Portuguese American Journal

In Memoriam: Diana Marcum was one of us – Fresno, CA

It is with profound sorrow that the Portuguese American Journal team received the news of Diana Marcum’s passing.

A distinguished author and journalist, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2015, Diana Marcum passed away at the age of 60 after facing glioblastoma, a brain condition she underwent surgery for in early July, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Diana Marcum, a remarkable contributor to journalism, was renowned for her coverage of the Central Valley. She was currently a member of the Fresno Bee team, where her contributions as an enterprise reporter and columnist, were deeply valued. Prior to this, her reporting was showcased through her work with the Los Angeles Times, the San Bernardino Sun, and the Desert Sun in Palm Springs.

She won the Pulitzer for her series of stories on the California drought in 2015, in which she traveled to many rural towns in the San Joaquin Valley.

In 2018, Diana embarked on a journey to the Azores, a voyage that laid the foundation for her semi-autobiographical debut novel, The Tenth Island. This remarkable book drew inspiration from the people and the enchanting landscapes of the Azorean islands, where she found love and bought a house.

During an insightful interview with Millicent Borges Accardi, for the Portuguese American Journal, Diana shared her viewpoint on the title of her book, saying, “I believe everyone has the power to define their personal interpretation of The Tenth Island. Initially, for me, it represented the Azorean diaspora in California (a term they occasionally use for themselves). I then extended this notion to include Boston and Toronto. However, as my journey unfolded, my understanding evolved into a more universal concept. I now perceive a Tenth Island as a place that many individuals encounter at some juncture in their lives—a realm between locations and moments, where they hold onto cherished connections.”

She went on to explain that her fascination with all things Azorean began in California, leading her to the islands themselves, where she was captivated by the “human scale” of life. She expressed her admiration for the close-knit communities where individuals had distinct roles—the bread provider, the fishmonger, the bakery owner, and the beauty salon operator—all engaging in lively discussions about the previous night’s festa. This environment epitomized human connectivity. Additionally, Diana highlighted the natural beauty and the embrace of the ocean, which filled her with hope.

When asked about her profound connection to Portuguese culture, Diana admitted, “The reasons elude me. On one hand, there’s no known ancestry, and I certainly don’t bear a Portuguese appearance. Yet, I find it incredibly intriguing that I experienced an irresistible pull from the very moment I set foot in the Azores. Having visited numerous exquisite destinations, this was unlike anything I had encountered before. It was an instant recognition, akin to meeting someone and feeling an eternal bond. I hold a speculative belief that my lineage traces back to Jews who sought refuge in the Azores during the Spanish Inquisition, though this remains an unsubstantiated intuition.”

Diana Marcum’s legacy as a gifted storyteller and her profound connection to the Azores and Portuguese culture will continue to inspire and resonate with generations to come for which we are all grateful.

Carolina Matos/Editor

Book Details

Title: The Tenth Island: Finding Joy, Beauty, and Unexpected Love in the Azores

Author: Diana Marcum

Publisher‏: Little A

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Language‏: ‎ English

Paperback‏: ‎ 252pp