Category: Nonfiction

Book review: Deep

By , December 12, 2014

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves
by James Nestor

In 2011, Journalist James Nestor was covering a freediving competition in Greece, when his editor at Outside Magazine called to check  in.  Nestor told him “freediving is like being in space, but it’s in water; like flying but you’re diving.  It’s the most…the worst…the best…the bloodiest.”  Nestor wrote his article without ever attempting a freedive himself.  But he soon began a journey all over the world speaking with people who freedive not only as a competitive sport, but as a way of life, a way to study and research creatures of the ocean and our negative effects upon them, and also as a means of meditation.

So what is freediving?  If you are a scuba diver, imagine leaving your oxygen tank behind, and diving down to depths of 100 feet below the surface.  If you think it impossible to survive, you are wrong.  Humans have been freediving for thousands of years, but freediving as a competitive sport is fairly new, and incredibly controversial.  In November of 2013, Nicholas Mevoli, a thirty-two year-old athlete from Brooklyn died shortly after completing a 236-foot no-fins dive.

After he covers the competition in Greece, Nestor goes to Japan to meet  an ancient culture of Japanese diving women called the Ama who gather sea urchins to sell to sushi restaurants.  He spends time on the French island of Reunion with  conservationist Fabrice Schnoller and Belgian freediver Fred Buyle to investigate the island’s man-eating shark problem.  (Spoiler – boats had been dumping loads of trash outside the port entrance, attracting bull sharks to the area…)  Nestor studies with some of the freediving greats (Eric Pinion, Hanli Prinsloo) so he can ultimately freedive with spermwhales off the northeast coast of Sri Lanka.  These are just a few of the experiences Nestor shares in his riveting, fascinating, and completely engrossing book.

Deep is my top pick for nonfiction book of 2014.  I rarely want to re-read a book immediately after I finish it, but that’s just what I did.  There are many freediving videos on youtube, but if you take the time to watch just one, it should be the 2010 short film of French freediver Guillaume Nery called Free Fall which I’ll share below.


Discovering The War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

By , December 8, 2014
Train station in foreground with Tennessee capitol building in background, 1864

Nashville, 1864. From Library of Congress.


Chances are, the Civil War Battle of Nashville was omitted from your high school history books. Maybe you never knew that a large battle was fought here, involving two major armies and hundreds of thousands of men. Or perhaps you’re familiar with the battle and have read several general works, but crave more detail. With the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville approaching on Dec. 15-16, now is a good time to explore an essential Civil War resource.


The War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, more commonly known as the Official Records or even more simply, the “OR” is a treasure trove of detail. First published in 1880, this multi-volume set contains thousands of battle reports, orders, and accounts of activities of both Union and Confederate armies, from all geographic areas.


Civil War buffs can get a “boots on the ground” perspective of the action straight from the commanders’ pens. Local historians can learn more about a skirmish that took place for control of a nearby railroad bridge, or guerrilla activity in the countryside.  Genealogists can learn about great-grandpa’s regiment – or on rare occasions, even find him mentioned by name!

The ORs are also available online and are keyword searchable. Although their online format makes access convenient, it can also be problematic when a search provides an enormous quantity of matches that are difficult to sort through. Using the hard copy books, with their indices, can at times be a more efficient way to find the information that you seek.


Organization of the Official Records

Let’s break it down into its main method of arrangement.

♦ Series

♦ Volumes

♦ Parts


Spines of books showing Series labels

There are four “Series” to the OR’s.

Series I. Military Operations (which contains the largest quantity of material)

Series II. Prisoners of War

Series III. Miscellaneous Union correspondence

Series IV. Miscellaneous Confederate correspondence


After identifying the Series, you locate the Volume. Note that Volumes sometimes may be broken down into subsequent “Parts.” Think of a “Part” as literally being a part of a Volume that was simply too big to be bound together in one giant book.


Spines of books showing numbered Parts of a Volume


So, with this basic orientation, let’s work through an example.


Step 1 – Consult “General Index”

Index to the Official Records book

Begin by consulting the “General Index” – the last book in the entire set. Say I want to learn more about Samuel J. Churchill. The reference in the index is: “I, 45.”


This is referring to Series I, Volume 45.


