I am the storyteller in my family, the keeper of tales, the one who strives to connect the generations through words, both spoken and written. Because of this, I felt an immediate affinity with Arlene Sundquist Empie when she identified herself as the same for her family in the introduction to her book, The Legacy of Ida Lillbroända.
Empie tells the story of her grandmother, Ida Lillbroända. You won't recognize her name; she was not a famous actress, singer, or writer. She did not make any sweeping social reforms or change the history of Europe. And in this lies the importance of her story. As a young Finnish woman, Ida chose to emigrate to the United States. Once there she married, had children, ran a business and, later, a farm. She lived her life quietly and fully, and her story is, in many ways, the story of millions of women like her. It is no less vital or fascinating for this; indeed, it is this which makes her story more important. How many stories go untold, and are lost after they are lived? By reading Ida's story, we gain insight into the lives of women who had no one to record their lives and share them with others.
I have to admit that I did find the names of people and places confusing, as well as the intricacies of Finnish church records and ships' passenger lists. More often, though, I found myself drawn into the pictures painted by Empie of life in Finland, and then later in Colorado and Washington state, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. I enjoyed reading about the roles of different people in the story and how they related to each other. In a more specific sense, I grew to admire Ida for her intelligence and courage as she faced each new challenge that presented itself in her chosen homeland, testing boundaries and making a unique place for herself in her world and time.
The legacy of Ida Lillbroända is the legacy of one smart, strong, spirited woman. It is also the legacy of generations of women who followed a similar path. All of them have stories worth telling.
Award-winning Pacific Northwest author Arlene Sundquist Empie received her Bachelor of Arts degree from The Evergreen State College and Certificate for Narrative Nonfiction Writing, University of Washington. Skagit Valley in the Pacific Northwest is the author's spiritual home. From her writing studio on an island in the San Juan archipelago, thought and memory meld into twilight moments overlooking the Salish Sea. Read more on the publisher's website.
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