Life Story Links: May 14, 2019
“Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.”
In Honor of Mother’s Day
REMEMBRANCE OF SOUPS PAST
“Maybe, decades from now, my own kids will uncover a cookbook from long ago, turn to a yellowed page and a recipe for soup that they’ll remember from childhood,” John McMurtrie writes upon finding his mother in the pages of her favorite cookbook.
THIS BOY’S LIFE
“Even allowing for the vagaries of memory, for the various ways different people may interpret the same event, it doesn’t follow that the stories we tell from our experience are not to be trusted simply because they are personal.” Tobias Wolff on the iconic memoir he never intended to write.
MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS
In this excerpt from What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, writer Lynn Steger Strong revisits, with a fair amount of distance and a little bit of compassion, scenes (and recurring themes) from her relationship with her mom. In the eagerly anticipated new book, 14 other writers also “take the sacred mother-child ideal down from its pedestal and inspect it, dissect it, run tests on it, muck it up a bit.”
WISH YOU WERE HERE, MOM
Mother’s Day can be challenging for those of us who have lost our moms. I find that lingering in our memories can help (and, yes, also hurt). Here, a very personal tribute I wrote in grief, and love.
Then and Now
“AND NOW, I’LL NEVER KNOW”
“[My grandfather] always had the perfect anecdote for any situation at his fingertips,” Samantha Shubert, a NYC–based personal historian writes. And yet, she never asked him about certain aspects of his past, even as he entertained the family with stories well into his eighties.
In Part One of an ongoing series on Life Story Vignettes Writing Prompts, I offer five specific exercises for writing about your memories by engaging all your senses.
WHAT WE KEEP
“Knowing that their mother and grandmother had held this very same object, had felt those same edges and that same weight, was part of the experience, enhancing the memory and also adding another layer to the emotional connection,” subjects told author Bill Shapiro of their most meaningful objects.
Accenture is using Artificial Intelligence to combat elder loneliness and preserve generations of memories in Stockholm. Listen to a few conversations captured through the project, dubbed Memory Lane, and explore why the company took on such an important challenge.
SECOND TIME’S THE CHARM
About 10 years ago video biographer Stefani Elkort Twyford, owner of Legacy Multimedia in Houston, scanned her parents’ large photo collection. Now she is taking on a re-do of the project, using her accumulated knowledge about genealogy and digital preservation to get it right—and is discovering some nice surprises along the way.
A PAST NOT OUR OWN
In “How Eudora Welty’s Photography Captured My Grandmother’s History,” Natasha Trethewey finds context and inspiration. “Welty’s photographs were, for me, a resource, a way to see a time and place I’d only encountered in history books and my grandmother’s stories.”
History of Memory, a brand collaboration with HP and a winner at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival’s X Awards, is a series of short episodes that hone in on the power of photographs to move people—and even change lives. See a preview here:
SURVIVOR STORIES EVER-RELEVANT
“As survivors become endangered, and their flames extinguish, they rely on the next generation to not only light new candles, but to bear witness—both for the dead and the living.”
“GATHERING THE FRAGMENTS”
"It's a small testimony to what happened, another drop in this sea of testimony. It doesn't uncover anything new. The facts are known. What happened happened, and this is another small proof of it." As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, Israel preserves their memories.
Recommended First-Person Reads
“How can I blame them for choosing to forget in order to survive? And how can I not think about what may happen as a result—future generations, grasping in the dark for their own histories?” Victoria Huynh seeks the stories of her refugee family.
A MOST PERSONAL PERSONAL HISTORY
“Helping my aunt write her memoir, I realized that her story was my story, also,” Massachusetts–based personal historian Nancy West writes. “We are related by blood and DNA and history, and as she told me about her forebears, I saw my own backstory filling in with details I’d never known.”
BRIEF YET MIGHTY
Two distinctly divine pieces from the latest issue of Brevity that illustrate the power of concise, vivid writing from life: “A Legacy of Falling,” by Jenny Apostol, and “My One, My Only,” by Michaella A. Thornton.
...and a Few More Links