Book publishing The Forestville family is a tribe of scribes


The Baer/Morey/Levitin family certainly has a meaning for words.

How else to explain the prolific editorial prowess of the Forestville clan in recent times? Three authors, three books, all with different publishers, all in the space of about six months.

Two of the books – one by Barbara Baer, ​​the other by her adult son, Michael Levitin – are novels; the third, by Baer’s husband, Michael Morey, is non-fiction. Each work tells the story of a complicated protagonist on an epic journey to a distant place. One is in India, one in the Philippines, one in Berlin. Oh, and the Morey and Levitin books are debuts.

“We’re a family of writers,” says Baer, ​​who is the eldest of the trio at 79. “We share a passion. We share a journey. We share an interest. And we understand the importance of not bothering yourself and giving yourself the space to create.

Morey, 73, agrees. “We’ve supported each other in writing and in life for over 40 years,” he says. “It’s good to celebrate these achievements together.”

Ever realistic, Levitin, 42, puts the family’s success into perspective: “We are longtime residents of Sonoma County with deep roots in the community, and we know that as a unit, we e will never have another outstanding literary year like this. a.”

The works themselves couldn’t be more different.

The most recent of the trio, Morey’s, was released on February 15 and is titled “Fagen: An African American Renegade” in the Philippine-American War. The non-fiction book spotlights David Fagen, a former member of the Buffalo Soldiers whose defection from the occupying American forces to join and lead the successful Philippine resistance became a legendary saga at the turn of the 20th century – all the more that Fagen was never caught.

Levitin’s novel, “Disposable Man,” was published by Spuyten Duyvil on January 10 and is loosely based on the author’s experience as a foreign correspondent. It also deals with the realities of Jewish youth, the legacy of the Holocaust, and modern masculinity and its discontents.

Finally, “The Last Devadasi” is Baer’s third published novel, and is a perfect book for the #MeToo era. The book dives deep into traditional Indian dance culture and the gendered heritage of the Devadasi Untouchables caste – women who spend their lives cloistered in temples where they are also abused by priests. It was published on October 10, 2018 by Open Books.

In a way, those were the words that brought the family together: Baer and Morey met at the Writers’ Fellowship conference in Squaw Valley in 1978. Each was associated with someone else at the time, but that didn’t stop them from reuniting shortly. after. Levitin was just a toddler then, but the trio became a unit and in 1980 moved from Ohio to a 2-acre plot with a small bungalow behind El Molino High School.

Morey had already written two novels by the time he arrived in Sonoma County and determined fiction was his thing, but he struggled to get either book over the line. goal. So he switched to non-fiction and started working on Fagen’s book. It was a slow burn; for 10 years, he dropped it, took it back, tinkered with it and overhauled it. He conducted research at the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

“For me, the book was an ongoing project, something I worked and worked on until I got to a point where I felt comfortable shopping for it,” he says. .

Eventually, the University of Wisconsin Press published the book.

Baer, ​​meanwhile, produced like Shakespeare from that West County perch – the first independent newspaper and magazine job (after a newspaper career). She has written on denuclearization and the United Farm Workers for the Nation and Commonwealth. She has written another novel called “The Ballet Lover”, also with Open Books. Then, in 1995, she launched a small publishing house: Floreant Press.

She has published six books under this label, including “Cartwheels on the Fault Line”, a compilation of essays by many women writers from Marin to Mendocino.

“Back then, publishing your own work wasn’t as common as it is now,” Baer says. “Really, starting a small press seemed like the best chance to release the kind of work my friends and I wanted to publish.”

As for Levitine, from the beginning all roads lead to writing. Some of his earliest memories are in the Forestville house – playing among the fruit trees, spying on his mother as she wrote in her office. He also remembers Morey’s writing shack from the early days: a converted chicken coop that Morey affectionately called “the Hooch”.

Although Levitin didn’t really fall in love with writing until college, he says he “never wanted to commit to anything else” and “never found another occupation that seemed doable like writing”. So he became a journalist. He was looking for his own stories. And he worked a lot abroad.

“I went my own way but I learned by example,” says the resident of El Cerrito. “[The influence] that my parents had on me turned out to be stronger than I ever knew.

These days, Morey writes from a small office in the back of a self-contained garage – just steps from the wooden platform where his old writing room once stood. His next project: to develop essays from some elements of Fagen that were not included in the book.

Baer is also impatient; her next novel will draw loosely from both sides of her family’s history and look at how the financial crises of the early 20th century changed their lives.

Levitin’s next book will shed light on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It is not known when these next books will be released. And it’s likely that none of the books will be ready at the same time. Heck, chances are at least one of the projects will never see the light of day. Whatever happens, whatever the future holds, one thing is certain: everyone in the Baer/Morey/Levitin family will keep writing.

Matt Villano is a writer and editor in Healdsburg. To learn more about him, visit


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