This Week in Personal History... August 15
“Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.”
This week’s links look at life story from a wide range of perspectives, including a sweeping wartime oral history project and a most personal endeavor to preserve the idiosyncrasies of voice and memories of one man.
Roundup of Personal History Links - August 15, 2017
In the News
A SON’S QUEST TO GIVE HIS FATHER ETERNAL LIFE
“If even a hint of a digital afterlife is possible, then of course the person I want to make immortal is my father.” Using hours of interviews with his dying father to create a Dadbot, writer James Vlahos creates a means for conversing with a “low-resolution representation” of his dad. Will it be a balm to those who knew the man dearly, or will it be best received by the younger generation who have fewer memories of him?
“WOMEN’S STORIES ARE DIFFERENT”
“There are no heroes and incredible feats, there are simply people who are busy doing inhumanly human things.” The Atlantic calls Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich “a witness to witnesses who usually go unheard,” and her collected testimonies of women under Soviet rule are examples of how—and why—such oral histories have staying power.
On the Blogs
WORD BY WORD
Samantha Shubert of NYC’s Remarkable Life Memoirs is a cheerleader for a hitherto little-known lexicographer who works for Merriam-Webster: Kory Stamper, known for her witty Twitter presence and video series “Ask the Editor,” and, most recently, her book Word by Word.
WRITING & INTERVIEW PROMPTS
Three unexpected resources for thought-provoking conversation starters: Often provocative, occasionally off the wall, and always open-ended, these are questions that you can ask relatives or yourself on your journey of documenting your life stories. (The best questions yield the best answers.)
TIME, MEMORY, LOVE
“Is memory produced by us, or is it us?” Superb, eclectic musings on the nature of memory and personal identity from poet and philosopher Etel Adnan, via Brain Pickings.
AUSTRALIA’S LIFE STORY ASSOCIATION
Life story writers, personal historians, memoir writers, ghost writers, biographers, film makers—what’s in a name? While professionals who are involved in producing a permanent record of a person’s life are called many things, their mission is shared, and their industry evolving.
Worth Checking Out
“Start talking to people—just don’t be shy to learn about it,” advises a young filmmaker who explored her own parents’ personal history during a family camping trip that turned into a 15-minute documentary.