- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (November 8, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594201404
- ISBN-13: 978-1594201400
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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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Top Customer Reviews
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. A World War 11 veteran, when asked by the interviewer, his twelve-year-old grandson, one of the standard StoryCorps questions, what was the saddest moment of his life, remembers that while stationed in the Navy in Norfolk, he was refused admission to a movie in D. C. because he was black: "I just walked the streets crying all night, betrayed that my country could force me to fight a war but say, 'You're not a good enough citizen to come to a movie.'" Finally, one of the saddest interviews for me is that of the man who was so lonely that he got a haircut once a week just to have someone touch him.
These are Ken Burns, Charles Bukowski and Studs Terkel (who wrote a blurb for the book) people. Many of these stories rise to the level of poetry. Reading these interviews, at least some of them, reminded me of the time I saw the AIDS Memorial Quilt, another tribute to ordinary Americans, unfurled for the first time in Washington in 1987, the raw emotion, the great pain of loss but also the overwhelming sense of love and connectedness that we all felt on that cold October morning.
These unsentimental stories will warm the cockles of your heart.
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
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.
The success of this venture is an interesting contrast with what I (in a clear minority) considered to be the weakness of the 'This I Believe' collection, which I also reviewed recently. It's interesting to me that two undertakings, which are fairly similar on the surface, should give such disparate results. What psychologists and social science researchers tell us does appear to be true - it really matters how you ask the questions...
I can relate to a lot of the stories which makes them even more interesting. Thanks so much!
These interviews are of ordinary people, living ordinary lives, but each of them has a unique and wonderful story. I'm going to keep this book on my desk to remind me everyday that what appears to be ordinary is anything but.