by Sheridan Hill
We are often hired by the children of first-generation Americans who want us to capture their parents’ lives in an archive-quality, heirloom biography. Many of the subjects of our books have German or Russian ancestry; their native tongue is Yiddish and/or German.
A significant portion of our clients any given year are Jewish, and a growing number of the subjects of our books are of Asian ancestry.
In both these cultures, I have witnessed a deep feeling that their history is a saga of torment and triumph, of suffering and survival. For Asian and Jewish immigrants, sailing to the United States brought new freedoms along with continued bigotry, and eventually the thriving of some members.
My understanding of what it means to be human being has greatly broadened because of my research into my clients’ ancestry and my relationships with them. This work often takes me to conduct biography work in Manhattan, Brooklyn (the Brooklyn biographer), and other parts of New York as well as, of course, Florida.
With our Asian clients, we are often hired to honor the lives of parents whose roots are in pre-Communist China, and/or Taiwan, Imperialist Japan, and Vietnam. The fact that we are often hired by the first son of an Asian family I attribute to the great responsibility put upon those first-born sons, culturally. They are keenly aware of how fragile this history is; that their Chinese-born and Japan-born relatives (whose native tongue is not English) must be professionally interviewed in order to capture their amazing journey from starvation to salvation, from poverty to a land where they could prove themselves–and have done so. This biography work often takes us to San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and points up and down the Pacific coast.
We also have international clients who live in Paris, Geneva, and London, who find that a biographer anchored in the southeast U.S. is a great advantage and is a trusted confidante.