The truth and oral history: The Double Life of the Interview


org. Louise Crawford
guest curator John A. Guidry

8:00 – 10:00 PM
5th Avenue in Park Slope between 3rd and 4th Streets
(718) 768-3195

The idea

Stories do not tell themselves. Even once they are told and recorded, stories need some help to be heard and to live in the world. This month’s Brooklyn Reading Works will look at the processes by which people collect stories and use them to tell stories. We will have panelists who use oral history practices to document our world and the lives we lead, and the conversation will explore the work it takes to make stories interesting and give them legs to stand on, as it were. Panelists will represent and explore several different genres and styles of the oral historian’s craft, from traditional first-person historical storytelling to the mediations of photography, academic writing, marketing, multimedia, and social advocacy—as well as stories of how collecting stories ultimately affects oral historians as authors and curators of the human experience.

The panel

Brian Toynes and Luna Ortiz, with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, who have developed innovative community-level interventions that use personal stories about change and resiliency. Luna is one of the few people documenting the “House and Ball” scene that came to general public prominence in the film, Paris is Burning, and in Madonna’s “Vogue – but which has also had a much more complex and international history over the last 100 years.

Michael Garofalo, a producer with StoryCorps, who will talk about the work of StoryCorps and the importance of collecting and listening to the stories we can tell each other about our lives.

Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Columbia Oral History Office. Mary Marshall will concentrate on the stories of 9-11 that her team collected here in New York and the process of working with these kinds of interviews in order to create a tangible and personal history of these events.

Jason Kerstenauthor of “The Art of Making Money,” a true-crime story of a young counterfeiter and his life. Jason’s interviews with Art and his family reveal a host of issues that a writer must confront when getting so close to the subject while trying to tell a true story that is compelling, informative, honest, and in the end protective of the subject’s own history and privacy.

John A. Guidry, who has used oral history and long-interviewing techniques in academic writing (community organizing and children’s rights in Brazil), community development research (all over the US), and public health promotion (HIV health and social marketing).


Filed under ideas, journalism, knowledge, life, literature, media, Park Slope, writing

4 responses to “The truth and oral history: The Double Life of the Interview

  1. Jonathan Willens

    Thanks for a brilliant and inspiring program last night. Also, your kind words about The Old Stone House and its role in facilitating events like this panel discussion were much appreciated.
    Jonathan Willens, OSH Board Chairman

    • Jonathan, thank you, and you are welcome. That little park and house have played a very great role in my life over the last 6 years, in the countless small ways that wind up making a life. It’s an honor to be able to put together these kinds of events, and I would be happy to do it again and again and again. Cheers and have a great weekend with our latest snowy covering.

  2. John,
    I would love for you to post a synopsis of how the evening went for those of us who couldn’t be there. It sounds like such a great mix of people.

    • Lita, that is a good idea. I must say I am having difficulty finding the time to get my blog back on. Mainly because of a lot of work at the day job, which is all good, even if it feels like too much. But this was actually related to the day job, since two of the presenters, Brian and Luna, are colleagues of mine at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, where I work. I also have a couple of more button-pushing political type of posts… we’ll see where I get. Thanks for the suggestion! I hope you are well and not getting blizzarded out like last year. (Like we are here in NYC.) Cheers, John

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