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Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project Hardcover – November 8, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Four years ago. StoryCorps set out to record an oral history of America with the voices of everyday people. This book is a collection of the most compelling excerpts from more than 10,000 interviews recorded, compiled by StoryCorps founder Isay (Flophouse), a radio documentary producer and MacArthur fellow. And they are compelling. Each one captures a moment in time—historical, emotional or personal—that make us who we are. As simple stories of humanity, each one has its own potency, with themes of family, love, dedication and struggle. In one of the most emotionally wrought stories, a father sits down with his daughter and remembers her late mother and older brother, who both died of cancer within months of each other. To gather the stories, StoryCorps provides a facility, recording equipment and a facilitator, then waits for people to invite loved ones, friends, grandparents to sit down for a 40-minute session. A copy of the tape is filed in the Library of Congress, and parts have aired on NPR. As Isay says, I realized how many people among us feel completely invisible, believe their lives don't matter, and fear they'll someday be forgotten. Photos. (Nov. 13)
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Review

Dave Isay's vision of collecting the everyday stories of Americans is so simple and yet so powerful. Listening Is an Act of Love will make you laugh, cry and think. These stories come from the souls of individual Americans. Collectively, they are who we are as a people. You cannot read this book without feeling proud of your country."
-Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

"Dave Isay's Listening Is an Act of Love is a gift. I loved this book. I savored these stories. So candid. So open-hearted. So full of life. The StoryCorps project may well be the most important cultural event in America today. It's about us. About who we are. About where we've come from, and where we want to go. Listening Is an Act of Love is the equivalent of eavesdropping on America. Read it - and pass it on to family and friends. It'll inspire."
-Alex Kotlowitz

"Here are the observations and memories of a giant, diverse nation's citizens. In its sum, StoryCorps asks Americans to reflect upon their experiences, their times of travail, their achievements. In so doing, these individuals create an encompassing national narration: a people's hopes, fears and aspirations, all rendered poignantly to attentive listeners whose respect has enabled, finally, a presentation of a people's mind, heart, soul."
-Dr. Robert Coles, James Agee Professor of Social Ethics, Harvard University

"This book is absolutely remarkable. Listening is an Act of Love is history in the richest sense of the word, the kind that makes people feel like they count. It's a celebration of the lives of the uncelebrated. In our world today people feel helpless, but once they speak of their lives they become alive! This is what our country is all about. Never has a book been more timely or necessary."
-Studs Terkel
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 284 pages
  • Publisher: The Penguin Press; 1st edition (November 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615554815
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615554812
  • ASIN: B002BWQ5C2
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,039,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

116 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on November 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was published to mark the recent recording of the ten thousandth interview by the StoryCorps Project. Perhaps you have heard excerpts from some of these interviews on National Public Radio?

David Isay had the idea that he wanted to record the stories of regular folks-like you an I. He set up the first recording booth in Grand Central Station. For ten dollars you can record a 40 minute interview. Family members and friends interview each other. A facilitator is there to help out and sometimes to conduct the interview. Recordings are given to the respondents and also put in the Library of Congress with the permission of those who told their stories.

Some incredible stories are being told in the StoryCorps booths that now travel America inside Airstream trailers. Storycorps is preserving our oral history.

This book contains excerpts from interviews with senior citizens who remember the way it was in the olden days. There's a story from a bounty hunter. Another from a woman who survived a jet airliner crash in Iowa. There are the stories of people battling addictions and diseases like AIDS, cancer, and alcoholism.

There are tales of love lost and love found. A child re-unites with his birth mother. A grandchild interviews
the grandmother who took him in from his abusive parents.

Most dramatic of all is the story of a man who escaped from the 105th floor of the World Trade Center after the first tower was hit. He was in the second tower. This story will make your heart race and your tears flow. It's incredible!

What a wonderful book! Studs Terkel, our greatest oral historian loves this book. It reminded this reviewer of that classic book by Studs Terkel; HARD TIMES.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By FirstNorn on November 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Listening Is an Act of Love" is truly a book for everyone; I believe it is central to understanding what compassion is all about. By extension, it is clear to me that it is not just about American family and love relationships, but also about the entire human family.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Listeners to National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" on Fridays are familiar with interviews from Dave Isay's StoryCorps project. Here in written form is a collection of some of those essays, along with a photograph of the person being interviewed and usually the interviewer as well. The essays are grouped in "Home and Family," "Work and Dedication," "Journeys," "History and Struggle" and finally "Fire and Water," recollections of survivors of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, certainly some of the most moving interviews in the entire book.

How refreshing in a world gone mad with non-news of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton-- I do not believe I have ever heard either of these women's names mentioned or either public radio or public television-- to listen to and read of ordinary people whose lives are interesting, who have done often noble, unselfish deeds with no pomp and circumstance.

While some of these stories are more engaging than others, to a person each one interviewed here has something to say that touches the reader. There is an interview of a woman reunited with her son whom she gave up for adoption: "Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do it again" [let her son be adopted]. An eighty-seven-year-old World War II veteran still sees in his dreams the blond, blue-eyed teenaged member of the Hitler Youth he had to kill to save his own life. A forty-nine-year-old prisoner in the Oregon State Penitentiary hopeful of his eventual freedom died from a drug overdose shortly after his interview. A Memphis sanitation worker recalls the death of Martin Luther King.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on December 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Compiled by Dave Isay, Listening Is an Act of Love is perhaps one of the most profoundly touching books I've read in many years. As I read the stories I kept having to remind myself that these are true stories told by real people.

The most touching was the 911 story in the Trade Tower. Gripping and moving at the same time.

If you enjoy living history then Listening Is an Act of Love is the book for you.

Peace my friends.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Verhoeven on November 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Read this, and then make an appointment to submit an interview to StoryCorps. I interviewed my dad today, and it was a very moving experience. What a great concept!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Erin on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I love listening to Story Corps every Friday morning, so was very excited to see this book. Every story is so valuable and unique. It really reminds us how special and valuable every person is, and that we all have a story to tell.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The StoryCorps Project is dedicated to collecting and preserving the stories of ordinary Americans for future generations. People participate by being interviewed at the Storycorps booth in New York City or at one of the mobile recording booths traveling the country - they can choose to be interviewed by a relative or friend, or by a Storycorps facilitator. Selected stories are read on NPR every Friday morning and all are stored in the Library of Congress (subject to the participant's signing a release; thus far about 95% of participants have done so).

This book represents a selection of the submissions so far, and the majority of the stories are truly moving. It's divided into five broad sections:

Home and Family
Work and Dedication
Journeys
History and Struggle
Fire and Water (stories related to the attacks of September 11th and to Hurricane Katrina)

With the exception of those in the first section, the stories are universally powerful and moving, with over 10,000 to choose from, the editor has done a fine job in selecting the best. For me, the 'home and family' stories fell oddly flat, though this just may be an inability to match the power of some of the later contributions.

One could think of this as an oral version of the other NPR Story Project, stories from which are collected in the (awesome) book "I Thought My Father was God", which also deserves a 5-star rating. The stories in "Listening is an Act of Love" match those in that book in their capacity to move the reader. Although I did find the first section of this book to be somewhat weaker than the remaining four sections, it still deserves a 5-star rating.
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