavoidable, and readers resists at every turn what we know is coming, until there is a surprising and ambiguous turn of events that allows for Yasu’s accidental shift in fate that suggests a slightly more hopeful, but clearly uncertain, future. Yasu’s opportunity, we know, is not to some utopian ideal. It is, at best, a transition to a new kind of struggle, but perhaps one that holds somewhat less pessimism than what is located in the detention camp.
This novel is sensitively written, incorporating a complex narrative structure that shifts in perspective among the principle characters. Although told predominantly from Yasu’s point of view, the passages from the other perspectives allow for a richer narrative experience and a greater understanding of the central issues at play that created the diverse outcomes for members at various locations within the social and ethnic hierarchy of the day. While written for and receiving honors as young-adult fiction, this work is suitable for a general audience as well.
Dettmann is author of Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow’s Story of Love, Loss and Renewal and co-author of Miriam: Daughter of Immigrants. This latest novel, building on the two earlier and well-received works, embodies her greatest achievement to date.
Dettmann, Diane. (2015). Courageous Footsteps: A WWII Novel. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press. ISBN: 978-4787-5558-6 Available in various independent bookstores and on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/dianedettman
View book trailer at http://youtube.com/watch?v=WbiacBYmws4