Step 2 – Consult back-of-the-book index in each Part of the Volume of interest

Knowing that there may be multiple Parts to a Volume, check all indices in the back of the book for all Parts.

In the case of Series I, Volume 45, there are two Parts. This means I’m going to check the index in two separate books.

In the index of Part I, I find an entry for an otherwise unidentified “Churchill.” This might be of interest, and should be pursued, but for the sake of my example, I’m only going to investigate direct mentions of Samuel J. Churchill. There is an entry for him in Part I, directing me to page 492.




I’ll also want to check the Part II index, because there may be references to him there as well. In this instance, there is not an entry for him in Part II, so that makes our job simple.

Let’s check out that reference to him in Part I.


Step 3 – Follow the reference given in the back-of-the-book index to the appropriate page.

Let’s go to page 492 in Part I.

Here, we find an account of Corpl. Samuel J. Churchill’s heroic actions at the Battle of Nashville:



Corpl. Samuel J. Churchill… commanding one gun detachment [of Battery G, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery] is highly commended for distinguished bravery displayed on the first day. At a time when two of the enemy’s batteries opened upon his guns, compelling for a short time the men of his detachment to seek the protection of the ground, this young soldier stood manfully up to his work, and for some minutes worked his gun alone.


With further research in other sources, we might soon learn that Churchill was later awarded the Medal of Honor in 1897. This report in the OR provided key evidence, and was instrumental in his receiving the award.



The ORs are an essential source for any type of detailed Civil War research. Convenient indices provide a step-by-step process to obtain detailed information on individuals, officers, regiments, battles, and even small skirmishes at tiny crossroads villages.

Further Sources:

Two smaller works can provide assistance in using the ORs:

A User’s Guide to the Official Recordsby Alan C. and Barbara A. Aimone provides a solid overview of how the published OR’s came about, how to use them, and a large bibliography.

Lawrence M. Jarratt has made it easier for all Tennesseans to know more about their particular community in the Civil War. Although compiled in 1986, long before the internet and keyword searching, his A Complete County by County Guide to Civil War Battles, Actions, Engagements, Skirmishes, Affairs, Reconaissances, Expeditions, Scouts and Camps in Tennessee makes it possible for one to easily find accounts in the Official Records about actions in particular locales.

Cookbook review: The Southern Living Community Cookbook

By , December 7, 2014

Southern Living Community CookbookThe Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food and Fellowship in the American South
By the Editors of Southern Living Magazine

Check this one out for the appetizers alone, which include:

~Crispy Cheese Wafers
~Chicks in a Blanket with Spicy Mustard Sauce
~A Super Bowl-ready Sausage, Pinto Bean, and Spinach Dip
~Muffaletta Dip
~Easy Sausage Swirls, a 3(!)-ingredient recipe

Perfect for all of your holiday get-togethers.


Best of 2014

By , December 1, 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the season of Best Books lists.  This post contains my top three picks of the year in fiction, nonfiction, and film. Note that we were lucky enough to have three of these six authors here for this year’s Southern Festival of Books!


We Are Not OurselvesWe Are Not Ourselves
by Matthew Thomas

Best book I’ve read this year, hands down. It reminded me of all of those great sprawling books from about ten years ago, like The Fortress of Solitude and Middlesex.

P.S. It would be much better to go into this not knowing anything about the plot!



by Lily King

Historical fiction for people who don’t like historical fiction, inspired by the life of Margaret Mead.





Funny OnceFunny Once: Stories
by Antonya Nelson

Best story collection of the year, full of failed ambitions and unfulfilled expectations.







Under MagnoliaUnder Magnolia: A Southern Memoir
by Frances Mayes

Try this even if you don’t think you like Frances Mayes.  The most surprising thing about this memoir is that it reminded me a lot of my own childhood (also in rural Georgia), even though I’m almost 35 years her junior.




Ten Years in the TubTen Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books
by Nick Hornby

This is a compilation of Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column in The Believer and is the best book about books I’ve ever read (it helps that he and I have similar reading tastes, including a love of literary biographies). I could’ve kept reading these articles forever.



Art of the English MurderThe Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock
by Lucy Worsley

I enjoyed every page of this. I would almost call it “light” if that didn’t seem derogatory. Let’s just say it never felt like homework like some nonfiction does.






Blue RuinBlue Ruin
This revenge gem is for fans of the early Coen Brothers.






