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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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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."
"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."
Top customer reviews
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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...
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
laughter, often simultaneously, while reading! I loved this book and I love StoryCorps!