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  • Brian Peterson

Do You Know Your Family’s Stories?

How much do you know about your family? About your parents? Do you know interesting stories about your grandparents and their families?

I’m winding down the research phase of my next novel and I’m early in the writing phase. It’s a non-fiction novel (now they call it “creative non-fiction,” apparently) about my grandfather and his two brothers coming of age during the Great Depression and going off to war—two went to war and one went to work in the shipyards.

I have read 303 letters which were written from 1942 to 1945 between family members, reviewed documents, tracked down people on the Internet, gathered statistics and information about the economy and war effort, and talked to people, including family members, who knew my northern Minnesota relatives.

I have enough information and interesting stories to write about my grandfather and his brothers to make it a true story rather than “based on a true story.” That was important to me because I don’t wish to create family myths or misinformation.

In the meantime, I have learned a lot about my family, and I’ve found a way to preserve their stories in an entertaining format.

So back to my original questions of whether you know much about your family. A few years ago, when we were moving my wife Mindy’s father to an assisted-living home, we found a letter buried in a box in his house—from President John F. Kennedy, addressed to Mindy’s father’s family, giving condolence for the death of Mindy’s grandfather. We were blown away. Then we saw the date: 11 days before Kennedy was assassinated. We had no idea her grandfather had been a government agent.

She had never heard any stories; she didn’t have a clue about what his life was like; she did not remember him because she was so young when he died. Fortunately, through an accidental discovery, she learned at least a little about who he was.

One thing I can tell you with certitude: once they are gone, you’ll wish you would have asked your family members more questions about their lives.

* * *

During this whacky, strange time, I trust you have found and will continue to find time to read. Remember to leave a review online for every book you read, especially for indie authors—reviews are quite helpful.

Brian W. Peterson

Somewhere on the edge of the Great Plains

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