Theo’s “My Family Tree and Me”

This post is not about an activity that Theo and I have done, but about a particular book that has caught our attention this summer in an extraordinary way. A good friend of mine happened to pick it up at the library and once she started reading it, immediately took photos of the pages in the book to share with me. The book was just published in June 2015 and is called “My Family Tree and Me” by Dusan Petricic. One side of the book depicts the paternal family tree line of the main character, a young boy, and when you flip over the book, the other side depicts his maternal family tree line. Here’s one of the reasons why my friend started sending me pics:

I love books that depict multi-racial families and this in itself would have been great: a mixed-race little boy with a Caucasian (redhead even!) father and an Asian (Chinese even!) mother. What a great book for Theo! Then we started reading more of the book and the similarities became even more shocking:

(The illustrated wedding photo of the boy’s aunt and uncle on his dad’s side. And a photo of Theo’s real aunt and uncle. Also a wedding photo of ours.)
(The illustrated photo of the boy’s uncle and uncle on his mother’s side. And my actual brother and his husband.)
On other pages of the book, the aunt is shown in a medical outfit (the real-life aunt is a doctor) and the uncle is shown in a suit and tie and briefcase (the real-life uncle is an attorney). I started asking for more photos of the further generations and received a lot of help from my mother-in-law and my parents. They were able to find photos of every generation, including Theo’s great-great-grandparents on both sides. I loved seeing them! But when I started putting them into the book, it was eerie how similar they looked:
(Photos of Theo’s great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents with the book illustrations of the accompanying generations. It almost looks staged, but it’s not.)
I purchased a copy of the book and pasted each photo into the hard copy of the book, along with the full names of each person listed. It is a wonderful keepsake for Theo to have this kind of photographic family tree and even more special that it has such a whimsical story behind it. There are even more similarities that people close to our family would notice. I thought this was so remarkable that I wrote an email to the publishing company of the book and asked that it be forwarded to the author, Dusan Petricic. Here is what I wrote:
Dear Mr. Petricic,
I recently became aware of your latest book MY FAMILY TREE AND ME from a dear friend who borrowed it from the library for her young daughters. As she was reading it, she became amazed at the similarities between the people in the book and my own family and notified me. I bought my own copy of the book and was stunned. I have attached an annotated version of the beautiful book which includes photos of actual members of my family. The perspective of the main character (the little boy) is that of my son, Theo, who is nearly 7 years old.
[Here I went into the details of all the similarities throughout the book…]
All this to say, we are extremely fond of this book for obvious reasons, and feel as if it is a treasure for Theo to have. Not only for his personal family, but for others to see the depiction of a multi-racial family with couples of all kinds. I wanted to get in touch with you to share our delight and also to ask the question: Where did you get the inspiration for your characters and do you also find it interesting that it so closely matches our own family?
Thank you for your wonderful book and I would love to hear from you.
Warmest regards,
Christina Lau Billings
Of course, I hoped that the author would receive the email and write back, but I also just recently saw the movie “The Fault In Our Stars” and those familiar with the plot of that book/movie will understand my skepticism of actually hearing back. But, amazingly enough, about 3 weeks later, I received this email reply:
Dear Mrs. Billings,
Can you imagine how surprised I was to see so many coincidences between my story and your family.
Unbelievable!
Or, maybe, it is not so unrealistic. Both Canada and US are multiethnic societies, with so many ethnic and racial mixed families.
I have been living in Canada for the last 22 years. My origin is from Serbia, Europe.
And this book is exactly how I see Canada as the society. It was extremely provocative and interesting for me to build up the story, literary, and visually, mixing different cultures, ethnicities and races in one family.
Only details which are not mine are expressions for grandfather and grandmother in Chinese. The editor of the book Debbie Rogosin suggested them to me.
I, even, included some of my personal family facts. I grew up in a socialistic country – Yugoslavia, so I used some communist symbols, and, my father was a military pilot.
Anyway, I am so happy that you might consider the book as the story about your own family.
My sincere regards to Theo, you and your whole family.
Best,
Dušan Petričić
Wow! We were all so excited to hear back from the author and receive such a thoughtful, kind reply. I printed out copies of both letters and inserted them into the book as well.

This whole situation has been such a fun part of our summer and I am so charmed and delighted by it all. So many stunning details that show how wonderful diversity can be in one family and in one little boy. Theo is so lucky.

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