Former Venice resident writes book about growing up in the community during the 1940s
By Holly Jenvey
Author Donna Friess’ latest book, “Growing Up Venice: Parallel Universes,” was recently named a finalist in the Memoirs: Historical/Legacy category of the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest international awards program for indie authors and independent publishers.
Published in September 2020, the book recounts her life growing up in Venice during the California Oil Boom of the 1940s. Friess lived next to a working oil pump. At the time, she didn’t realize that she was living next to the fourth most productive oil field in California.
Friess is a former professor and historian who was looking to delve deeper into California history, which ultimately led to the idea for the book. When the lockdown occurred during COVID-19, Friess felt it was the best time to start writing.
Even though Friess doesn’t live in Venice anymore, she wanted to bring a significant period of Los Angeles history to life.
“It was just the experience of writing that book during a pandemic,” Friess said. “When I had the luxury of time to write, I didn’t have to be anywhere. In fact, I couldn’t go anywhere… Of all the nine books that I’ve written, it was absolutely pure joy.”
The book begins with Friess’ grandparents who arrived in Venice in the 1880s, and honors the Indigenous community living on the Venice shores. It also highlights Abbot Kinney’s Venice-of-America years and includes stories that span the discovery of oil, along with the evolving art scene and how the city transformed into a tech hub.
In the book, Friess also cites the importance of preserving family history. Prior to writing her book, Friess once read a line in a novel that stayed with her: “Once the storyteller is gone, so are the stories unless they are written down.”
“That line resonated so heavily with me that I heard it in the background as I wrote ‘Growing Up Venice,’” Friess said. “My childhood stories and memories that would otherwise be forgotten.”
Even though Venice has changed since Friess lived there, she felt connected to her childhood when she visited recently.
“To stand there and inhale the ocean water and relive that, it was marvelous,” Friess said.
Friess wants readers to learn there is no place in the world like Venice. She said she believes the dichotomy and the variety of groups who live in Venice make it an attraction to the world along with its evolution. Friess wants her book to safeguard Venice’s history to live on for as long as possible.
“Growing Up Venice: Parallel Universes” is available at Amazon in Kindle format, black and white print, and hardback color print.