The Grand Budapest Hotel
Grand Budapest Hotel
IMHO, this is second only to The Royal Tenenbaums in the Wes Anderson oeuvre.






This movie amazingly transcended both its hype and the almost three-hour length. It makes for a memorable, nostalgic viewing experience.

Why I love Interlibrary Loan

By , November 27, 2014

interlibraryloanI love Interlibrary Loan because it gives me access to an amazing world of books beyond our library’s already superb collection!

My passion is for fashion, big beautiful fashion history books make me positively giddy. Using Interlibrary Loan has allowed me check out dozens and dozens of pricey, hard to find, fashion history books that I would have never had access to otherwise.

Interlibrary Loan is easy to use; simply click on the Interlibrary Loan link under the Services heading on the library’s website. First time users will be asked to fill out a short form about contact information. After that you simply log in using your library card and pin number. There is a limit of 5 requests per library card at any one time.

Books and articles not available in our collection may be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan.   E-Books, DVDs, music CDs and audiobooks are not currently available through Interlibrary Loan.

Once your request is submitted, it can take a couple weeks for your item to arrive. You will be notified when it is ready to be picked up. Interlibrary Loan materials can be returned at any of our library locations (just not in the book drops please).


Interlibrary Loan is easy to use, it puts amazing materials right in your hands and best of all it is free with your library card, now what can be better than that!








Book review: Biography Bonaza!

By , November 25, 2014

Why does it seem like biographies are always really popular this time of year? Is it because people get more reflective as fall fades into winter? Do falling leaves make people more contemplative of their own mortality? Wait – is this my own biography? No…I don’t think so. *shakes head* You can tell it’s not my biography because although there is a mention of Joss Whedon, there is not enough glitter. Ok. Whew. Dodged that bullet.

So I really don’t have any answers to the questions above, but I have noticed a significant increase in the number of biographies of people I think are cool. Let’s kick it off with the king, shall we?

Joss Whedon 
By Amy Pascale

No, not Elvis (EWW). This one. Joss Whedon. You know – the father of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and savior of The Avengers.

Amy Pascale packs A TON of information in her recent release about Mr. Whedon. There were things in there that even I didn’t know, and I could run the category on Jeopardy if anyone ever wrote one about Joss. Pop quiz hotshot: did you know he wrote most of the dialogue in Speed? I didn’t, but it totally makes sense because it’s the best part of the movie. I did know he wrote comics, but I didn’t realize how many I hadn’t read. Looks like ILL will be busy in my future. This book also made me want to watch A Cabin in the Woods – and I HATE horror movies. But in typical Joss fashion, the description in the book made it sound like so much more than just a gorefest. (I still might need a buddy to watch though.)

This book is a little bit of commitment because it is dense and chock full of fun Joss tidbits. While it did take me a little time to make it through, I enjoyed every last minute of it and was sad to pass on the book to the next patron. I hope you, whoever you are, will enjoy it as much as I did.

I’m still looking for my “Joss is my King” t-shirt though – just if anyone needs any Christmas present ideas for me.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler was on Saturday Night Live  back when I actually used to watch it. And while she was more Robin to my favorite Batman, Tina Fey, I did think some of Amy’s characters were funny. I’ll be honest – I picked up this book to learn more details why she and Will Arnett got divorced, but I – sigh – was totally denied. She mentions the divorce and how hard it was, but doesn’t give us any details. Sure, Amy, take the classy road the one time I want you to be your usually irreverent self. Curses *shakes fist*  foiled again.

While I completely don’t identify with Amy’s somewhat manic, drug-taking, up all night partying personality, I do respect her work ethic. Most of us just saw her once she was on Conan or SNL, but she had years at Second City and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade to hone her craft. They had to hussle it to make a name for themselves – which they did. It also sounds like her parents are a hoot and a half. Apparently the funny doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Didn’t love this one as much as Tina Fey’s, but it was a pretty good effort for Robin.

Choose Your Own Autobiography
By Neil Patrick Harris

To read what I thought about NPH’s tell-all (well tell-most) bio, skip the next sentence and continue here. To learn how to do a card trick – go to NPH’s fabulous new book.

