The late writer David Foster Wallace had this idea, expressed beautifully in his story "Good Old Neon," that a single instant in time is infinitely divisible. The field and practice of oral history nods to that. Though events may have happened in one way, it is the endless number of divergent and perhaps even factually "inaccurate" perspectives that provide a dynamic sense of the significance of those events, or of any given time or space. Oral history is about finding imaginative measures to let people speak for themselves, in their own words, and to let language breathe again—to let language have space and permission to move around and reflect a single person's experience of being alive and being distinctive.
The best interviewer I know, Gerry Albarelli, says oral history reminds us that people are natural storytellers. He says, "The oral history interview gives us unusual access: to the past; to stories they may not have heard otherwise or that otherwise might never be told; to the liveliness of speech; to small worlds within our larger world."
One of the greatest privileges and delights of my life has been hearing the stories of others' lives, experiences, and ideas. I've interviewed former sex workers, private investigators, veterans, housewives, ex-convicts, and teachers. One of my specific projects included an oral history of women from Utica, NY, where my father and his family grew up, and I'm currently working with a literature professor from Sarah Lawrence who escaped from the Holocaust as a child.
I hold a BA in English with honors from Wellesley College and was trained as a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence College in oral history. In 2011, I was a fellow at Columbia University's Oral History Summer Institute.
I am not currently accepting new clients, but if you are interested in being interviewed about your life, and would like it recorded and transcribed for posterity or confidentially for your family, or simply as part of your journey, I'd love to connect you with someone who can make that possible.
Email me at katharinereece [at] gmail [dot] com.
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