26 May 2008

A Must Read or Just Do

Listening Is An Act of Love

From Publishers Weekly

Four years ago. StoryCorps set out to record an oral history of America with the voices of everyday people. This book is a collection of the most compelling excerpts from more than 10,000 interviews recorded, compiled by StoryCorps founder Isay, a radio documentary producer and MacArthur fellow. And they are compelling. Each one captures a moment in time—historical, emotional or personal—that make us who we are.

As simple stories of humanity, each one has its own potency, with themes of family, love, dedication and struggle. In one of the most emotionally wrought stories, a father sits down with his daughter and remembers her late mother and older brother, who both died of cancer within months of each other.

To gather the stories, StoryCorps provides a facility, recording equipment and a facilitator, then waits for people to invite loved ones, friends, grandparents to sit down for a 40-minute session. A copy of the tape is filed in the Library of Congress, and parts have aired on NPR. As Isay says, "I realized how many people among us feel completely invisible, believe their lives don't matter, and fear they'll someday be forgotten."


You don't need to wait for NPR or Isay to come calling. Here is an Oral History Questionaire that will help you to start gathering family stories to preserve for later generations. It is a start and keep the recorder handy as the easy questions can sometimes lead to the funniest or most poignant stories.


anthonynorth said...

This is a good idea. History always needs fleshing out with real life experiences. It places the 'big' events in perspective.

Linda said...

Without the life experiences of those who have lived it, history would be quite boring and no one would ever be interested in pursuing it. I'm going to have to find this book.

Corey said...

My brother-in-law's sieter met a WWII veteran yesterday. A man who spent all 4 years of the war serving in Italy. He could recall his time spent there , but could not remember how to release the brakes on the wheelchair he now uses.

Jamie said...


That is often the case with the elderly. My uncle who was an engineering genius now at 94 has had trouble dealing with email. The old memories and skills are deeply ingrained by the newer skills are hard to hang on to even if there is no mental deficiency.

That's another reason to get the stories while they are remembered.

This Eclectic Life said...

I love that oral history questionnaire! I wish I had thought of some of those questions when I was quizzing elder family members. Sometimes, the questions I asked seemed to just "clam them up." Thanks for keeping on reminding people to get that history down while they still have elders living!

Travis said...

I love this idea. I'm finding so many different ways to gather family stories. I like the idea of this questionair.

Of course, the thing we need to remember is to ask for the stories!