I haven't written much lately about my Slovenian roots quest.
Actually, I have been writing about it lately. A lot. As in 1,667 words a day. But it's not public. Yet.
Yes, I'm doing NaNoWriMo again. National Novel Writing Month. A month of steady writing during the month of November, to reach the magical goal of 50,000 words. Technically, I'm considered a NaNo Rebel, on two counts: I'm writing nonfiction and I'm working on an ongoing project. But all the writing is new. I may even cross the finish line today, ahead of schedule.
I've used the structure and manic energy of NaNoWriMo to pull together what I've been doing in the past year, in connection with my attempt to understand my family history and my ethnic roots, with all the shame and secrecy that surrounded them. There is a lot to think about and write about. More than I realized, until I stopped to reflect.
Here are some highlights:
I have learned much more about my tangled family history. Not all of it is pretty, but it remains endlessly fascinating.
I have also stepped into the world of genetic genealogy. Yes, DNA testing. First for myself, and then for my Slovenian American mother. So now I have long lists of distant DNA cousins to pursue, many of them with Slovenian roots. I've even connected with a 4th cousin, or so the DNA says, whose Slovenian immigrant ancestors started out in Ely, Minnesota, just like mine.
But I've also been meeting more people in the real world who share my ethnic background. That's a big change. I've been spending lots of time at San Francisco's Slovenian Hall in the last year. I've met some great people, some of them born in Slovenia and some of them second and third generation. (More ex-Clevelanders than I've met in years!) My potica has passed muster at a few potlucks. I've served up sauerkraut at festive dinners and learned to recognize the Slovenian national anthem. I can even sing a song in Slovenian. It's called "Zivio!" It has easy lyrics, just that one word, which means something like "Cheers!" Or maybe it's "To Life!"
In the spring, I was invited to give a book presentation for "The Education and Dramatic Club Slovenia" at the Hall. I'm proud to say that Accordion Dreams now has a place in their small library. So I guess that makes me an official Slovenian American author. That makes me smile.
I've been doing more research on the famous leftist writer and journalist Louis Adamic, who died under mysterious circumstances in the early 1950s. A victim of suicide, McCarthyism, or a political murder? No one knows. He was supposed to have been my grandmother's cousin. That's the family story, anyway.
And a final development: My real world family is going to be having a reunion! Hard to believe. I've connected with first cousins I haven't seen (or spoken to) in forty years. We're even exchanging potica recipes.
That reminds me: It's almost time to start baking the Christmas potica. You can see a photo of last year's version. My mother would say: The dough is a little thick and the walnuts could be finer. But I say: With enough honey, it still tastes like heaven!
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders