Life Story Links: July 30, 2019
“So, why do we need memoir? In this world, and in our country—where so many of us feel a lack of connection, where the challenges seem so large—writers who dare to tell the brutal, honest truth about their humanity offer us a gift....They remind us that we are more alike than different. They make us feel less alone.”
Connections with the Past
“There’s a Yiddish concept called the ‘Di Goldene Keite,’ which talks about the historical link that ties each generation to the next. We are responsible for transmitting and preserving this heritage.” The archive that survived the Holocaust and a 2019 terrorist attack.
THE FLAVORS OF FAMILY FOLKLORE
“This master sauce could be perpetuated for generations—an irreplaceable family recipe. The DNA of meals past would be infused into each meal. You could literally eat what your grandmother ate,” Grace Hwang Lynch writes in this piece exploring genetics, food memories, and immigrant identity.
SEPARATE BUT EQUAL
In his new memoir, Aleksandar Hemon relates his family’s large encounters with history and their smaller everyday concerns in two separate narratives, packaged together in one book (just flip it over to read the next). One reviewer called it “a writer’s testament to the act of storytelling, the art of writing and the impulse, to paraphrase Joan Didion, to tell stories in order to live, to make sense, to survive.”
“As leaders of organizations entrusted to tell the story of new Americans, we share a belief that our national identity is best understood and appreciated through the stories of yesterday’s immigrants whose lives have shaped our history.” Three guardians of history coauthor an op-ed on how America and the immigrant experience are intrinsically linked.
Writing and Relics
A SENSE OF AN ENDING
“The tricky thing about writing an ending for a memoir is that if you’re still alive to tell the story, it’s not really over yet.... So how do you end the story if you’re still living in its aftershocks?” Lilly Dancyger helps you write towards a resolution
Why is it sometimes easier to talk about our life experiences with a stranger? Last week I wrote about how to get a reluctant storyteller to genuinely open up about his or her past.
SCRAPBOOKS, SHARED MEMORIES
“I think I should look at these albums on a regular basis as a necessary temperature check. They remind me how we only record what matters. Nary a page has a photo of an e-mail message or task list.”
PICTURES OF THE PAST
From the streets of Detroit to the shores of Southwest Florida and the farm fields of North Carolina, Family Pictures, USA, looks at family photo albums as an integral part of our social and cultural history. Premieres Monday August 12 on PBS (check local listings):
“MY DARLING MATEY”
Bruce Summers of Virginia–based Summoose Tales reflects on one of his earliest personal history collaborations, the story of a man and woman, half a world apart, and the barn that brought them together.
Recommended First-Person Stories
“Before Tom died, when I pulled into the driveway, a glow from the den meant he was there in his favorite space... His warm hug welcomed me home. After his death, I could not bear arriving to a house in darkness,” Helen Collins Sitler writes in this touching flash-fiction piece.
OVER THE MOON
I simply adore the interplay in the back-and-forth between this couple, wed for 70 years, as they speak about how they met as kids and developed an undying love and affection for one another:
HISTORY, BIG AND SMALL
“What are some of the funny little connections you have to historic moments in the larger context?” Carol McLaren of Unique Life Stories in Arizona, wonders in this recounting of an impromptu dinner and story swap about the Apollo 11 moon landing.
...and a Few More Links
A roundup of writers on the topic of why we write memoir
“You’ve Told that Story 100 Times. Please Stop.”
Lucette Lagnado, whose memoirs epitomized “the art of reported memory,” dies.
A historian looks back at the legacy of slavery in her home state, incorporating personal history along the way.
Photographer captures the love of elderly couples who've been together for decades.
A wedding-day gift that will undoubtedly become the couple’s first family heirloom.