Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Power of Storytelling

The title of this book, This Time Next Year We'll be Laughing, captured my attention when I saw it last fall.  It sounded like the perfect book for a pandemic year and being a fan of Jacqueline Winspear, I was sure it would be interesting and readable.  It had nothing to do with a pandemic but yes, it was engaging and well-written.  The author and I are contemporaries though she lived across the ocean in England.  The title comes from something her father used to say when Winspear or her family faced one of life's challenges.  I love the subtle encouragement and suggestion that looks to a better future.

Below is a paragraph from the book with Winspear's thoughts about the power of storytelling.
...It has only been since I began to write this memoir that I have reconsidered the power of storytelling on so many levels.  Of course, we know a story can change even a nation—the stories told by politicians, especially tyrants, dictators and despots, have sent young men and women to perish on battlefields for millennia.  Countries and peoples have been brought to their knees by stories, and equally they have been given the strength to rise up, to endure and to show strength beyond measure.  But as much as stories bring warmth to our days, help us find our voices or work things out, stories—even the ones considered entertaining—can also damage, create doubt, cause an aching distress or a wounding humiliation.  Words have the potential to cause such pain, it’s a wonder the dictionary doesn’t come with a government health warning.

More on Stories and Storytelling
  • Good Reasons to Tell Family Stories, thoughts on Bruce Feiler's 2013 article, "The Stories That Bind Us," and 
  • Why Stories Are Important, highlighting Charles Hale's video, "In Charlie's Space and Time:  Charles Hale, Storyteller & Historian" in which he suggests that stories can help develop community and help heal.

Thinking of all three of these authors' thoughts, my takeaway is that stories can be a two-edged sword and that we, as family historians, must take care how we tell stories so we don't wound a family member, someone we love. 

Your thoughts on family stories?


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  1. Family stories are important. They make our ancestors come alive once again.

    1. I agree, Colleen. I think recording the stories, even if it is only that an ancestor died in a particular year of whatever disease, is part of a story. And I love learning as many details as I can.

  2. Sis recently shared 4 letters written by ancestors, very interesting to see what they were doing at that time.

    1. How wonderful to read letters from a deceased ancestor, QuiltGranma! Almost like receiving the letter yourself, I imagine.


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