I NEVER REALIZED how courageous the people in my family were until they shared their stories for this book. Those in the extended family of relatives and friends, whose names appear within these pages, have left me both honored and humbled.
My literary agents, Rosalie Grace Heacock Thompson and Catt LeBaigue, of the Heacock Literary Agency, graced this effort with their sage advice, indefatigable optimism, and valiant commitment to uplift humanity. My editor, Chandra Garber, imparted wise and transformative insights, teaching me that something good enough for journalism is not necessarily beautiful enough for art.
Historian Art Fischbeck and archivist Terry Harrison, of Iowa’s Mason City Public Library, embodied the ideals of selfless public servants in helping me to paint an honest portrait of a community that vanished long ago. Two terrific teams of librarians—one at the American Family Immigration History Center on Ellis Island and the other at the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center—also helped to document the truthfulness of the history portrayed here.
By offering literary and moral support over the course of ten years, these people have brought out the best in me in writing this book: Bill Mejia (who read more drafts than did anyone else), Laura and Paul Zakaras, Doug Aguiar, Robert Bulanadi, Bruce Burke, Ron Burke, María Victoria Cárdenas, John Faucher, Damon Fortier, Jane Larson, Eileen and Joe La Russo, Marlynn Lloyd, Vivian Perry, Anders Price, Carl Pritzkat, Julie Rosenberg, Steven Seizer, Gloria and Dominic Serafano, Nelda Sunday, and Alice Waugh.