Hits The Best Seller List
Starring on best-seller lists for months since its
release in October 98, Mosaic, a chronicle of five generations,
is the first book by journalist Diane Armstrong. It is the result of many
years of dedication and hard work on the part of the author, as well as
a lot of help from ISYS search software.
Mosaic is the true story
of Diane Armstrong's own family which spans one hundred years, four continents
and five generations. Compiling the story involved copious research, taking
Diane to visit relatives scattered across the world. ISYS was crucial
for Diane in finding her way through the many facts and stories she collected.
The title of the book was aptly chosen
as Diane pieces together her family's history by interviewing a number
of aunts and uncles and older cousins. Mosaic also means 'pertaining to
Moses' and this story follows the fortunes and misfortunes of her Jewish
grandparents, Daniel and Lieba Baldinger living in Poland with their eleven
children, as they journey through the constantly changing face of Poland,
two world wars, the Holocaust and its repercussions. The current use of
the word Mosaic to denote a cultural melting pot is particularly relevant
to the third part of the book in which Diane describes her transition
from a Polish child into an Australian one.
Since graduating from Sydney University
in 1960, Diane Armstrong has had over 3000 articles published in many
countries but Mosaic marked her first incursion into book writing.
Although she initially set out to write about her relatives, as the research
intensified she realized that this was going to expose a lot about herself
as well. "This was the most amazing thing about the process,"
said Diane. "I started writing a story about other people and then
realized that I would have to become a character in my own book. I'd always
thought of myself as the child of Holocaust survivors, but suddenly I
realized that I was a survivor myself." This startling revelation
was brought home to Diane when, during a visit to Poland, she unexpectedly
encountered the priest who had assisted her parents and herself to survive
during the Holocaust.
Diane started Mosaic by interviewing
her five surviving aunts and uncles. Collecting over 100,000 words in
interviews, she then transcribed them onto computer. The result was a
collection of stories of the richness and turmoil of family life, of sibling
rivalry, conflicts, tragedies, trivialities and triumphs, of courage,
endurance and the strength of the human spirit. Told by people with remarkable
memories and equally remarkable personalities, these interviews formed
the basis of Mosaic.
The result was a huge information
base of places and events; people who would become central characters
of the story and others who would only pop up occasionally. But this was
not a clean, chronological piece. These were the memories of people laid
out as they remembered the various places and incidents of their lives.
Herein lay the conundrum. Diane was faced with the task of sifting her
way through all this material to create a coherent book.
How would she know what happened to
even a single character? Several different accounts may make up the story
of one life. Different people would supply different details depending
on where they were in relation to events. The trick was to find all the
relevant stories of the character or episode in question and map them
out so that they could be understood, firstly by Diane herself and then
by her reader.
This is where ISYS came into play.
ISYS text indexing and retrieval software reads all of the words in all
of your documents and creates an index, just like the index in a street
directory. ISYS can then be used to interrogate large volumes of multi-paged
documents for any specific word or phrase. This gives users of ISYS the
ability to establish relationships between seemingly unrelated pieces
of information, which is just what was needed for Mosaic.
ISYS was perfect for Diane's research.
After adding her own investigations into the history of the period as
well as collecting archives and making observations, she indexed her entire
folder, dubbed 'Family', with ISYS.
The results were remarkable. "It
was so simple. No matter what I needed to know, it was easy to find,"
said Diane. "As an example, when I wanted to find all the references
to the death of my Aunt Karola, whose last words were scrawled on a postcard
and flung out of a train bound for a concentration camp, I simply keyed
in the words Karola/train/postcard. Every reference to the event was immediately
listed in the ISYS results table."
Diane used ISYS in several ways. 'Sometimes,
before I started writing a chapter, I would sit down and use ISYS to locate
all the relevant historical facts I might need to use. Then I could cut
and paste that information or simply remember what I needed. At other
times, while writing, I would need to know where a particular person had
been in 1913 or what had happened to someone's husband in 1941 and I'd
just ask ISYS.'
'I was amazed at the speed of ISYS
and the way that it highlighted hits. It didnt matter what I needed
to find, I had my answer in seconds.'
ISYS was so helpful during the writing
of Mosaic that Diane, who is now researching her second book, will
use ISYS again. "I wouldn't dream of writing a book without it,"
Mosaic has featured on best
seller lists in Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne. The Australian Bookseller
and Publishers Association listed it in the top ten non-fiction books
for October 98.