I heart NPH almost as much as Joss Whedon. From Doogie to Rent to Dr. Horrible – what’s not to love? But I have to say initially I wasn’t in love with his Choose Your Own format. If anyone else would have tried it, I would have deemed it a cop out and mocked him to my friends (and/or blog readers). But for some reason, as you dig in, with NPH it just works. I haven’t actually skipped around in the book as offerred, choosing instead to read straight through like a regular book. But hey – he told me I could choose my own autobiography, and this is what I chose.

It’s funny. It’s snarky. It’s honest. And there is a disturbing amount of magic in it. (I dislike magic. Sorry, I just do.) But I wish I could have been in his head while he was writing because I’m sure it was a fun place to be. Still love NPH, in spite of all the magic weirdness.

So if your life has hit a rut and you want to see how some other really cool people live check these out. Maybe they will inspire you to dance and sing – maybe at the same time!

Happy reading…

:) Amanda

PS Even though it didn’t come out this year, I also just finished listening to Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents on audio, read by the author herself. Also a great biography -maybe for a holiday road trip. The fourth quarter really is a BIOGRAPHY BONANZA!!!!

Limited Editions Collection – Behind the Books

By , November 24, 2014
The first book published by the LEC was in 1929 - The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver by Jonathan Swift.

The first book published by the LEC was in 1929 – The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver by Jonathan Swift.

“The Great Books are the means of understanding our society and ourselves. They contain the great ideas that dominate us without our knowing it. There is no comparable repository in our tradition…”

-Robert M. Hutchins


The Wilson Collection at the Downtown Public Library is a truly unique collection. Not just for the Nashville Public Library, but for public libraries around the world. The collection is comprised mostly of two fine press book publishers – Limited Editions Club (LEC) and Arion Press. Both publishers are currently still in business (though the LEC is not publishing at this time), and the library continues to receive newly-published books from the Arion Press.

The Limited Editions Collection is located in New York City. The Arion Press is located in San Francisco and will be discussed in next month’s post.

Want to hear another cool fact about the collection? The Nashville Public Library is the only public library in the world that has the complete collection of LEC books. Yes, the ONLY public library in the world. The only other complete collections exist in the Library of Congress and the Harry Ransom Research Center  at the University of Texas at Austin. To see the list of other libraries and museums that have partial collections of the LEC books, click here on the link to the LEC’s website.

The Limited Editions Collection and Arion Press books were donated to the Library in 2001 from local author and book collector, Dr. Sadye Tune Wilson. Dr. Wilson began collecting the books in the late 1970′s, while also working with a book dealer to purchase the earlier-published books. 800 plus books later (not including the Arion Press books), the Downtown Library now continues collecting and caring for Dr. Wilson’s books.

Now that you understand how the books came to the library, how about learning how the books were published in the first place…

A few of the seasonal greeting cards that the LEC sent out to its members.

A few of the seasonal greeting cards that the LEC sent out to its members.

Once upon a time (more specifically, 1929), there was a man named George Macy. Mr. Macy had a vision to create an awesome book club. Actually, to be exact, a fine-press book-of-the-month club. Having been an avid reader throughout his life, Macy came up with this idea when he was 29 and already had publishing experience. One story alleges that after Macy proposed his idea to create a monthly book club, it took Jack Straus (a stockbroker friend on Wall Street) only a few minutes to raise the $40,000 that Macy needed.

October 1929 was the official release date of Macy’s first books. I know what you’re thinking, perfect timing, right? The stock market crashed that same month and year. But it did not seem to faze Macy. He had set his limit of subscriptions to 1500, and by then, he had already secured more than half of that. By the end of 1930, he had sold out of subscriptions and already started a waiting list.

Starting at $10 a book (more than the standard trade edition at the time, but less than a private-press volume), Mr. Macy created a legendary book collection that brings some of the best literary classics and famous artists together in one setting. The first series of the LEC books include a variety of unique works such as:

  • The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver by Jonathan Swift

    The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver is the first book produced by the LEC. The art by Alexander King

    Alexander King illustrated the art for The Travels of Lemuel Gulliver; the first book published by the LEC.

  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • The Travels of Baron Munchausen by Rudolph Erich Raspe
  • Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier
    The 4th book published by the LEC was Snowbound by John Greenleaf Whittier, in 1930.

    The 4th book published by the LEC was Snowbound by John Greenleaf Whittier, in 1930.


