Monday, December 3, 2007

Building a Community of Memory

Ronald Takaki's book, Strangers From a Different Shore, had a passage that stayed in my mind for years:
"Writ large across the pages of history are the stories of individual men and women who populate this earth. It is not the stories of Presidents, celebrities, or the wealthy that cry out to be told but that of the “common” man or woman. Their experiences and their tales provide the framework for a “community of memory,” which in turn provides an integral key to understanding ourselves and our histories."
The idea of a "community of memory" is echoed at the Center for Digital Storytelling:
"Every community has a memory of itself.
Not a history, nor an archive, nor an authoritative record . . .
A living memory, an awareness of a collective identity woven of a thousand stories."
I have thought often about those stories crying out to be told. The project I'm currently working on, The Hawaii Nisei Story, is an attempt to "fill the silence."
The Hawaii Nisei Story, a Web-based exploration of the experiences of local Americans of Japanese Ancestry leading up to, during and following the Second World War, comprises the life stories of Hawaii-born Nisei veterans.

Some well-known, some less so, these stories – drawn from oral interviews with veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, the Military Intelligence Service and the Varsity Victory Volunteers – are deepened, complemented and complicated by the seldom heard stories of the veterans’ wives and families.

Read their stories at:

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