Last Saturday night I attended a book reading by Frances Dinkelspiel at A Great Good Place for Books in Montclair. Frances is the author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California. The challenge was to try and distill 335 pages and an eight year process into a fifteen minute talk. It can't be done but Frances shared enough about her great-great-grandfather that it left her audience wanting to know more. The story behind the title is priceless and begs the question, "Is there a modern-day Isaias Hellman who can solve today's financial crisis?"
Frances and I actually "met" a few months ago because of the CGSL blog. I was looking through Sitemeter or MyBlogLog stats and noticed that a reader had come from a blog called Ghost Word. That reader was Frances and Ghost Word is her blog about books and reading. I learned that she was a local (Berkeley) author about to publish her first book.
Frances has been getting rave reviews for Towers of Gold. I've been following her progress as she climbs the Amazon.com sales rank. And I'm happy to report that CGS Events Chair Carolyn Steinberg is scheduling Frances to come and speak at CGS in 2009. It's fitting because a bit of her research was done at our library – a small bit when compared to the time she spent at the California Historical Society reviewing over forty cartons of her gg-grandfather's papers.
Susan Kitchens of the Family Oral History Using Digital Tools blog wrote a fantastic review – Towers of Gold: History of the Man Indistinguishable From the History of California. She admonishes everyone to "Just Read It."
The book has much to offer. If you’re interested in the history of California and the West, or history of Jews in America, or the history of railroads, banking or how large economies are built, or if you wish to contrast the dynamics of today’s economic gloom with yesteryear’s boom, you will find Towers of Gold to be an eminently worthwhile read. Additionally, if you’re a personal or family historian, this is a valuable reference for those whose ancestors crossed paths with Isaias Hellman. Finally, Towers of Gold is a triumphant example of the best possible outcome from a visit to your local historical society.I'll amend this post as soon as I know the specific date that Ms. Dinkelspiel will speak at CGS.
Update: CGS is pleased to have Frances as our March Membership Meeting speaker on Saturday, March 14, 2009.