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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

I was impressed by the description of this wave of migration that you’re talking about.

I knew virtually nothing of the details of this mass movement of people that took place in a relatively very short period of time, between the 1880s and about 1920, when there was an anti-immigrant feeling right after WWI and they cut it off. I did not know that history and certainly didn’t appreciate it. It’s also made me think and given me some appreciation of just what this country would be like if those waves of Jews, Irish, Italians had not poured into this country in the second half of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century. It’s made a huge difference in what this country’s about in many, many ways.

Did that change your personal perspective on immigration today?

It strengthened my feelings, but I have been an advocate of immigration reform for a long, long time. I have friends who came here as children from Mexico and have gone to school, have gone to college, are in college, who’ve gone into the military. Those people should be citizens of the United States. Even though they came here illegally, again, these are people who contribute to what kind of society we are.

One of the things I found surprising in the book was the somewhat lax immigration standards during the late 1800s when Nathan Kallison immigrated to the United States and how different it is today.

Unless you just come across the Rio Grande River (laughs). I did not realize and learn that until maybe very early in the 20th century, the whole process of naturalization and so forth was done by the states. It took much less to become a citizen.

When I encounter people outside of Texas, they have this perception of Texas and the West. I imagine that a very successful Jewish family known for their ranching skills and who fit into this cowboy mold might run counter to some people’s expectations. Have you encountered any of that?

You got it. ‘What?! Your grandfather became a rancher in Texas?!’ … That very limited understanding of the fact that Jews became farmers, became ranchers. … the fact that people knew so little about this gave me another reason for writing the book.

In your author’s note you say that you also raise cattle, inspired by your uncle Perry. Can you talk a little about that?

My wife and I live on a cattle farm about 45 miles west of Washington D.C. in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. … Perry Kallison and his wife Frances, they were really pioneer conservationists, and I didn’t know much about that. We’re sort of modern day conservationists in the part of Virginia where we live. … It has many similarities to what Perry Kallison was doing in terms of conservation and trying  keep land in agriculture and forest and so forth … It’s really kind of a terrible shame for all of us if every piece of land within 50 or 75 miles of the city just becomes endless, sprawling suburbs because there’s not only beautiful land but a lot of history that should be preserved.... I think what would most please my grandfather and my uncles is that the most beautiful part of the Kallison Ranch is now part of the Government Canyon Natural Area.

Author talk and book signing

5-7pm Fri, 3-5pm Sat
The Twig Book Shop
306 Pearl Pkwy, Ste 106
(210) 826-6411

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