Tracing your roots can be one of the most rewarding experiences of one's life, and when the researcher is a professional writer, the project can turn out to be a published book that reunites the family clan.

Dandelion author, Laurel Johnson, has written a memorable account of her grandmother, Esther Clara Sanow, captured from transcribed recorded sessions that her uncle Dr. Donald H. Ford, Professor Emeritus, State College, PA, had the wisdom to capture before Esther Clara passed away in 1989.

Esther’s memory now lives on in Johnson’s extraordinary book, My Name is Esther Clara.

Born in 1898 as the youngest of 10 children, Esther’s life and memories span some of the most significant periods of the 20th century.

Esther Clara: A woman of common roots and uncommon spirit

From the back cover of My Name is Esther Clara:

“Esther Clara’s lifetime spanned two world wars and the advent of electricity, plumbing, refrigeration, penicillin, telephones, automobiles, airplanes, air conditioning, radio, TV, computers, department stores, shopping malls and many other inventions and conveniences that have come to be considered basics of modern American life.

“Here is an authentic account of 20th Century rural America audio- and videotaped by Esther Clara before her death in 1989 and adeptly reconstituted by her granddaughter, Laurel Johnson, a professional writer and master storyteller.”

“Laurel Johnson's rich literary style and ability to give her characters life will not only bring laughter and tears, but make this story one you won't forget.”

--Nancy Mehl, reviewer for The Wichita Eagle
and Midwest Book Review

“Laurel Johnson allows her grandmother to speak and the reader to listen and judge. That's what writers do, and even long after her death Esther Clara's voice won't be denied.”

--Michael Corrigan, writer and teacher,
Idaho State University at Pocatello

Write Johnson’s uncle and aunt:

As two people intimately associated with Esther Sanow Ford throughout her life, we knew her memoir would be charming. After all, Esther Clara's life was long, rich with fun, love, joy, wisdom, and positive living.

She also experienced sorrow, loss, war, economic hardship, and illness. These are ingredients found in the life of every American, but this book turned out to be much more than a memoir. Described in her own words and lived on her own terms, Esther's life wonderfully illustrates every major socioeconomic, cultural, and technological change in the first nine decades of the 20th century.

She lived through four wars and the worst economic depression this country has known so far. She watched America emerge as a world power and looked on as Man took his first fledgling steps in space.

Hers is not a top down view of history from the perspective of famous politicians, industrial or social leaders but a bottom up viewpoint of how each event presented new challenges and opportunities to individuals and families.

Without deliberate intent, Ms. Johnson created a story that ultimately illustrates the radical changes that occurred in theories of aging over the last 50 years.

Early theory held that individuals develop from conception to maturity at about 20 years of age. From that point on, theoretically, aging was a down hill process to the end of life as people became increasingly incompetent.

Modern theories of human development prove that aging is a life long process, not just a process of decline but one of continued opportunities for learning in new and interesting directions, and continued usefulness to family, friends and community.

Esther Clara's life illustrates this new view of the aging process, as does Ms. Johnson's own life since her career as a creative, recognized and admired author only began to flower during the fifth decade of her life.

Esther Clara Sanow Ford was never one to mince words. If she were to read this book she would laugh and say, "There was nothing special about my life. Everyone experiences ups and downs and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, our interesting stories. But I will say this: It's the ordinary folks like Herb and I who make things happen."

Our leaders can imagine and propose big plans, but it's the energy, skill, intelligence, sweat and tears of ordinary citizens who work hard to make those big ideas happen. Our founding fathers realized that and counted on the judgment of ordinary people. They expected us to keep this country strong and honest through the ballot box.


My Name is Esther Clara
will entertain, bring smiles and tears. It provides a view into our past and the people who made this country what it is today--the wealthiest, most powerful country on Earth.

--Carol Clark Ford and Donald H. Ford,

Professor Emeritus,State College, PA

Tracing your roots can be filled with wonderful surprises, as Laurel Johnson discovered. As soon as her book was published, the order phone started ringing from members of the Sanow family.

I could hear the tears in their voices as they told me proudly of their relationship to Laurel and her grandmother and then launched into their own personal narratives about this amazing woman and how she was related to them.

Family reunions continue in person as Johnson travels through the Midwest giving talks and readings where members of the family are often in attendance.

Following is an account of one of Johnson’s most recent events:

“My talk at the group in Clay Center KS was a great success. Forty-five people attended the luncheon. Most were over age 50 but some were much younger.

“The mother of one of the staff members had given her daughter Esther Clara to read. The daughter passed it on to a couple of her co-workers, and that's how the decision was made to schedule my appearance.”

Johnson sold out her supply of books, placed it in the community library, and ordered more.

A book doesn’t have to be a best seller to have a profound impact upon its readers, and perhaps in the long run, that’s what really matters. Esther Clara’s story beautifully narrated by her granddaughter has not only reunited the family clan; it has also enriched the lives of every person who has read it.

Read an excerpt of My Name is Esther Clara.

Laurel Johnson is also the author of The Alley of Wishes.

My Name is Esther Clara and The Alley of Wishes are available in hard copy from Amazon and other online bookstores. They are also available on Amazon Kindle.

Author's Bio: 

Carol Adler, MFA’s first ghost-written book listing her name as co-editor, Why Am I Still Addicted? A Holistic Approach to Recovery, was endorsed by Deepak Chopra, M.D., and published by McGraw-Hill. Other publications include three novels, four books of poetry, and well over 200 poems in literary journals. She has ghostwritten over 40 non-fiction and fiction works for a number of professionals in the education, health care and human potential industries.

Carol is President of Dandelion Books, LLC of Tempe, Arizona; a full service publishing company. She is also President and CEO of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc., Write to Publish for Profit and President of the International Arts & Media Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc.

Her business experience includes co-ownership of a Palm Beach, FL public relations company and executive management positions in two U.S. rejuvenation and mind/body wellness corporations, for which she founded publishing divisions.

Carol has served as editor of several poetry and literary magazines. Her career experience includes extensive teaching of college-level creative and business writing, and conducting of writing workshops in prisons, libraries, elementary, junior and high schools, and senior citizen centers.

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