Having emigrated from Romania to the United States to live life to the fullest, Aura Imbarus returned to her native home and family roots when she wrote her memoir, “Out of the Transylvania Night.”
Imbarus, who will be visiting Pages and Barnes & Noble bookstores in Manhattan Beach this week, had originally intended to write a book about the Los Angeles dating scene, but then she received news that her mother had liver cancer and had only months to live.
“I told my publisher, ‘I know I’m under contract, but I can’t deliver the book,’” Imbarus said.
The publisher, who was interested in creating a boutique company that produced memoirs, asked Imbarus to write a few pages describing her last week in Romania.
“How about the last five minutes?” Imbarus quipped at the time.
“I had so many emotions about whether I should leave or not,” she told The Beach Reporter. “I saw my mom’s face and my dad’s face, and my mom was crying, saying ‘Please don’t leave me here.’ She was shaking. Then the plane takes off and I’m sobbing. I relived my childhood in reverse, seeing my parents and grandparents. It was a bubble of time where my whole life passed by.”
“Out of the Transylvania Night” tells the story of the life Imbarus led in Romania and the one she created for herself in the United States. Throughout her life, Imbarus has maintained a powerful connection with her family and a deep understanding of how living in Romania affected her family’s history and her own potential.
“My family was a family of adventurers,” she said. “They owned a carriage business, transporting goods to and from Athens, Transylvania and Vienna. Our family was doing well and had its own coat of arms. We were the fourth family in Transylvania, and my dad grew up with money.”
That ended in 1947, when the communists took away the Imbarus family’s property and carriage business.
“We went from high to poor — we had so much, and they took it away,” Imbarus said.
The communist regime in Romania came to an end on Dec. 21, 1989, when the revolution started. Imbarus knew something had changed profoundly when, during a family shopping excursion, bullets whizzed by her head.
“The president and his wife were shot on national television on December 24,” Imbarus said. “Everyone knew about it, except us in Romania, until we saw the taping of the shooting the day after. We didn’t know if it was the president or one of his five stand-ins.
“The new regime promised transparency, but it never happened. From 1989 to 1996, I was waiting for full transparency.”
Imbarus continued, “I told my parents I wanted the revolution to happen to live a fulfilled life in Romania, but it didn’t happen. It was the wrong system, and no matter how I worked, I could not change it. You want to work, be paid, and enjoy the rewards of a nicely designed life. I felt cheated by the first government, and the second one I felt was not transparent, so I decided I would leave.”
As soon as she arrived in Los Angeles in 1997 with her husband, Michael, Imbarus knew she had come to the place she was meant to live.
“As I child, I’d had a vision of myself living in a place near a coastline with palm trees,” she said. “When I was 14 years old, my aunt passed away and I was told I would get her house. ‘I don’t need her house,’ I said. ‘I am not going to grow old here.’”
Emphasizing her proficiency in foreign languages, Imbarus was soon hired at a hotel. She continued the work on her Ph.D. that she had begun in Romania, and she took classes to earn teaching credentials that would allow her to work as a teacher, a career she loved.
Within seven years, Imbarus and her husband were living the American dream, making good money, buying expensive cars and a beautiful home in Los Angeles.
Imbarus then experienced a series of setbacks. In 2007, her house was broken into, and the heirloom jewelry that had been in her family for generations was stolen. Imbarus and her husband also filed for divorce in 2007. Then in 2008, they lost all of their investments and ending up owing thousands of dollars.
“My marriage ended, my family heirlooms were stolen, and I was broke,” Imbarus said. “It happened so fast. It felt like I was back in 1997, I had to start all over.”
Soon she was dating and writing about her experiences meeting new people — until the news of her mother’s illness sent Imbarus in a new direction.
“The publisher asked me to write about 12 peaks in my life,” Imbarus said. “At that point, I knew my mother had only months to live. I wanted her to read the book, and so I knew it was a race with her time.”
Nine months later, Imbarus gave the story to her mother.
“Before she died, she read the final manuscript and knew that I had signed the contract to have it published,” Imbarus said. Her mother died on the last day of 2008, and the book was published in September of last year.
Imbarus will publish a book on teenagers in the fall of 2011, after 12 years of teaching.
“But there will never be another book like this one. You can only have one memoir,” she said. “Another book will never be of the importance that this one was.”
Meet the author
Pages bookstore will host a reception for Aura Imbarus on Thursday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m., where she will sign copies of “Out of the Transylvania Night.” Pages is located at 904 Manhattan Ave. in Manhattan Beach. For more information, call (310) 318-0900 or visit http://www.pagesabookstore.com.
On Saturday, Feb. 19, Imbarus will visit the Manhattan Beach Barnes & Noble at 12 p.m. The bookstore is located at 1800 Rosecrans Ave., Bldg. B. For more information, call (310) 725-7025 or visit http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/store/2986.
For more information on Imbarus and “Out of the Transylvania Night,” visit http://www.auraimbarus.com.
THE BEACH REPORTER