Oral Histories



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Oral history and storytelling are some of the most powerful tools to continue traditions and to understand the past. The Belarusian Literature Nobel Winner and Oral Historian Svetlana Alexievich, is celebrated "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time". Her writings bring light to silenced voices in history. In her most famous book, “The Unwomanly Face of War”, she transcribes oral descriptions of unheard stories of women in the Soviet Army during World War II. “This is how I hear and see the world,” Alexievich said in an interview—“ as a chorus of individual voices and a collage of everyday details.”
 
Now, it’s your turn to uncover stories from the past, surfacing voices and details from your history.
 
Our own relatives often offer up the most interesting and meaningful material. So call or visit a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or parent. Consider what question you might ask about your family’s history or ancestry, but also analyze how you might prepare yourself to listen and connect with your heritage. What are the lost narratives that you might recapture in writing? What questions can you ask to draw out meaningful stories from your family members? 
 
Use a phone or recorder to capture the audio during your conversation, or take notes, and then transcribe the story for perpetuity. 
 
Sometimes, to listen is the only way to write.

In need of more inspiration? Check out this piece by your fellow writer Sunday.
 
[This prompt was designed by Community Ambassador Luiza L.]