When Dale Salwak returned to his hometown of Amherst, Mass., after a 35-year absence, he stood in front of the house his father built and considered the history that triggered his book, "Faith in the Family: Honoring and Strengthening Home and Spirit" (New World Library, $14.95.)
Salwak, who will be at Borders in Thousand Oaks on Sunday to discuss and sign the book, is a professor of English at Citrus College.
He was raised in a rural town in an intact family, with grandparents on both sides living nearby. Because his father was a college administrator, academic life was familiar territory early on.
"I don't think I realized how many hurting families there are until I started teaching and began to learn some of the life stories of some of my students," he said in a telephone interview. He hopes the book will affirm what those from healthy families already know, while offering hope for those not as fortunate.
While his book is not a comprehensive study, he said it covers most of the relevant themes of family life, from marriage and children to aging.
For Salwak, the theme of the book is best described by the philosophy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who said we are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but rather spiritual beings on a human journey. From that perspective, it makes a difference in how we look at problems and challenges, he said.
Although Salwak recognizes that there are threats against the family today, he sees great hope for the family as an institution. When we come to the end of our lives, the most important thing is not how much we have but who we know--our family and friends, he said.
"I think there is something that goes beyond biology that links us on the heart level--the spiritual realm. For children who are adopted and loved, biology is superseded by the spiritual connection," he said.
Salwak has written 18 books on contemporary literary figures and edited "Wonders of Solitude," which he called an inspirational book celebrating the need for time alone and the creative power of solitude.
"We live in a strange society in which if we say we are doing things and [are] always active, no questions [are] asked. But as soon as we say we want to be alone, people look at us as if we are asocial, suspect or ill," he said.
One of Salwak's literary interests is novelist Anne Tyler, about whom he wrote "Anne Tyler as Novelist." Her Quaker connections intrigued him. He said he appreciated the small-town, quiet reflective feeling to her books. His favorite is "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant."
"I like the privacy with which she conducts her life," he said. "She could be a very public person if she wanted to be, but she chose to protect her family, remain aloof and write her books."
Salwak considered writing fiction but realized it was not his niche, and a few attempts are sitting in his closet. Instead, he said he finds great joy in telling stories of people's lives.
* Today: 10:30 a.m. Sinclair Browning will discuss and sign "Rode Hard, Put Away Dead" and David Cole will discuss and sign "The Killing Maze." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.
* Today: 7 p.m. Ralph Covert performs tunes from his debut release, "Ralph's World," a collection of sing-alongs. Borders, 125 S. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 479-8159.
* Sunday: 2 p.m. Dale Salwak will sign and discuss "Faith in the Family: Honoring and Strengthening Home and Spirit." Borders, 497-8159.
* Sunday: 7 p.m. Poetry night with featured poet, followed by open mike. Borders, 497-8159.
* Monday: 7:30 p.m. The Spiritual Book Discussion Group will focus on "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Borders, 497-8159.
* Tuesday: 7 p.m. Monthly Poetry Workshop. Borders, 497-8159.
* Wednesday: 7 p.m. Jacqueline Marcell will discus and sign "Elder Rage, or Take My Father . . . Please!" Borders, 497-8159.
* Thursday: 6:30 p.m. Roseanne Cash will sing and read from "Penelope Jane: A Fairy's Tale," Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura, 650-9688.
* Friday: 1-4 p.m. Language columnist Chris Redgate will discuss "Meet Me in Dove Cottage: A Literary Tour of Britain." Borders, (497-8159).
* Friday: 6:30 p.m. Laurie Levine will discuss and sign "Spiritual Medicine." Local Hero Bookstore, 254 East Ojai Ave., Ojai, 646-3165.
Plan Ahead: April 3, 1-4 p.m. "Barbarians at the Gate: The History of English" at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. April 5, 1-4 p.m., "From Barf to Garbology: Words & Their Funky Origins" at Barnes & Noble, Westlake. Call Roseanne Savo at 491-3387 for more information.
Information about book signings, writers groups and publishing events can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 647-5649.