Today on Nearsighted, we welcome author, award-winning journalist, cultural moderator and television personality Greg Archer. Greg is a Huffington Post blogger and a longtime arts and culture writer for the San Francisco Examiner. He just released his latest book, Grace Revealed: A Memoir.
Belo Cipriani: What is your book about?
Greg Archer: Grace Revealed is about my journey uncovering my Polish family’s journey surviving Stalin’s mass deportations of Polish people. It’s a kind of Eat, Pray, Love by way of a Polish Alex Haley. I take readers along my own journey discovering this rich odyssey, which nearly got swept under the rugs of history. While the book mainly illuminates my own Polish family’s survival, after being taken to the Siberian Gulags along with 2 million other Poles in the 1940s, I learned that Stalin was an equal opportunity deporter. It did not matter if you were Polish, Jewish, Catholic. My family was Catholic and were farmers, as were many other Poles who experienced this. I wanted to also reveal how what happens in the past has a tendency to live on through us.
BC: What structure did you use for your memoir and why?
GA: The book is broken up into three parts. The front and back are more about me and the journey I went on as I discovered this information in my family’s past. The middle section is their unique story of survival — from the Gulags, to later becoming Polish refugees, to winding up in Uzbekistan, then the Middle East and then India, and then Eastern Africa, where they lived in huts in one of many Polish orphanages in the area.
BC: How long did it take to write and was there a part that was tough to navigate?
GA: I wrote a story about my family as a newspaper article in 2003 and thought that was it; that I had set out to do what I needed. But after interviewing them more, their story kept haunting and hunting me. In 2012, I finally committed to really seeing it through to the end.
BC: Did you travel?
GA: I did. I went to Poland and explored things there. I found the villages from which my family came; located the actual church were they were baptized and where my grandparents met as kids.
BC: How did your family initially react to the idea of your book and how are they feeling now that it’s been published?
GA: They were all for it actually, because they, like many others, felt that the world was very aware of Hitler and what he had done to the Jewish population, but that few people really understood the wrath of Stalin. There was a sense that since Stalin became allies with us to defeat Hitler, that much of his brutality was never discussed.
BC: Tell us about your publisher. Why did you choose them?
GA: The publisher is NorLights Press. I wanted a publisher that I could trust and one that could get the book out prior to or around the 75th anniversary of the Polish deportations, which was Feb. 10, 2015.
BC: What was the editing process like?
GA: It seemed a bit endless, actually, as there were many many facts to check. The third part of the book offers significant research and that section had to be re-checked often.
BC: What did you take away from the experience of writing your memoir?
GA: That there definitely felt like there was something leading me and helping me… Fate? Ancestors? Who knows. But there were too many serendipitous and synchronistic occurrences before, during and after writing the book to dismiss as mere random moments.
BC: Do you have a favorite chapter?
GA: It’s a toss up between the chapter where my grandmother is searching for the grave and remains of her husband, who had been discarded in an unmarked grave after passing away in the hospital; and the chapter that led me to locate the church in the Polish village where everything began…
BC: This is your second book. What’s next for you?
GA: I’m working on developing this story into a film; and I also have another book I am working on whose central theme is about home — where is it, what is it, why do we crave it, etc.?
Greg will be discussing Grace Revealed at Books Inc., located at 2275 Market St. in San Francisco, CA, on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7pm. For more information about this event, click here. To learn more about Greg Archer, visit his website at www.gregarcher.com. To learn more about the book, visit www.gracerevealedbook.com.
Watch the book trailer for Grace Revealed below: