Photo courtesy of Julia Anderson
Julia Anderson is the author of “Through Christina’s Eyes,” which follows her great grandmother Christina Nilsson as she travels to America from Sweden in the late 1800s.

Author explores family, Swedish roots in new book

When Seattle-area resident and Ballard-frequenter Julia Anderson set off to research her family’s history, she had no idea it would result in a near-400-page self-published book entitled “Through Christina’s Eyes.” It was a project she didn’t even think about until just a year before she wrote it. (And in case you were wondering, Ballard gets a few mentions in the book, too.)

The subject she pursued was her great grandmother, Christina Nilsson, who journeyed from Sweden in the late 1800s to settle in the Chicago, Illinois area. In order to learn more, Anderson made the reverse trip, visiting her great grandmother’s home in Sweden.

“The area where her family home was is no longer there, none of our family has ever visited there, it was a really special moment for me and I was just interested in finding out what her life would’ve been like. And that was a real connection for me to go there and know what it was like to live there when she was a child,” Anderson said.

For Anderson, the book became more personal as thoughts turned to one of her three daughters, Anna, who had a stroke after she was born. Now 18, she is still developmentally one-month old, nonverbal and has lung issues.

“I also wanted a way to tell my daughter’s story who is nonverbal and medically fragile,” Anderson said. “It was a way to kind of explain some of the struggles my daughter goes through as a nonverbal person.”

Though Anderson takes creative control when handling her family’s history and many parts are fictionalized, toward the end the book takes a sharp turn to the real and the deeply personal. After going into detail about taking Anna to the hospital, receiving the diagnosis that she might not live long and would probably never develop normally, Anderson has a telling passage called “Accepting.” (These parts, though aided by Anderson’s own personal experiences, are told “through Christina’s eyes,” looking upon her descendants from afar in an omniscient manner.)

It reads in part: Throughout Anna’s life, Julia and Bill lived in a constant state of not knowing. Not knowing if they would get a frantic call from Anna’s school, be taking Anna to the hospital for medical attention, or knowing why Anna’s brain injury occurred. They had to learn to let go of the thought that a person’s body can be controlled. … Every human will encounter something which causes their physical death. There is no way around that.”

Another aspect that Anderson explores in the book are her Swedish roots. She wanted to be able to tell the story of the Swedish immigration, which has little written about it.

“I wanted to describe what the Swedish immigration experience was like, granted it wasn’t as big number-wise, like the Irish or Germans, etc. But hey, we’re here too,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she feels more should be said about the Swedish experience, not as a way to boast, but so the culture can keep going.

“I feel that’s another important thing: Keep your culture; keep your culture alive. We have one, it’s just we’re not very vocal about it,” Anderson said.

Anderson said that she has been reminded of many Swedish virtues when taking care of her daughter Anna. She said the Swedish will always take care of their family, no matter the circumstances, without any expectation of gratitude or return.

“You should not give up, you should be strong to help your family, and be independent, and be able to provide for your family,” Anderson said.

“Through Christina’s Eyes” is available for order at Secret Garden Bookshop (2214 NW Market St). To learn more about author Julia Anderson and the book, visit www.throughchristinaseyes.com

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