I was working as a research assistant for a PBS series on the history of Idaho and was sent to do a preliminary interview with a man named Clint Haakonstad, a survivor of the Battle of Wake Island. I was excited because, though I was a history major, I'd never heard of Wake. I found his story compelling, informative, and utterly inspiring. But I couldn't help but notice his wife, Audrey, who sat beside him showing off scrapbooks and filling in details for him. She knew his story as well as he did, but her presence made me wonder what the experience must have been like for women back home. Later, I had a chance to interview Audrey for an exhibit I was working on and learn more about her interesting past.
Dancing in Combat Boots
Finding the women for this book required creative thinking and a lot of detective work. Before I started writing the individual stories, I thought about what types of women I'd like to feature in the book. I categorized them under subject headings: Military Women, Working Women, Professional Women, Mothers and Wives, Children, Women in the Thick of Things, etc. I wanted this book to represent all the important roles women played. I also made the conscious decision to include the voices of women from various ethnic and socio-economic groups, voices so seldom heard. And I wanted the book to be a sampling of women's experiences across the country. So I set myself a pretty wide-reaching task.
I started by contacting established organizations like the Red Cross and women's military groups and asking around for names of women with good stories to tell. When I'd find a woman whose story sounded promising, I did an initial interview to see how well she could tell her story. In that way, I was able to track down women who not only had had interesting experiences, but could remember them in great detail. At times, it was the women I interviewed who led me to other women with whom to speak. The search was part of the fun of writing this book, and I talked to many interesting women whose stories, for various reasons, did not make it into the final manuscript. I hope to one day do something with those stories as well.
Doing My Part
The No-No Boys
V for Victory
This book is actually taken from my mother's family history. The main character is based on my uncle, Roman Talamantez, and his experiences helping in the family grocery store in San Antonio. It was fun writing the character of Miguel, because he's a little more ornery than the other characters in my books. That's because my uncle described himself that way, although he was also a very responsible and helpful child.
Incidentally, that's also my uncle featured on the front of the book. We got a picture of him when he was about Miguel's age and drew him onto the cover. The baby in the wagon is my son!