Featured authors speak of their families and heritage

Yami Sun, Staff Reporter

Two of this year’s featured authors were invited to Silicon Valley Reads 2019 to lead a conversation about family history and self-identity on Feb. 27 at the Visual and Performance Arts Center.

“Finding Samuel Lowe” by Paula Williams Madison is a remarkable journey about one woman’s search for her maternal grandfather from China to New York and her path to self-discovery.

In “The Stranger in My Genes,” Veteran financial journalist Bill Griffeth writes about his shock when his DNA test results showed that his beloved father was not his biological father.

Madison’s career as a journalist not only helped her to win awards, but also provided the skills to research her family and trace her grandfather.

“I think it’s exciting for overcoming implicit discrimination, learning about history, recognizing the truth,” said Susan Vasbinder, an audience member. “One of the things that Bill Griffeth said is that he’s a journalist so that he believes in the search for truth.”

“I think so many people come to me with similar stories and they asked how do I deal with it,” Griffeth said. “The first thing I say is, keep a journal, just write it down. Don’t worry about spelling and punctuation. Just get it out there, get the emotions out.”

Mercury News columnist Sal Pizarro asked about the author’s scary moments while they were trying to find out the truth and whether it would be accepted.

Madison said her husband asked her if she knew she was black and what she expected when she met these Chinese people.

Griffeth said he went through the various stages of grief, from denial to depression, very strong anger, and then acceptance.

Audience member Susan Hooberry said she and her sister wanted to be inspired and now had something to prod them on to know where to go and what to do.

“What we know is so small compared to what’s available,” said Marilyn Macnab, Hooberry’s sister. “I’d like to capture what I could.”

Diane Roche, director of County Library Communication and Marketing, learned from the talk the importance of going through life with an open mind and finding family that may not be a blood relation.

“The relationships that you’ve built throughout your life, they become family.”