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April 23, 2008 > Book Review: Stories Grandma Never Told: Portuguese Women in California

Book Review: Stories Grandma Never Told: Portuguese Women in California

By Robert A. Garfinkle

Stories Grandma Never Told: Portuguese Women in California, by Sue Fagalde Lick, (Blue Hydrangea Productions), 2007. Pp. 274. Price $18.95 (trade paperback; ISBN 13-976-1-892076-35-9 and ISBN-10-1-82076-35-7).

If you have even a small fraction of Portuguese blood coursing through your veins, then this is a book for you. The stories are not tales of Portuguese fiction or lore, but are the real lives of pioneering women who came to California from Portugal or one of its territories during the twentieth century. Former San Francisco Bay Area author Sue Fagalde Lick spent years gathering these poignant stories of the lives and accomplishments of these women. She was afraid that so many Portuguese women would be lost to history if their stories were not retold for posterity in a book.

Not only will you read about the women themselves, but also where they fit into their communities and how they worked to keep their heritage and culture alive while at the same time assimilating into the American way of life.

It certainly was fascinating to read how these women made the decision to leave their home country for the strange new land of California. I cannot imagine leaving California and going to live in what would be a totally alien land of Portugal. I do not know the language; most of these women did not know English or local customs when they came here. The bottom line is that all of them wanted something better for their husbands (if they were married), children, and themselves, and were willing to make the sacrifices to come here.

I also learned about the customs and festivals that they carried in their hearts; a rich and fascinating culture. I enjoyed reading how these women passed along the proud heritage of being Portuguese, and let's not forget the Portuguese food...lots of food. Lick talks about recipes the women brought with them from the home country. I could almost taste the traditional massa sovada (sweet bread) and sopa (soup made of roasted beef, bread and gravy). Also included are many historical photographs of festa parades, community gatherings, and images of most of the women who are the collective protagonists of this book.

I highly recommend this wonderful gem of a book. I think that you will find it a real pleasure to read and a learning experience as well, even if you are not of Portuguese descent.

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