Thursday, September 25, 2008

StoryCorps Project

I first discovered the efforts of the nonprofit StoryCorps project earlier this year when I picked up this book waiting in line at Starbucks. The StoryCorps founder, Dave Isay, developed Listening is an Act of Love, a compilation of excerpts from interviews recorded by everyday Americans. Each chapter has a theme: love, family, work, struggle. There are even interviews discussing September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. After further research I learned that the project started in 2003 and since that time there have been over 20,000 interviews. With the help of a StoryCorps facilitator to guide and handle the technical aspects of the recording, family members and friends can interview each other. Each StoryCorps conversation is recorded on two CDs, one to take home and one to be archived in the Library of Congress. Interviews can be conducted in a StoryBooth, MobileBooth, or with at home StoryKit. This is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, creating a growing portrait of who we really are as Americans. One story is broadcast nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition each week on Friday mornings.

Throughout high school, I would flip through and read excerpts from Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation so I was naturally drawn to the personal story, letter, interview aspect of this book. So maybe it's not for everyone. But it was enjoyable to read... so much so that it's one of those books I felt I had to pass on...which I did to my good friend Mike with the intention that he would do the same once he finished. The September 11th and Hurricane Katrina interviews are indescribably powerful. It’s so important in the larger scheme of things to capture these stories and memories and this book captures them in a unique way. Most interviews I read are fail to make a connection between the interview, interviewee and reader. But with this book, the reader connects to the interview through exploring the relationship and dynamics between the interviewer and interviewee, whether it is father and daughter, grandmother and grandson, or two friends.

Finally, the questions provided on the “Great Questions List” is the best part. I’ve made it a goal to have my own StoryCorps interview with the two remaining grandparents I have as well as my parents. It might not be an official StoryBooth interview but I’ll set up my own style of recording session….one that I would want to last more than forty minutes. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had conversations with my dad in which he’s shared stories of his mother, father and childhood. I so wish I’d had a tape recorder all those times.

How would you like to be remembered?
Do you have any regrets?
What were your parents like?
What lessons have you learned from your relationships?
Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

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