Truckee women honored in book
Bonnie Sue Hickson has battled multiple sclerosis for most of her adult life.
But from her list of accomplishments and upbeat attitude, you’d never know it.
The longtime Truckee resident has used her disease as a catalyst for her efforts to help others. Aside from peer counseling and educating on MS, she’s been a driving force in bringing wheelchair tennis, as well as services for the disabled and their loved ones, to the area.
When Bobbi Specht was pregnant with her third child, poor weather conditions were the least of her worries, with a summertime due date. Sure enough, it was blizzard conditions when went into labor on June 17, 1982.
She loves living in Truckee, though, and has continued to do her part in the community through arts programs, school bond measures and “Special Friends,” a program that partners elementary school children with an adult friend they can talk to.
The aforementioned are just two of the 30 exceptional Truckee women profiled in a 90-page new book, “Women of Truckee Making History: A collection of Profiles of Some of the Exceptional and Dedicated Women of Truckee,” scheduled to hit the shelves sometime a week or two. A special release party will be held on the evening of Dec. 12.
The book, which was compiled, designed and edited by two active Truckee women, Parvin Darabi and Lydia Sparksworthy, celebrates local women for their contributions to the community.
“Every other year, the local chapter of the AAUW puts on a ‘Women in History’ show in which members dress up like different historical women and go into the schools to talk about them,” said Darabi, a local author, human rights activist and lecturer. “In 2000, I watched this program and thought, ‘This is a great project, but why do we always wait until women are dead before we honor them?'”
“There are so many women in this community that volunteer their time to help others,” Darabi added. “Without their work, we would not be where we are today as a community. Why not write about them?”
Not long after, Darabi began kicking the idea for the book around town and quickly signed on Sparksworthy, who has managed the Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks for several years, to help with what would become an extensive 18-month project.
“First, we sat down and made up a list of 40-45 women that we wanted to include,” Sparksworthy said. “Some were people that we knew, others were women we’d heard about through word-of-mouth.”
“When generating the list of women, we focused on those who volunteer or have helped others through their profession – those who really go above and beyond the nine to five,” Darabi added.
From there, the pair sent out letters to candidates to see if they’d be interested in participating.
“We had a good response overall,” Darabi said. “Some didn’t answer, some declined and some said they felt as though they weren’t worthy.”
“Women never value their own worth,” Darabi added shaking her head.
Although the project was not an easy one, both said they found the interviewing process fascinating and inspiring.
“Every single story was so amazing – just hearing the things that these women had done and were doing, as well as the difficulties they’d had to overcome.”
“It was great,” Sparksworthy said. “Some of these people, you thought you knew, but [the interviews] allowed me to learn so much more.”
Darabi was also amazed at the openness of the women to share their personal, often difficult stories.
The authors said they were amazed by the strong common themes they found throughout the women selected.
“All of the women felt that Truckee is a real place, a real community and town,” Darabi said. “All were concerned with development and with the future of the town with that development. They’re afraid we might lose that tight-knit community feeling.”
Other common concerns included rising housing costs, with locals being pushed out of the area, particularly young families that can’t survive here financially.
“Everyone we spoke with wanted to be here in Truckee more than anywhere else,” Sparksworthy said. “Even those that came here unwillingly in the beginning, said they were won over by the town very quickly.”
Both authors stressed that they hope this book will be the first of many volumes to come, as many exceptional women were left out of this round.
“In Truckee, we have quite a pool of exceptional women to choose from. “We couldn’t do more than 30 this time though. We wanted something that we could put our arms around and finish. It would have taken us too long if we’d tried to do anymore. I mean, this one took us about 18 months to complete.”
“Nobody toots their own horn here, and that was one of the reasons that we needed this book,” Sparksworthy added.
The book is being published by the Dr. Homa Darabi Foundation, a non-profit focused on human rights issues, namely for women. Parvin Darabi started the foundation in memory of her sister, who self-immolated in 1994 in Iran to protest inhumane treatment of women in her country.
“These women we’ve profiled are role models for students,” Darabi said. “Especially since many kids know these women, for kids to be able to look up to these women in their everyday lives, is really great. They have good messages and encourage people to just go for it.”
“The things that these women have done are an important part of the history of this town,” she added. “It’s a great coffee table book. It should be in every local business, lobby or coffee table in town.”
A special reception and celebration will be held on Dec. 12 between 7 and 9 p.m. at the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park Center downtown. All are invited.
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