A book detailing an epistolary love affair and a fascinating social history over a 73-year period has just been released by a Siena Heights University faculty member. Nancy Seligmann, associate professor of English and chair of SHU’s English Department, is the author of the book My Dear Helen.
This twin saga is told by two ordinary cousins, Joe and Helen, who keep each other informed of the changes in their daily lives. It also tells the story of Europe descending into the darkness of World War II, as well as America ascending to global, political, military and economic dominance.
“The book is about two unknown people who participated in history, as we all do,” Seligmann said. “The book is formatted through Joe’s letters and the interpretation of the narration I took from Helen. The chapters go back and forth from letters, to Helen’s first-person voice. I found it easier to write in her voice and only use myself as a minor character.”
Though the second cousins only met twice in person during their lifetimes, the letters span from 1923-1996. Helen, who lived in America, kept all the letters. She said Joe, a German, traveled to interesting places, and she was interested in reading about his travels. Joe died at age 88 in Nauheim, Germany, in 1996, while Helen died at age 90 in Saginaw, Mich., in 1997.
Seligmann said she and her publisher, Linus Publications, decided to come out with two versions, a textbook version and the public version. The textbook version has study questions that explore the book through the lives of real people and their placement in history.
“The questions urge the reader to place the book within history while exploring its relevance today,” Seligmann said. “This book fits well into an introduction to literature class or a history class. I will use the book in my introduction to literature class with the theme of ‘Love and War.’ ”
Seligmann said SHU colleague Christine Reising, chair of the Art Department, who designed the cover and the back of the book from family photos. She also credited SHU Library Director Dr. Robert Gordon for his help with the textbook questions.
The textbook version is $36 plus $4 shipping through the Linus web site www.linusbooks.com/catalog.php.
The public version, not yet entered on the Linus site, is $20, plus $4 shipping. Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About the Author: Nancy Seligmann is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University and has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She is the author of two books, articles and short stories. She chairs the English Department at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. She lives in Chelsea, Mich.