Laura D. Sanders  reviews THE HARNESS MAKER’S DREAM: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas (TCU Press, October 2013)
harness maker cover
by Nick Kotz
KOTZNick photo
I stand in awe of the Kallison family.  From surviving pogroms against Jews in Russia, to moving around the world to the U.S. and then surviving one of the longest Texas droughts (seven years) with their ranch and farm/ranch store intact, this family had an incredible ability to roll with life’s punches and come up standing.  In the process they insisted on helping their neighbors at every possible turn, as well as serving the wider community, the city of San Antonio, the cattle and horse industries of Texas, and even the United States, leaving a legacy in many areas.
For those interested in the history of Texas ranching and farming, the Kallisons’ story is a microcosm of the best that can be done, and the factors that contributed to the downturn of the industry.
For those interested in Russia, or the coming of Russian immigrants to the United States, reading this book and the resources it contains in the back matter, will stir thoughts of possibilities for a generation that may have been silent about its origins.  If the immigrants were like the Kallisons, they were too busy surviving and thriving to talk about a painful past.
Drawn to this book initially because it is set in San Antonio and because Texas ranching has always fascinated me, I became even more intrigued after learning the author of the book is Nathan Kallison’s grandson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and award-winning author, Nick Kotz.
For those interested in, or in the midst of, writing a family memoir or history, I recommend reading this book as an example of what can be done and what resources to consult.  In an Author’s Note, Nick Kotz shares some of the difficulties he encountered.  For example, neither Nathan nor his wife kept diaries, so the emotional explorations in the book are a bit muted until later generations shed light on them.
This book is well-written and documented.  It was a pleasure to read.  Definitely a keeper for one’s library.
Laura D. Sanders is an editor and writer who resides in Austin and has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas for several years.  She currently has two books in process: a memoir of her Acadian ancestors journey from Nova Scotia to New Orleans, and a Christian romance novel.  She is a member of the Editorial Freelance Association and enjoys bringing out the best in others’ writing.  Website: www.lauradsanders.com

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