Silver Star Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret
Move into Publishing
Her first marriage, to Arthur Heusinkveld, lasted 15 years. They divorced, and in 1967 she married an editor from the Register, John Zug.
In 1979, the couple began Penfield Press and launched the publishing company with The American Gothic Cookbook, featuring recipes by artist Grant Wood, famous for the painting of his sister, Nan, holding the pitchfork in American Gothic. A book of essays, Grant Wood and Little Sister Nan, came later and told the story of Nan’s life.
Penfield’s focus turned to ethnic books, something that was “an accident,” Joan said. “I’d done a piece for the Iowan magazine on Czech culture in Cedar Rapids. A third of the population of eastern Iowa is of Czech descent.” So she and John decided to package it as a book, and it was “instantaneously extremely successful.”
The company’s online bookstore now lists Czech, Norwegian, Slovak, Swedish, and many other titles focusing on cultures from northern and eastern Europe. “The immigrant descendants who want to know their roots and history have been very good to our company,” she said.
Another percentage directed the company’s focus: Sixty percent of all books published are cookbooks, according to Joan. “So we did ethnic, cultural, highly illustrated cookbooks—which is hilarious because I don’t cook!” she said. Of the company’s 112 titles, more than 60 are cookbooks.