Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Year of Personal Narratives – Storytelling on Ourselves

In literature the personal narrative is the factual or fictional recounting of an experience. From identity politics to Twitter tweets this has certainly been the year of the personal narrative. It is the search for your story told by another being that shares or reflects your thoughts, feelings and, at times, pain.

It is the need for connection. If we can’t find someone standing next to us then we search for them in magazines, books, music or online. I can honestly say that when I’ve had a few of my dark nights of the soul experiences I search to find a post, story or recording that sustained me until the next day.

Personal narratives transmits information from one person to another person. It could be factual or it could be the world we so desperately want to run to and embrace. I want to share with you some of personal narratives that I have found that not only could touch your heart but cause you to think beyond the surface of the story.

Sometimes Words Are Enough

Melissa Acedera writes about just how hard it is to make it through a day, week or her life.

My last employer used to tell me that I go through a lot of hardships in my life. I never argued with him on this, since it is absolutely true. He saw me through my worst of times… the loss of my father, growing pains, finding proper moral and financial foundation in real adulthood, etc.

It is a short post but Melissa has a lovely writing style. By her own admission, she has a lot going on right now but this specific post hits a spot of recognition with me.

Here at BlogHer I have been captivated and amazed at the honesty and beauty of Always Beginning The World blog posts. This is an excerpt from Chapter 3:

When I was a little girl, I couldn’t speak. I was old enough; but for some reason, every word to pass through my lips was unintelligible. Over and over I would try – planning ahead, thinking the words out in my mind first, then slowly enunciating them more carefully than any little girl should. All I needed – all I wanted – was to be understood. I was not.

There have been 15 posts and Chapter 15 is a doozy. You have to start at Chapter 1 first to understand the full impact of Chapter 15. It has been too long since she has posted but her narratives about medical incompetence, moving through her life and the compromises she thought she had to make and unmake are incredible. I hope ABTW is doing well and globe hopping her new opportunities.

Teaching Others By Sharing Experience

Next I want to introduce you to Albertina Shimwe.

She has a story to tell you about a teacher and the name of her story is The Day I Made Him Stop. The video is subtitled.

Londiwe Msibi from Swaziland has a tale of mother loss in My Mother’s Hands. Both of these ladies are participants in the Just Associates (JASS) Digital Storytelling Project. The project seeks to empower and educate via storytelling in Latin American, South East Asia and Southern Africa. In this instance it is important to be able to see the women as they communicate not just their feelings but as living representations of survival and transformation as well.

Jung Hee Choi and her family came to America from Korea for opportunities and a better life. Jung’s father endured difficult times but found a way to provide for his family.

By explaining his life and experiences Jung is able to show you why she has chosen her path.

Poetry Narratives Old and New

Poetry is one of the oldest forms of personal narrative. Caroline Keane at Stone is using mobile phones to record story and poetry podcasts. It is blend of the old and new. It is a new blog but there is quiet a bit of content. You can read or listen to her poem called David and reflect on either a sense of loss or of waste.

I found some powerful poets at IndieFeed such as Kelly Zen Yi Tsai and her poem Aftershocks or Linda M. Hasselstrom's poem Carolyn, Miranda and Me if you want to spend time with two women helping to birth a cow and the worlds that revolve around them.

At you can read, watch or listen to poets talking about poetry or sharing their work. At poet Mary Jo Bang’s page you can read her bio, read or listen to her poems. This is a stanza from Catastrophe Theory III

Now we sit and play with a tiny toy

elephant that travels a taut string.

Now we are used and use in turn

each other. Our hats unravel

and that in itself is tragic.

To be lost. To have lost. Verbs

I’ll wrap this up with Sharon Olds in a video entitled The Autobiographical Self.

It still kind of makes my heart pound to say it: "Of course my work is autobiographical." I don't have an imagination. I don't! I have an image-ination, but it's not something I have—I have a bottle of water—but the simile has me, in a way.

I hope that by showing some of the folks above I’ve help to make at least two connections. One is that the telling a personal narrative is not or does not have to be a vanity exercise. It is a form of giving back to the larger world when you share what you know and feel.

You might not believe it but there is a person on the other side of a story. There must be, otherwise the story can’t exist.

The other connection is that by experiencing personal narratives, in whatever form you choose, you expand your world by one more person.

You are not alone.

This post originally appeared on BlogHer, where I am a Contributing Editor.

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