  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Two Mediaeval Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
  • Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
  • Tartarin of Tarascon by Alphonse Daudet
  • Undine by F. de La Motte-Fouque
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • The Fables of Jean de la Fontaine by Jean de la Fontaine

    The first series of books by the LEC, beginning in October 1929.

    The first series of books published by the LEC, beginning in October 1929.

Some of the most notable books produced by the LEC were done when Macy was still in his thirties. Does the name Picasso ring a bell? How about Matisse? Yep, in the LEC’s earliest days, Macy produced books that both of these artists created illustrations for -

  • Lysistrata by Aristophanes (Picasso)

    Lysistrata by Aristophanes was published by the LEC in 1934, illustrated by Pablo Picasso.

    Lysistrata by Aristophanes was published by the LEC in 1934, illustrated by Pablo Picasso.

  • Ulysses by James Joyce (Matisse)

    Ulysses by James Joyce was published by the LEC in 1935, illustrated by Henri Matisse.

    Ulysses by James Joyce was published by the LEC in 1935, illustrated by Henri Matisse.

The idea to ask both of these artists to create illustrations for him actually came from a suggestion by a stranger, according to Macy. At a high price, Picasso agreed to create drawings for Lysistrata. Though he was late in producing them (by about 6 months), the book remains to be one of the most unique and valuable parts of the collection.

Before she passed away, Alice Liddell Hargreaves signed many copies of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Before she passed away, Alice Liddell Hargreaves signed many copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Macy also coaxed Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the original Alice from Alice in Wonderland) into signing copies of the LEC’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Alice had previously refused to inscribe anything written by Carroll. But having learned that she wished to sign copies of his books before she passed away, Macy wrote to her. Though she wasn’t able to sign every copy, the Library’s copies of both books are lucky ones.

I could continue going on about the LEC - about how the design of the books and subscription changed throughout the years as directors changed. And how there was a time (after Mr. Macy passed away) that the future of the club looked pretty bleak. But if I continued into that history, you’d still be reading for awhile, when I know you’re just here to look at the pictures – (just kidding). So I’ll summarize the rest.

What is important to know is that Sid Shiff took over the LEC in 1978, saving it from going under. He changed the strategy of the club in a variety of ways, raising the annual rate but also bringing in more renowned artists instead of good illustrators.

In 1983, the LEC began featuring great African-American authors including Maya Angelou, Derek Walcott, and Langston Hughes. Though the club does not produce books at this time due to Sid’s passing, operations continue thanks to his wife. When the day comes that the LEC produces books again, you can count on finding them at the Library.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll was also signed by Alice Liddell Hargreaves.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll was also signed by Alice Liddell Hargreaves.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the LEC, a lot of the information from this post and more can be found in 3 great articles written about the Club. They are available to read on the LEC’s website.

Come back next month to learn about the Arion Press!

Want to see these books, or would you like to view more works from the Wilson Collection? The Wilson Collection is housed on the 3rd floor of the Main Downtown Library, next to the Fine Arts section. It’s open to all Library visitors during regular Library hours. To make an appointment to view the books, you can call either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363


Book review: Mad World

By , November 14, 2014

madworld-608x812Mad World: an Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s
by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein

As a former writer of Duran Duran fan fiction, it’s pretty much a given I’d appreciate this book, which features not only the fab five, but many of my favorite bands from the 80′s.  But even if you enter a rage when Take On Me comes out of your speakers, Mad World will help you understand the events that led up to and influenced the sounds of that decade.

Music fans and journalists Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein interviewed (I’m so jealous!) some of the most notable new wave artists, getting them each to talk about the genesis and recording of their most popular songs. You’ll also read in the artists’ own words tales of the scene, and how some had strong friendships with their fellow new wave bands.   And while we’re on the topic, the authors talk about what new wave actually means.  The band photos provide an instant step back into the 80′s hairstyles and unique fashion sense often parodied and misunderstood.  You’re a fan of mixtapes, right?  Majewski and Bernstein recommend some excellent themed mixtapes: bands with interesting names, songs about science, songs from new groups that grew out of old groups…

I’ve already mentioned Duran Duran is represented; other participants include members of New Order, The Smiths (Morrissey and Johnny Marr were obviously interviewed separately), Tears for Fears, Adam Ant, Devo,  A Flock of Seagulls, and INXS to name a few.  And don’t forget to check our catalog, Hoopla, and freegal when you’re inspired to listen to these bands.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs you may know from the cover versions by Grace Jones, or Trent Reznor and friends, that would be The Normal‘s Warm Leatherette.


