Texas A&M University Press has released a paperback edition of Czech Voices: Stories from Texas in the Amerikán národní kalendá. Originally published in 1991, Czech Voices comprises ten short memoir-essays written by some of the earliest Czech immigrants to Texas. Translated and edited by Clinton Machann and James W. Mendl, Jr., Czech Voices offers a clear window to the lives of Czech immigrants on a difficult frontier.
Each of the ten autobiographical sketches had been published in the Amerikán národní kalendá (a Czech-language magazine in Chicago. (That publication’s founding by a freethinking political group explains the fact that many of the essays it published expressed some negative attitudes toward organized religion.)
Several motifs and themes that run through the collection loom especially large: hardships of the immigrants, religious conflicts, the American Civil War, ethnic identity, farming practices, and attitudes toward the land. Among the writers are important leaders, adventurers, journalists, and typical farmers, chosen for their identity or powers of expression or for the importance of the events they record. Their impressions, attitudes, and emotions bring to life an era that other sources rarely can.
Clinton Machann and James W. Mendl, Jr., who selected and translated these stories, provide an interpretive introduction, informative notes, and a bibliography that help to place the life stories in their historical and cultural context. These narratives had never before been generally available; historians interested in American immigration and ethnicity, as well as the descendants of immigrants, will appreciate both their valuable contribution and the pleasure of reading them.
What Readers Are Saying:
“ . . . the first-person narratives will have particular appeal for descendants of Czech settlers and students of Texas ethnicity, but they will capture the casual reader’s interest as well.” --North San Antonio Times
“Machann and Mendl’s book provides keen insights into various aspects of Czech Texan lives in the 1800s. This is accomplished through English translations of selected biographies personally written in Czech by each of nine prominent early-day Czech Texans and originally published in a leading Czech journal in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Collectively, they provide a wide panorama of personal experiences ranging from trials and tribulations to pleasures and triumphs of the early Czech Texans. While intended primarily for Czech Texans this book should be in every Czech American household.” --Robert L. Skrabanek, author of We’re Czechs
“ . . . simple and interesting to read, the book is an excellent resource for students from high school through college and also the general reader.” --Review of Texas Books
“ . . . interesting to read and can help us round out our knowledge and understanding of another facet of Texas history.” --Stirpes
“This is an example of renewed interest in Czech ethnicity in Texas, indicating that this manifestation can persist even without the usage of the Czechn language. The publication of Czech Voices is significant to this continuing persistence. Undoubtedly, this book will be read and appreciated by those Texans of Czech descent who never learned the language and yet retained affinity to the culture of their forefathers.” --Great Plains Quarterly
“ . . . ten well-chosen selections give an account of early Czech immigration to Texas . . . and note the development of a Texas Czech identity. . . . Czech Voices captures the spirit of early Czech settlers and rekindles interest in primary sources.” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“ . . . a delightful book, filled with memories and reactions to a new land. The book will appeal to the general reader and also to those interested in more specialized details and anecdotes about ethnic life in Texas and about Czech immigrant life in Texas in particular. . . . a very able translation effort. . . . the book presents some attractive immigrant accounts that transcend issues related to the immigration of one particular ethnic group and its adjustment to the new cultures found in Texas.” --Journal of American Ethnic History
“Machann and Mendl have provided a valuable look at the lives of Czechoslovakian immigrants in Texas . . . It is also that rare item—a truly valuable work of scholarship which will appeal to general readers as well.” --JASAT