What ties families together

  • January 9, 2010
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Several readers told me they gave family members a unique holiday gift: Motherland and a recording device — with the hope that reading the book would inspire the relatives to tell their stories.

Reader Lori McCarthy, who is working on a project celebrating family stories and traditions called “Keeper of the China” (keeperofthechina.com), writes, “Your book has made our little family appreciate the many branches of our family tree even more than we did before reading Motherland.

“We are more aware of seemingly small, unimportant connections and stories that are the glue of our extended family.”

Stories are fundamental to all human cultures. They help us make sense of our lives.

All things die, from ordinary lives to whole civilizations. Stories attempt to preserve what has happened, to find the past in the present, to discover the self, to define a family and a culture, to establish a place in the world.

William Maxwell wrote in his book, So Long, See you Tomorrow, that having an experience carries an added responsibility. “We must do something – make something with it,” he wrote. “A story, we sense, is the only possible habitation for the burden of our witnessing.”

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