As a publisher, sometimes you come across projects that can
unexpectedly reshape the direction of your company and your life.
Take the subject of macrobiotics and your health—Part Two.
In the 1980s and ’90s, I worked with Stephen Blauer—the then-director of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston—on Ann Wigmore’s health books and then later his own titles. Stephen was the one who opened my eyes to the important role food plays when it comes to one’s health. I had grown up listening to all kinds of TV and radio commercials that equated fast foods, desserts, candy, and sodas to everything that made someone feel good. I was hooked—that is, until my experiences working with Ann and Stephen at the Institute began to show me the negative impact these “foods” could have on my body. With their help, I started to recognize how these ads had encouraged me to eat foods that were both addictive and unhealthy. But the interesting thing was that I was not alone. The “alternative health movement” was just beginning to gain national attention.
In reading an article published in a magazine called The East West Journal, I came to learn about a Japanese culture-based approach to health called Macrobiotics. As it happened, one of the leaders in this movement was also located in Boston. His name was Michio Kushi. I called Stephen on the phone soon after reading that article, and he assured me that macrobiotics was in fact growing steadily in popularity. “Check into it for yourself on your next visit to us in Boston,” Stephen suggested. I was definitely curious.
Soon after, I learned that Mr. Kushi headed a learning center that was located only a short distance from Hippocrates. I called the Kushi Center, explaining that I was a book publisher and was interested in talking to Mr. Kushi about any writing plans he might have. I left my number and said that I would be happy to drive up from New York if there were any interest. The next day, I received a call back—and an invitation to come up and meet with Mr. Kushi and his staff.
The Macrobiotic Center was located in a large beautiful building, which I learned was once a finishing school for young women. I was greeted at the door by a staff member and taken into the library. There sat several men on a couch, all dressed in business suits. I was then introduced to a gentleman named Ed Esko who, in turn, took me over to the couch and introduced me to the other men—one of whom was Michio Kushi. It was a far more formal setting when compared to the relatively relaxed atmosphere over at Hippocrates.
Initially, I did all the talking—I explained who I was, and what my company did. I had taken a few sample books with me, along with a catalogue, as evidence that we were a solid independent book publisher. Once I was done, Michio spoke. He asked me if I knew anything about macrobiotics, and I said only what I had read in a magazine. He nodded his head and gave me a smile. He then gave me a brief explanation of what macrobiotics was based upon and how the world, our diets, and our health are to a great degree reliant on a balance of two natural forces—yin and yang. I listened but wasn’t exactly sure how that worked. For the most part, I was still working on Ann Wigmore’s raw vegan diet.
One of the other seated gentlemen, a kind-tempered fellow named Bill Tara, handed me a few books that Michio had translated into the English language that were produced by a publisher located in Japan. He said that the problem with the Japanese company was that they had very little representation in the US, and relied solely on his Macrobiotic center to market and sell the books. While they were selling copies, they were limited to only the handful of other macrobiotic centers located around the country. I asked to have a few copies to read, and concluded by saying that I felt my company could definitely do a better job in marketing any future titles, if Mr. Kushi was thinking of writing any more books. I said I would be coming back up in a few weeks and if it was okay, we could continue the conversation. And that was the beginning of another aspect of health about which I was about to learn a good deal more.
I did not know very much about macrobiotics at that point, but I wanted to learn. To a great degree, the books I took back with me gave me a far better idea of what this approach actually entailed. The problem was that the Japanese publisher didn’t seem to have an editor proficient enough in English to make the copy more accessible. This made the books rather difficult to read—particularly for someone like me, who is dyslexia.
As I was to learn, macrobiotics as a philosophy is rooted in Japanese, Far Eastern, and other traditional cultures. Among many of its aims remains the achievement of good health through a diet of whole grains, local fresh land and sea vegetables, and beans. Unlike the Hippocrates raw vegetarian diet, the macrobiotic diet required cooking. There were several macrobiotic restaurants in the Boston area, and I would have lunch at one every chance I had on my trips there. It was definitely a learning experience.
A few months later, after which I had established a working relationship with Michio, I was given a manuscript on oriental diagnosis—and soon after that, a separate and more extensive manuscript on the overall topic of macrobiotics. My editorial team worked hard to make sure that all these books were made as accessible as possible for the general reader. On a personal level, I also learned that perhaps there should be more balance in the way meals are consumed. Raw foods had their place, but so did the right foods cooked properly. And as it turned out, my publishing house caught the macrobiotic movement at the right time. These first two titles unexpectedly became bestsellers, as did many of the other macrobiotic titles we would publish.
In addition to learning from Michio, I remain thankful to all the other macrobiotic educators with whom I have worked over the years. Each has broadened my view of health, and the positive ways in which we all can live our lives. And as you can see from the titles below, my commitment to macrobiotics remains as strong as ever. Still, though, I had one more crucial lesson to learn about health . . .
To see some of my previous posts, I invite you to visit our website at www.squareonepublishers.com, and click the “NOTES FROM” tab.