16 July 2009

Book: Sephardic Jews, 15th-16th centuries

With northern New Mexico's large population of Conversos, it seems a good place for Dolores Sloan, 79, to speak about her new book, "The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal: Survival of an Imperiled Culture in the 15th and 16th Centuries."

Sloan will be on hand for a book signing from 5-6pm, Friday, July 15, at Garcia Street Books, Santa Fe.

The story was in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

It's all because of her mother.

Dolores "Dolly" Sloan, 79, became a writer when she was an 8-year-old living in the Bronx.

"I wrote a play for my second-grade class — it was a thrilling experience," Sloan recalled.

It was around that same time Sloan's mother gave her a book about a little Spanish dancer and told her there was a possibility that her family had come from Spain.

Unbeknownst to Sloan at the time, her mother's gift was to become the genesis of her newly published book.
Sloan arrived in NM in 1991 after visiting a friend who lived there, and worked as a counseling services coordinator and state consultant as a director of the Literary Arts Program for its Arts Division.

"That was an incredible experience," Sloan said. "We went to under-served communities around the state like the Mescalero Apache Reservation, the Navajo Nation in Shiprock and communities in Deming, Hobbs, Carlsbad, Mora and other parts of the state. These people didn't have access to professional writers, so we set up writing workshops where published authors from New Mexico could help them develop their own writing skills."
She also worked for the NM Department of Health and then as a peer counseling coordinator at a high school.

Around this time, in the mid-90s, her mother's early words about a family connection to Spain began to resonate. Sloan met New Mexicans with Sephardic Jewish roots and she also traveled to Spain.
"I went to libraries and bookstores to see if I could find information on this subject, and discovered that there weren't any books of this type for the general reader," she recalled. "That's when I decided that I needed to do the research and author my own book. I wrote the preface to the book on a napkin while I was attending the Border Book Festival in Las Cruces."
It took her 10 years: seven in research and three finding a publisher. She calls it a very enriching experience and describes holding 16th-century documents in her hands.

I can relate to that as I have held actual documents dated 1204 and 1353 in my own hands when visiting Spanish archives.

A single mother of three, she was born in New York City and raised in the Bronx. Her journalism and political science degree is from Syracuse University with master's degrees in political science and psychology. Currently, she teaches speech, writing and a course on Jewish women's history at St. Mary's College (Los Angeles).

Each summer she returns to New Mexico to keep up with friends at PEN New Mexico, an affiliate of the largest international professional association of writers, editors and translators.

Read the complete article at the link above.

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