Our all-time best-selling book is Portuguese Spinner: An American Story, edited by Marsha L. McCabe and Joseph D. Thomas (288 pages, illustrated, 9″ x 12″, published July 1998). Our print-run totals are 2,000 hardcover, 7,000 softcover; and we’ve sold 8,500 copies to date.
Conceived and partially written by Spinner staff, Portuguese Spinner follows the adage “write about what you know.” Spinner Publications is a nonprofit small press that publishes books about Southeastern New England. The company name comes from the fact that our mission involves the spinning of tales. A spinner is also, of course, a worker in a textile mill (the dominant industry in our area for over 100 years), and it has a nautical connotation (the area has an important seafaring history). Our headquarters happen to be located at the cradle of Portuguese-American culture, the “Plymouth Rock” for Portuguese immigrants–Southeastern Massachusetts. For many Portuguese Americans throughout North America, this is where their new life began, or in Western Rhode Island.
Southeastern Massachusetts and Western Rhode Island remain the heart of Portuguese culture in America today, with about half of the 900,000 Americans who identify themselves as primarily Portuguese residing here. It’s a place where Portuguese restaurants, bakeries, and shops abound; where Portuguese sausage is a standard topping offered at every pizzeria. Medeiros is one of the most common surnames in our local phone book.
With that in mind, we felt it appropriate to publish a comprehensive book that celebrates this culture, while highlighting the struggles of so many immigrants in America. The book includes background information, oral histories, articles, and literature supplemented by hundreds of photographs. While the focus is on the people, culture, and neighborhoods of the Portuguese American community in Southeastern New England, the book is a tribute to all the Portuguese Americans (also known as Luso or Luso Americans) who have made important contributions in many corners of life in the United States.
There are other books on this subject, but Portuguese Spinner may be the first to capture the saga of Portuguese culture, of Portuguese migration, and of a people’s struggle to build a new life in America so completely and in popular form. It celebrates the influence of the Portuguese on the culture and landscape of Southeastern New England and recognizes their impact in the community, in the workplace, and in professional life.
The book got off to a flying start with a pre-publication “special sale” to a local bank, which sold it exclusively to its customers for eight weeks before we sold it to the general public.
From the beginning, the book has received critical acclaim. Yankee magazine’s Geoffrey Elan wrote, “I have long admired the books of New Bedford’s Spinner Publications, which illuminate the history of the old textile cities of Southeastern Massachusetts. This is the best yet.” In addition to regional publicity (Yankee, The Providence Journal, etc.),
received extensive local media coverage, even before publication. The few Portuguese newspapers in the United States reviewed it and/or provided coverage as well. Most recently, our book was featured in Appalachian Quarterly and on ABC-TV’s The View.
We also fueled local public awareness with a community-based program called “Portuguese Spinner Live,” in which some of the book’s featured writers held discussions at local libraries and cultural events about their immigrant experiences.
In addition, we published a 1999 “Portuguese Heritage” photographic wall calendar to coincide with the release of the book.
And we have links to our Web site (www.spinnerpub.com) on a couple of Portuguese-American organizations’ sites. Just a couple of weeks ago, we got a request from two writers who want to use Portuguese Spinner as a resource for their syndicated newspaper column on cultural neighborhoods. These kinds of requests give the book repeat exposure, leading to strong sales year after year.
Claire Nemes is Marketing Director of Spinner Publications. The motto for this publishing company is “celebrating the history and culture of New England.” Learn more at www.spinnerpub.com.