After reading through the articles about oral histories and seeing the depth of information that was clearly being collected and the training that went into it, I was very apprehensive about my own knowledge and ability to collect an Oral History. I knew I wasn’t a professional, nor was I expected to be, but yet I was still worried I would not be able to complete the task as it was assigned.
I was nervous about how well I could do. Looking back on the program, I was rather disappointed that the class was no longer about Migrant Oral Histories. My original narrator was interesting, and I was very excited to interview her. However, when she was unwilling to continue with the project, I was rather nervous as to who I would get to work with me on the project. When I was first introduced to Lu, I was ecstatic. I wanted to talk with someone who had had a troubling journey into the United States, and try to better understand from a first-hand account what it was like to come into the United States as a foreigner.
Her story was more than I could have imagined. When learning about her journey, it was definitely not what I had expected. She told me about her story, which was the story of a woman going through a typical life and the real struggles she faced. She did not ever have to face the struggles of poverty, however her life was far from easy. Although she had difficulties in her first marriage, and has even had to face the difficulty of a child born with an intellectual disability, she still offers incredible advice and is willing to share her story with a smile and to tell the world how to be a better person.
When looking back on the readings from the class, I was really taken with how important Linda Shopes’ article on Sharing Authority was. It was a very interesting concept to read about, but when it came time to put it into practice, I found it to be rather difficult. I could never have guessed how much work was necessary to adequately represent your narrator. The entire project I felt like I was dancing a fine line between taking too many liberties, and not being creative enough. After further discussion with Lu, my narrator, I was a bit less nervous. She worked with me to reach a happy medium, where I felt I was adequately representing her, and she was getting her story appropriately told.
I was also taken back by the rich amount of information contained in the qualitative research we performed over the semester. The information was from a first-person point of view, which I believe made it much more relatable. The importance of this information and how it is used was something I had not before considered. Anthropology has been cited as “a child of Western Imperialsim” (Gough 12). What was intended by this statement was that data such as oral histories have been abused and result in the opporession of certain groups. It is our responsibility as oral historians to be careful with the rhetoric we use to describe our narrator, and be sure that she is being portrayed in a positive light. Although when I began writing, I was very nervous I would portray her poorly, I believe that with practice and critique, I was able to portray an oral history that will benefit my narrator, Lu, and will accurately record historical events in a person’s life.