Local author captures stories of American success
SEDONA - Anne Snowden Crosman promised a presentation of her new book, “The New Immigrants: American Success Stories.” Many walked away with a freshly minted copy, hinged upon the joyous celebration Crosman stirred among the standing-room only crowd last week at the Sedona Library. It was a celebration of their own being.
At the same time she gave fresh respect to the myriads of immigrant children or children’s children who populate American culture with fresh new blood and contribute to the great American “melting pot.”
Crosman, who says she has been a journalist since 16, describes “immigration” as the No. 1 issue in America and the Southwest. Rather than repeating the oft-harped theme of “parasitic illegal immigrants” who take advantage of our system and plunder the opportunity, Crosman turns the story on its head and celebrates immigrants who came to America, full of energy and hard work, to find new opportunity, plant seed and create a rich new world among themselves.
This book studies examples not far from home. Many are neighbors or friends of friends. Some of the gathering included acquaintances she made through an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) course she offers through Yavapai College. She has taught them to listen to themselves and tap the depth of their personal stories.
Crosman, who has worked in print and broadcast media for a variety of news sources, believes she rose on a “wave of feminism” to become the first CBS Radio news anchor and later trolled Washington and European hotspots for NBC News and Newsweek. At one point she was based in Switzerland.
An earlier Crosman book, explored dozens of stories of “growing old gracefully.” People are getting older and still functioning. Today’s 70 is yesterday’s 50. The book is called “Young at Heart: Aging Gracefully with Attitude.”
Crosman recalls Barbara Walters’ advice, that during interviews, “put down those pages of questions and listen closely to what the subject says.” In the same fashion, the audience this past week was given the chance to personally listen to the stories from her book’s own immigrant subjects and families, as Crosman drew them out. She also queried audience members for their stories.
Andy Spheeris told of how his father and mother came to the United States with only the skills to work hard, at first shining shoes and selling newspapers, but eventually forging a prosperous tobacco wholesale business, “that would never have happened if we had stayed back in Southern Greece with the chickens and goats.”
“This is the greatest country in the world. There is no better place than the United States,” he cheered.
His son, Chris Spheeris, is a musician, well respected in new age music circles.
Bette and Venkat Venkateswaran, Crosman explained, came to Sedona as retirees. Their primary home is in Vienna having worked with the International Monetary Fund. But Venkat recalled in his youth in India wooing girls through the medium of American music, “Love Letters in the Sand.” He also told of his early attraction to American jazz he listened to on Voice of America.
The India native spoke of how, on his 17th birthday, he bicycled 17 miles through the rain to Madras to hear the music of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. In the Indian heat, he was dry when he arrived and was thrilled at the experience.
An early runner, Penny Mathieu grew up in England but followed her husband to America. They met while training for the London Marathon. But, when they finished, they were a team.
Once in America, she recalled how she intended to put her skills as a nurse to work, since she knew, “you can work anywhere as a nurse.”
But when Penny called to get her credentials transferred, she was told she would have to take the “English exam!”
She protested that she had an English birth certificate and graduated from an English university, but was told, duplicating the broad drawl on the phone, “Federal regulations, ma’am, Federal regulations.”
She worked for the Minnesota Heart Institute.
‘A great spirit and a wonderful showman’ is how Crosman introduced Itzhak Magal. His story is also in Crosman’s new book.
He told of how he first immigrated from Babylon (now Iraq) to Israel after it became a state. He had already “lost his mother in Iraq” where children were taken to an Isareli kibbutz community near the ocean. When he was 27, working in the dining room of the kibbutz, he told of meeting a woman he “knew would become his wife.” She implored that she had just come from the United States to learn and work, but she “was hungry.” That was his opportunity.
Itzhak went into the army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and later followed Alicia to Jerusalem where they worked for Israeli TV. He became a soundman.
After working several years in TV, the couple with their two children came to America, Itzhak with a green card, married to an American.
Tired of looking at small jobs, Itzhak said they should go to Hollywood where he could ply his trade as a soundman.
His first job on union wages was with “Hill Street Blues.” After working the show for two years, the couple bought a house.
His job eventually took him all over the world, working with the likes of Jimmy Stewart, James Dean, Gene Hackman and Danny Glover and Brook Shields.
And in 1982, he got a call to attend a citizenship ceremony in downtown Los Angeles. “It was wonderful to be a citizen with an American passport,” he said.
To the gathering’s enjoyment, he told them: “America is my lover. Israel is my mother. But, you live with your lover, not your mother.”
After a year of working in Hollywood, Alicia decided to study to become a rabbi “to do something for her people” and studied for seven years before receiving a call to come to Sedona.
Crosman’s reflection on successful immigrants also carries the story of Deb Wahl of the Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery, a Croatian living in Germany, who got a job in America when a Stuttgart neighbor was robbed and killed.
The book tells the story of Yvonne Yapp, who began working 18 hours a day in a relative’s California restaurant. She now owns and operates the Ming House in Camp Verde.
Meng Truong came to America as a refugee and began a small Asian grocery. That store has become the largest Asian foods supplier with branches in Phoenix, Peoria and Tucson.
Crosman tells of her love of listening to people’s stories. “It was a joy to write,” she beamed.
The author says her next book will discuss philanthropists. “I have 18 more books to write,” she said