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The Arts
05.25.11

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Phaedra
Photograph by Andrea Young

Wise Acre

Occidental's Chester Aaron writes again

By Leilani Clark


Soldier, X-ray technician, garlic farmer, author—in his 88 years on Earth, the multifaceted Chester Aaron has nearly done it all and lived to write the tale.

The author of 26 books, Aaron's latest novel, About Them (El Leon Literary Arts), revisits the "largely vanished" world of his very first book, About Us, an autobiographical exploration of a 1930s Pennsylvania coal-mining village.

"My stories are about 50 percent fact and 50 percent fiction," says Aaron, by phone from his home in Occidental. He was inspired to write a sequel to About Us, he says, after a visit to his hometown revealed an unexcavated side to the original narrative involving the love between a Jewish boy and an African-American girl.

"I doubt I will write anymore about that place or those people," Aaron says. "Writing brought them back in body and soul. I miss them now more than I did when I started."

As one of the soldiers that helped liberate Dachau ("We could smell it when we were approaching it, and the Germans had not yet left"), Aaron began writing down his thoughts after the war and hasn't stopped—his latest endeavor is a movie script. As an assistant writer at MGM in the 1950s, Aaron gained familiarity with the movie-making process, but times have changed. "This is a totally different world now," he says.

Chester Aaron reads from About Them on Thursday, May 26, at Viva. 7160 Keating Ave., Sebastopol. 6-8pm. $20 includes light dinner and wine. 707.824.9913.


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