Best Lounge

Best Lounge

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
Everything but the Bowie in \'David Bowie Is\'

Everything but the Bowie in 'David Bowie Is'

Screens: People love David Bowie more than you are capable of loving your family. But that’s OK—people love Bowie to an extent that your family would quite frankly... By Jeremy Martin 9/17/2014
Our Picks for the 31st Annual Jazz’SAlive

Our Picks for the 31st Annual Jazz’SAlive

Music: Eddie Palmieri: 9:30pm Saturday. Jazz’SAlive has traditionally made sure to clear at least one headlining space for Latin jazz... By J.D. Swerzenski 9/17/2014
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Lt. Governor Race: the \'Luchadora\' vs. the Tea Party radio host

Lt. Governor Race: the 'Luchadora' vs. the Tea Party radio host

News: A few Saturdays ago, I spent several hours hanging around a Texas Realtors Association conference in San Antonio, trying to catch state Sen. Dan Patrick... By Alexa Garcia-Ditta 9/17/2014

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Arts & Culture

Renowned Journalist Covers His Family’s SA History in New Book

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Don’t judge a book by its cover. When The Harness Maker’s Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas, first arrived in the office this fall, it didn’t much differentiate itself from the scores of other regional history books that come across my desk. Then I noticed the author’s name: Nick Kotz, a much-lauded (including a Pulitzer) journalist formerly with the Washington Post. Then there were glowing blurbs from the likes of Ken Burns, who called The Harness Maker’s Dream “a wonderfully big story, fully told and realized.” Intrigued, I cracked the book and was pleasantly surprised. Instead of a dry non-fiction account, The Harness Maker’s Dream hooked me quickly for a ride through practically the entire 20th century via one hardworking Texas family. Turns out Kotz is the grandson of Nathan Kallison, and nephew of brothers Perry and Morris Kallison. San Antonians may remember the name from the Kallison’s Department Store (the building, crowned by a cowboy, still stands on South Flores), or their pioneering Kallison Ranch. As Kotz demonstrates, the Kallisons had a fascinating story of escaping persecution in Imperialist Russia for the cramped immigrant ghettos of Chicago and of becoming successful Jewish cowboys in San Antonio long before Kinky Friedman popularized the notion. There’s also fortune, stardom, feuds, heartbreak and failures.
The Current spoke with Kotz about how he got the story. Stop by the Twig on Friday or Saturday to learn more during an author talk and signing.

Reading this book might inspire people to look into their own ancestral past. Do you have any advice for the amateur historian about how to learn more about their family history?

That’s one of my hopes of this book. … Lots of people have interest but haven’t pursued it. The obvious place to start is with family photographs, with diaries, with letters, with records and beyond that, anyone with sort of minimum computer skills (mine aren’t very much beyond minimum), can do it. There’s an incredible amounts of information. … You know as a journalist the great thrill when you find something…. And the even greater satisfaction when you’re able to put together little pieces and out of it you get a picture.

From your background as a journalist, what was it like to maintain your journalistic standards and your objectivity, but also be writing about your own family?

You know as a journalist, you constantly need to be on guard about letting your own subjective feelings come into it. I think the most difficult part of that was writing about the hard times and writing about disagreements within the family involving business and other things. Because, I still have lots of cousins in San Antonio, Austin and Houston and in all my writing, I have always tried to be careful to try not to hurt anyone gratuitously. So, I think the most difficult thing was being honest about the family because I didn’t want to hurt anybody.

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