Book review: Elegantissima: the Design &Typography of Louise Fili

By , November 13, 2014

louiseElegantissima: the Design &Typography of Louise Fili

By Louise Fili


Elegantissima which means elegant in Italian is the title of Louise Fili’s new design book.

Chances are you are familiar with the work of award winning designer Louise Fili and you didn’t even know it …… like the Love Stamp she created for the United States Postal Service or her many book covers and business logos……

elegantissima image


As the art director for Pantheon Books, Louise designed over two thousand book jackets during her eleven year tenure. She “introduced changes to the status quo by using softer palettes, unusual papers stocks, unconventional illustration, and custom typography.” Louise left Pantheon in 1989 to start her own design firm, Louise Fili Ltd, where she specializes in freelance book jacket design and creating logos and menu designs for restaurants.


Elegantissima: the Design &Typography of Louise Filiis a celebration of an amazing career that has spanned nearly 40 years. Louise Fili is a gifted designer and she has written a book that is a pleasure to read and to look at!







National Day of Listening – November 28

By , November 10, 2014
Four individuals at table

Library staff and community members gather for an oral history

When I mention the day after Thanksgiving what do you think of? Leftover turkey? Black Friday shopping? Football games? These are all great things about the last Friday in November but did you know that this day is also National Day of Listening? In 2008, StoryCorps launched an unofficial campaign to encourage Americans to take some time during this holiday weekend to talk to each other. The premise is simple: sit down with a friend or relative, ask them some questions, have a conversation, and record it to share with your family or the nation. It’s as easy as that.

Stories have so much power. Each of us has lived an incredible life but all too often, our personal story doesn’t sound that amazing to us. However, these stories can personalize history in a way that nothing else can. The Special Collections Department has multiple oral history collections that include stories from veterans, civil rights activists, business leaders, immigrants, and everyday people. These collections are some of our most used resources because of the connection they give to historical events.

First Day of Integration

Grace McKinley walking her daughter to Fehr Elementary School, Nashville, Tennessee, 1957 September 09, the same day Mrs. Risby discusses.

Take Alice Smith Risby, for example. In her interview from 2007, she talks about her daughter being one of the first graders that integrated Nashville schools in YEAR. She specifically mentions that her daughter’s name was not in the papers because they missed registration so this event would not have been recorded if she hadn’t shared her story. But the part I love about oral histories comes toward the end of the clip. One of the parents of another student walks up to her and tells her they are there to make sure nothing happens to her daughter. That human interaction happened over 50 years ago but it still stays in Mrs. Risby’s memory because it meant so much to her.


What stories does your family have to tell? Find out this month by following these easy steps!

  1. Decide who you want to interview. A grandparent, sibling, parent, cousin, friend, anyone you like!
  2. Create a list of questions. Here is a list of Great Questions from StoryCorps but feel free to come up with your own. Is there a specific story you want to hear more about? Think about what you already know about the person and go from there!
  3. Find some recording equipment. If you have a tape recorder or video camera, great! If not, you can use a smartphone or even a computer. Get creative.
  4. Pick a place to record. It’s always best to find a quiet spot to record this story but others may want to hear. If you can’t find a spot for the two of you, ask others to try to keep quiet so that the story can be captured as best as possible.
  5. Begin!! State your names, the date, the location, and your relationship. Remember this story may live on past the two of you so you want people to know who you are!
  6. We recommend 40 minutes as a good length for interviews but you can do as long or short as you like. 40 minutes makes the files small enough that they are easy to manage.
  7. Share it! Send it to your family, post it on the Internet, share it on StoryCorps Wall of Listening.

That’s it! You have conducted an oral history.

Learn more about our Oral History Collections here!

For more resources and more oral histories, check out StoryCorps

Drawing of family interview

Image from StoryCorps, used with permission.

And don’t forget to join us November 19 at 11:30 AM for our Film for Thought series. We will be screening “Listening is an Act of Love,” a production by StoryCorps, in honor of National Day of Listening.


Happy Listening!

- Amber

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