Book publishing Forestville family is a tribe of scribes
The Baer/Morey/Levitin family certainly has a way with words.
How else to explain the Forestville clan’s prolific publishing prowess of late? Three authors, three books, all with different publishers, all in a span 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 nonfiction. Each work tells the story of a complicated protagonist on an epic journey in a faraway place. One is set in India, one in the Philippines, one in Berlin. Oh, and the books by Morey and Levitin are debuts.
“We are a family of writers,” says Baer, who is the eldest of the trio at a spry 79. “We share a passion. We share a drive. We share an interest. And we understand the importance of not bothering each other and giving each other the space to create.”
Morey, 73, agrees. “We’ve supported each other in writing and life for more than 40 years,” he says. “It’s nice to celebrate these accomplishments together.”
Ever the realist, Levitin, 42, puts the family’s success into perspective: “We’re longtime Sonoma County residents with deep roots in the community, and we know that, as a unit, we’ll never have another bumper literary year like this one.”
The works themselves couldn’t be more different.
The newest of the trio, Morey’s, was released Feb. 15 and is titled “Fagen: An African American Renegade” in the Philippine-American War. The nonfiction book spotlights David Fagen, a former member of the Buffalo Soldiers whose defection from the occupying American forces to join and lead the successful Filipino resistance became a legendary saga at the turn of the 20th century — especially since Fagen was never caught.
Levitin’s novel, “Disposable Man,” was published by Spuyten Duyvil on Jan. 10, and is based loosely on the author’s experience as a foreign correspondent. It also deals with the realities of growing up Jewish, 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 takes a deep dive into traditional Indian dance culture and the sexist legacy of the Untouchables caste of Devadasi — women who spend their lives cloistered in temples where they’re also abused by the priests. It was published Oct. 10, 2018, by Open Books.
In a sense, words are what brought the family together: Baer and Morey met at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley conference back in 1978. Each was partnered with someone else at the time, but that didn’t stop them from coming together shortly thereafter. Levitin was just a toddler then, but the trio became a unit and in 1980 moved from Ohio to a 2-acre parcel with a small bungalow behind El Molino High School.
Morey already had written two novels by the time he got to Sonoma County and determined fiction was his thing, but he struggled to get either book over the goal line. So he switched to nonfiction and began working on the Fagen book. His was a slow burn; over the course of 10 years he dropped it, picked it up again, tinkered and revised. He conducted research at the National Archives and the Library of Congress.