WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PRESS ANNOUNCES PUBLICATION OF "FINDING JOSIE," A MEMOIR BY WENDY BILEN
The Wisconsin Historical Society Press announces the release of "Finding Josie" (ISBN: 978-0-87020-391-6; hardcover $26.95), a memoir by Wendy Bilen. Weaving the story of a 1940s Midwestern farm wife — her grandmother, Josie Brodhead — with her own life's journey, Bilen creates a moving account of how our lives intersect with our ancestors' lives and what we gain from the search to know them better. "In looking for Josie," she writes, "I've stumbled onto myself."
Thirty-five, childless, and newly married, Wendy Bilen is struggling to find meaning in an urban life that has, so far, centered on her career. She has recently made a dramatic change, though — leaving her corporate job in Chicago and entering a writing program. There she discovers a path that leads backward in time, through family hardship and triumph, to a young woman full of contradictions, much like herself — ambitious yet thwarted, committed yet restless, creative but dutiful.
Bilen's quest begins in Carson, N.D. — Josie's birthplace — and winds through the coulees and river valleys of the upper Midwest, taking her further and further into the details of her grandmother's past, as well as her own. Bilen tracks down relatives and friends, wanders through cemeteries and farm fields, and sits down at the kitchen table of the family farmhouse in La Crosse, Wis., to listen to remarkable stories about Josie. Along the way, Bilen shakes out the folded quilt of her own life, holding the rips and tears up to the light.
Without sentimentality, resisting any impulse to romanticize her rural roots, she plumbs her grandmother's history in search of meaning and wisdom in her own life. Does she find it? Readers will be surprised, not only by what Bilen discovers about Josie, but by what she shares of her own soul.
"Some things happen in spite of ourselves," she writes, "because of the work she did long ago, and the work I'm doing now, it's come to where it should be. … she extends the left hand, I the right, and together we will tell this story."
Media: For review copies of the book, author or book photos, or book event information, please contact Melanie Roth, Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 816 State St., Madison, Wis. 53706; (608) 264-6465; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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