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Wednesday, November 26, 2014         

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Talk story tour

National Public Radio's StoryCorps project will collect interviews on four islands

By Steven Mark

POSTED:


"Moms don't get limelight," said Suzanne Case.

Case should know. The men in her family include politician Ed Case, AOL co-founder Steve Case and prominent local lawyers James and Dan Case. She herself is executive director of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii.

So it's fitting that on Mother's Day, Case is getting ready to shine the light on her mother, who also is named Suzanne. The two women will be contributing to StoryCorps, the national oral history project popularized by weekly broadcasts on National Public Radio. StoryCorps is visiting Hawaii for the first time later this month, spending four weeks in the islands to record the stories that make up the lives of these islands.

"Mostly what we want is to have a really diverse group of people telling stories," said Anna Altman, a StoryCorps spokeswoman. "We're trying to spread appointments around to different types of people living in different types of places, different kinds of occupations."

The StoryCorps project involves a casual but facilitated 40-minute interview by two people who know each other well, such as a parent and child, a teacher and student, a longtime couple, even two friends. Participants receive a recording of the interview, and a copy will be stored in the Library of Congress. NPR condenses some of them into two- to three-minute segments for national broadcasts, and local affiliate Hawaii Public Radio will do the same for local broadcast.

STORYCORPS NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO'S ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

Schedule: Honolulu, May 25-June 9; Wailuku, Maui, June 10-14; Lihue, June 16-19; Kona, June 20-24

Sign-ups: Honolulu reservations open at 10 a.m. Wednesday; appointments for Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island open at 10 a.m. May 26

Contact: 800-850-4406, storycorps.org

» A $25 donation is requested.

 

"It's like if you had 40 minutes to sit down and record a conversation for your grandchildren or great-grandchildren, what are some of the more important things you want to pass on, whether it be stories or life lessons," said Lily Sullivan, one of three StoryCorps facilitators coming here.

The Cases have already been selected to participate, but a limited number of open slots will be available on other islands. Online and phone registration for Oahu opens at 10 a.m. Wednesday. StoryCorps will host 12 days of recording on Oahu, starting May 25.

CASE HAS MUCH to discuss with her mother. "She's an archivist," the younger woman said. "She designed the children's library at Hanahauoli (School), she was the archivist at Mid-Pacific (Institute) and helped them designed their archive, she was on the Judiciary museum committee … and she is the archivist at the Central Union Church now."

Though that might seem like plenty of subject matter to cover, the interview could become a case of "reality radio," where the conversation veers into unscripted tangents.

"From what I've heard, you can have something in mind for your interview, and it can unlock a whole journey of a person that you had no clue about," she said.

The elder Suzanne Case's interest in the project stems from her research of her family genealogy, having done oral histories with her husband and his brothers about their upbringing on Kauai.

"It was terribly interesting," she said, admitting that she'd rather be doing the interviewing than be the one being interviewed.

Hawaii, with its "talk story" tradition, is accustomed to the notion of people transmitting knowledge face to face. But setting up StoryCorps has been much more complicated than gathering around the dinner table or on the lanai.

On the mainland, StoryCorps has two permanent recording booths and a temporary one, along with a mobile studio in a trailer that travels the country.

Here, StoryCorps facilitators will set up recording locations on four islands. Recording on Oahu will be at the Chamberlain House at Mission Houses Museum, according to Judy Neale, an HPR producer overseeing the project locally.

Open recording slots are likely to be very limited. StoryCorps and HPR already have reserved many of the 164 slots through community meetings. Neale said it is difficult to say how many open spots there will be on Oahu, and there might be only a handful on Kauai.

Sign-ups are first-come, first-served, so Neale is expecting a flurry of calls and online registration attempts — and a lot of disappointment. "One can only hope that this is a first visit, a first residency, that this one will be a very successful one and that they will come back," she said.

EMILY ZIA, a teacher at Nanakuli Intermediate and High School, nabbed a coveted interview time with her grandmother Shizue Miyasato, who taught for many years at Kaimuki High School but also spent time in Saudi Arabia. Zia has been interested in doing an oral history with her since her grandfather died a few years ago.

"I realized there are so many stories I'd never heard from him, questions I never got to ask him or forgot to ask about because I was thinking there'd be plenty of time," she said.

Miyasato admitted she initially felt like "I was being roped into something I'm not too keen about." But she feels it is significant to be interviewed by Zia, who is her first grandchild. "That makes for an even closer kind of relationship."

"It could be that there are some things that she wants to know more about me than I've revealed to her," Miyasato said. "I think she wants to probe a bit deeper. I'm not used to that."

Sandy Tsukiyama, a teacher at Roosevelt High School and host of the "Brazilian Experience" show on KIPO, will interview her mother, Fuku Tsukiyama. Sandy Tsukiyama hopes to talk about her mother's experience at an internment camp for Japanese-Americans and about working at a hospital here where the "plantation mentality" held sway.

"The white women were all ‘Big 5' wives, and they would always get seen before people who'd been waiting for hours," she said. Her mother, who knew about injustice, spoke out against the practice.

"I want my kids, my nieces to be able to hear Grandma's voice," Tsukiyama said. "A person's voice carries so much more emotion than just an image."






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