Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch
Pullman author’s memoir of life in Occupied France a highly recommended read

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the July 1, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

Nicole H. Taflinger, longtime parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Pullman, has written an extraordinary memoir of her life growing up in France with special emphasis on the World War II occupation by German forces. The book, just published by WSU PRESS, is titled Season of Suffering: Coming of Age in Occupied France, 1940-1945. It is a large size paperback that has a list price of $22.95.

I first met Nicole in 1988 when I was assigned as pastor to Sacred Heart. I knew of her love of France and her artistic ability in the visual arts. Her NICA Gallery was a vital force for art and art education in Pullman. But I had no idea she would be such a wonderful writer. She has written a book that in superb and poignant language tells a story that is filled with heartbreak and the heights of joy. Season of Suffering is rich with factual information of what it is like to live under the Nazi regime in an occupied country. But the book is also a story of the power of the human spirit combined with a beautiful love story that is filled with emotion and meaning.

Her memoir begins in 1929, when she is two years old, in Nancy, France. We learn of her family and her life in her beloved Northeastern France in the region of Lorraine, not too far from Germany. Nicole writes with such happiness of her Solemn Communion at age 12. What a sacramental and family celebration!

But soon we move on to the slowly marching danger of war with Germany in September 1939 and the reality of gas masks and ration coupons. Nicole’s father, Marcel Braux, is called up to defend France at the Maginot Line. He is captured and is imprisoned in a POW camp in northern Germany.

I found the section on the German Occupation particularly powerful. You really got the feel for what it was like for a family to struggle to live each day in such a world. It is also very interesting to see the contrast between the German Occupation and the later U.S. Occupation during the nearby Battle of the Bulge. Even though Nicole hated the German Occupation, she also provides a view of the American period that was at times frightening and dark.

The liberation of Nancy by the Americans is told with an infectious joy. The love story of Nicole and Lt. Ancel Gordon Taflinger is told with humor, romance, and tenderness.

Her first encounter with peanut butter and donuts is worth the price of admission. The symbolism of Gordon’s mother making cornbread back in America shows the cultural differences that take some working out.

One whole area of the war that I have never run into is the story of her father returning from Germany as a POW, caught with a whole different view of the war from his wife and daughter. The Nazi propaganda was difficult to lose as it had been ingrained during five years in prisoner camps. The severe ramifications of trying to understand each other from different places during the war divides the family.

Throughout the book are a number of special sections that give factual information on a topic such as the Vichy Government that for me has always been difficult to understand. The explanation given in Season of Suffering will help the next time you watch the classic movie Casablanca.

Season of Suffering is an endearing memoir that will stay with you. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Recently Received

A recent Memorial Day weekend visit to Calvin and Lorrraine (Rizzuti) Toye in Walla Walla included a visit to the large Italian section of the cemetery. I also stopped to see the statute of Christopher Columbus in front of the Court House that a Ku Klux Klan official was so upset about in the early 1920’s as reported some months ago in the Inland Register's “From the Archives” section.

About the same time the Inland Register received a copy of the large coffee table book The Journey of the Italians in America, by Vincenza Scarpaci of Eugene, Ore. The book has over 500 photographs with detailed explanations. It is published by Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, La. The third printing of the book was this March. Originally available at a list price of $40, it is now available for $32. The publisher’s phone is (800) 843-1724.

The Journey of the Italians in America is obviously a labor of love. It is filled with detail and there are numerous connections to Walla Walla and Spokane. On page 57 there is a picture of St. Francis Church in 1915, with several hundred parishioners standing in front of the church. There are lots of children. The church was constructed with financial help of nearby parishioners of St. Patrick Parish.

On page 64 there is a picture of “Home Cooking in Spokane, Washington c. 2000” that shows Tullia Barbanti serving a meal using recipes from her published cookbook. Page 107 has the partners and employees of the U.S. Macaroni Manufacturing Company of Spokane posing in front of one of their trucks. Those pictured included Fileno DeFelice, Carmen Julian, and Sam Giampietri, plus several others.

On page 143 there is a picture of Ben Cavalli, Jr. selling his crop of Walla Walla Sweet Onions in 2004. Page 146 has a picture of Frank and Amelia Orsi harvesting vegetables on their land in Dishman, Wash., in 1931. Leda Commellini watches as the vegetables are harvested.

On page 263 there is color photo of a blue-ribbon badge worn by those who contributed to the statue of Christopher Columbus which was dedicated in October of 1911. The names of the 98 immigrant donors were engraved on the back of the pedestal. The statue was produced by the Roberts Monument Company of Walla Walla for $1,000.

A picture with hundreds of parishioners in front of St. Patrick Church in Walla Walla is titled “A Royal Funeral” on page 160. It is the funeral of Joseph Tachi in 1912. He was one of the early financially successful Italians of Walla Walla. He died in a runaway-horse accident, leaving his wife, Antonia , and no children. He owned property worth around $300,000.

Vincenza Scarpaci has researched and written a treasure-trove of Italian-American history. This book would be a wonderful gift for anyone of Italian-American ancestry or anyone interested in American history.


Skylight Paths of Woodstock, Vermont has just published a book that draws together the craft of crocheting with prayer and spirituality. The book is titled Contemplative Crochet: A Hands-On Guide for Interlocking Faith and Craft, by Cindy Crandall-Frazier. It is a large size paperback that includes in each chapter a project for crocheting with pictures and instructions. The list price for the book is $16.99.

Two chapters are of special interest to Catholics. Chapter 4, called “Meditation Meets Prayer,” connects to the Prayer Shawl which several parishes in the diocese have as a ministry. The chapter teaches ways of crocheting the prayer shawl while learning new forms of prayer. Forms of meditation and silence are stressed as the artist creates the shawl that will be used by someone else as an aid for prayer and refection.

Chapter 6 is called “Prayers on a String.” It speaks of the use of beads for prayer in many different religions. There is a section on Christian traditions that includes the rosary. The author speaks of the connection of the rosary to rose gardens and to the 150 Psalms. She speaks of one tradition where the beads are made of rose petal paste, shaped into beads, and dried, while retaining the scent of roses for many years.

Contemplative Crochet looks like a wonderful source book for an individual or a group who enjoy crocheting. The prayer aspect may already to a part of their lives, but this book would seem to be a helpful addition to growing in prayer with the art of crocheting.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations officer for the Spokane Diocese and Inland Register archivist.)

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