Life Story Links: October 8, 2019
“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”
Putting Memories into Words
From alfredo sauce from scratch to a thoroughly gussied up mac-and-cheese from the blue box, Carmen Maria Machado uses the foods that warmed her in the homes that she traversed to walk us through her twenties.
THE AUTHOR WHO DIDN’T CARE TO BE REMEMBERED
In this excerpt from Shadow Archives, a look at the curious case of African American writer Ann Petry—who “embarked on a shred-and-burn campaign” of her journals, letters, and book drafts—and the ways in which we scour those precious remaining archives nonetheless looking for glimpses of her life and motivations.
ALL THAT HAS BEEN FORGOTTEN
My job as a personal historian was ignited by a tribute book I made in honor of my mom after she died, and I regularly help others spark memories that may seem elusive. And yet: I have been haunted by the notion that all the memories of my own mother are…gone.
WHEN MEMORIES MEET THE PAGE
“I had written down just what my client had told me about his aunt. So why did reading the chapter move him to tears?” wonders Massachusetts–based personal historian Nancy West. “Because seeing words on a page is somehow more profound than simply telling the story.”
Pieces of Our Collective Past
“Family artifacts hold all kinds of genealogical evidence waiting to be found and added to our ancestors’ stories,” writes Denise May Levenick, aka The Family Curator. Imagine her shock when she encountered a piece of her own family history at a flea market.
HISTORY MADE PERSONAL
Lonnie G. Bunch III, named Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in June, describes five artifacts from the vast collections that hold deep personal meaning for him, and that reflect significant pieces of our nation’s history.
“I document the artifacts of the past to enrich the present,” still life photographer Ellen Cantor says. “I am interested in reimagining the family photo album and objects that hold personal histories in order to explore the distillation and persistence of memory.” Read about her multiple-exposure series exploring the pleasures of childhood reading, and head over to her website to browse some of her other work, including Family and Visual DNA.