“Everyone Here Is From Somewhere Else” is about brothers trying to figure out who their father(s) really is.
You can imagine Jeff Wallach’s surprise when his mother revealed the family secret.
“When I was 50, my mum told me she loved golf and whiskey so much because of my Scottish heritage,” the Portland author said. “I said what?'”
Wallach thought he was 100% Jewish with parents from Russia and Poland.
“She said, ‘Yeah, your great-grandfather, the Scottish. It had been a family secret for decades. I did a DNA test and found out I was 12% Scottish. Apparently his great-grandfather married into a very religious Jewish family and was an outcast and died young at 34. “Nobody talked about him anymore,” Wallach said.
A former freelance journalist, Wallach wrote golf books, then set about writing a DNA scavenger hunt story based on his own experience of misguided heritage. “Having spent time in Scotland and Ireland, I made it Irish heritage, because they’re funnier,” Wallach said.
He will do a virtual reading of the second of the books, “Everybody Here Comes From Elsewhere” (Open Books, $19.95, Kindle $9.95), at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day .
The Story: Two brothers, Phillip and Spencer, learn in middle age that their father, or the person they were led to believe was their father, was not. A genetic treasure hunt takes them to various places, trying to figure out who their father is, who they are, and what it means.
Many scenes in the book take place in Portland, including Coquine, Lone Fir Cemetery, Central Library, Hawthorne, Hot Lips Pizza, Greater Trumps, Three Doors Down, Laurelhurst Park, and many more.
The first book, “Mr. Wizard”, introduces the brothers and the history of using DNA to learn more about their upbringing. The second develops the story, looking forward and backward in the lives of the characters.
“All that said, it’s a comedy,” Wallach said.
The mother in the book casually tells one of her sons, “You should watch your drinking, being Irish”, similar to Wallach’s real-life discovery. In the book, he wasn’t sure if Mom was going crazy or if the comment was the truth.
“They were led to believe they were Jews, and ‘What are we Irish Jews now?'” he said. “She names the town in Ireland – Ballydraiocht – and a golf professional. Two days later she is dead. Phillip goes for a DNA test and finds out that in fact he is half Irish. He calls his brother ( Spencer) and they talk about whether their mother is hiding the truth from them or misleading them. Two weeks later, the other brother calls him back and says, interestingly enough, “I’m not half Irish”. , ‘Oh my god, we have different fathers.'”
Besides being a freelance journalist and writing five non-fiction books (four on golf, one on river guiding), Wallach has previously worked in various capacities at Lewis & Clark College. Lately, he was able to write books, based on certain real estate investments. He is originally from New York and has lived in Portland for about 30 years.
Wallach said, based on his own experience and books, beware of what you might find from a DNA test.
“It depends on your personality. The research I did for the book, I met a lot of people and I did talks for genealogical societies,” he said. “You have to be ready to be surprised when you don’t want to be surprised.
“There’s a dedicated Facebook page for people who have found out a parent isn’t their parent. For some it’s working out really well, they have a new family. Others are devastated, ‘The man with whom I was living was actually not my father.’
“People are discovering that families traditionally have secrets. For thousands of years there was no way to find out. Today they can discover secrets and maybe find answers. That’s a very powerful tool.”
To learn more, visit http://www.jeffwallach.com.
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