BA, Sarah Lawrence College. MA, Brown University. Author of Teacha! Stories from a Yeshiva (Glad Day Books, 2001), chronicling his experience as a non-Jew teaching English as a second language to Yiddish-speaking Hasidic boys at a yeshiva in Brooklyn; published stories in numerous anthologies and reviews, including The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories, Global City Review, The Breast, and Fairleigh Dickinson Review; on the faculty of Eugene Lang College; works for the Columbia University Oral History Research Office, where he initiated numerous documentary projects; conducted hundreds of life history interviews with gay cops, retired vaudevillians and showgirls, ironworkers, immigrants, and, most recently, people affected by the events of September 11 and veterans recently returned from the war in Iraq. Worked as an educator and project designer on Columbia’s “Telling Lives Oral History Project,” which was launched in eight classrooms in two middle schools in New York City’s Chinatown, culminated in seven books, two documentary films, and a multimedia exhibit. Served as editor of three of the books, producer of the documentaries, and curator of the exhibit. SLC, 2004–
Current undergraduate courses
Students will learn techniques of oral history interviewing and will go on to conduct a series of fieldwork interviews. They will then create written portraits and also write and produce audio and video portraits based on the interviews. A wide range of creative responses to the interviews will be encouraged—including profiles, fiction, memoir, and even autobiographical writing. The major part of our work will take place at and around Hour Children, a Queens-based organization that provides support for women who have recently been released from prison. Students will conduct one-on-one interviews with residents of Hour Children. Those interviews will lead to a series of written profiles, as well a performance based on the women’s own firsthand testimony. The performance, which will take place at Sarah Lawrence College, will feature professional actors and will be open to the public. There will be weekly reading and writing assignments. Writers on the syllabus include Clarice Lispector, Nawal el Saadawdi, Katherine Boo, Adrian LeBlanc, and John Waters. Students will also read and discuss the work of their classmates.
Related Cross-Discipline Paths
This course explores multimedia uses of oral history, with an emphasis on writing for oral history-based radio, television, and film documentaries. Students will learn basic techniques of oral history interviewing and will be responsible for conducting two oral history interviews that will serve as the basis for a major writing project and for an end-of-semester multimedia exhibit. Although this is primarily a writing workshop in which work will be discussed, we will also go on several field trips in order to conduct interviews locally. Readings will include Driss ben Hamed Charhadi, Joseph Mitchell, Donald A. Ritchie, Doris Lessing, Clarice Lispector, and Studs Terkel. Screenings will include Harlan County USA, Common Threads, Licensed to Kill, A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory, and Animal Love.
SpringOral history reminds us that people are natural storytellers. The oral history interview also gives writers 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. The oral history interview also poses a particular-and particularly interesting-challenge to writers: What do we do with multiple perspectives on a single event? How do we confront the mystery of what, if anything, actually happened? Students will learn basic techniques of oral history interviewing and will be responsible for conducting two oral history interviews. We will also look at the oral roots of literature and the persistent influence of the oral tradition on contemporary literature. Although this is primarily a writing workshop in which work will be discussed, we will also go on
several field trips in order to conduct interviews locally. Students will be responsible for completing two major writing projects: one based on interviews, the other more indirectly informed by the practice of oral history. The course wiill culminate in an oral history-based multimedia exhibit. There will also be an end-of-semester staged reading of dramatic monologues taken directly
from field work interviews. Readings will include Driss ben Hamed Charhadi, Joseph Mitchell, Dave Eggers, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Alessandro Portelli, Christopher Isherwood, Flora Nwapa, Paul Bowles and Jane Bowles.
This course explores memory, vanishing histories, and the connection between the written and the spoken story. We will pay particular attention to stories that have been traditionally ignored or neglected, as such stories provide the writer with an opportunity to create original and meaningful work. Students will conduct oral history interviews as a means of uncovering elusive and important stories. These interviews, in combination with research, will provide unusual access to stories that might otherwise remain opaque and remote. We will experiment with a variety of creative uses—documentary, fiction, creative nonfiction—of oral history. Students will complete one major writing project based on or inspired by interviews. The final project should reflect an attempt to find the form best suited to the retelling of a particular neglected story and most likely to make that story accessible to a wider audience. The class will conduct a series of interviews at Hour Children, an organization that supports women who have recently been released from prison. Students will create a series of dramatic monologues based on these interviews. There will be an end-of-semester staged reading of the monologues by professional actors, as well as an end-of-semester multimedia exhibit during which students will present conference work.
This course explores memory, vanishing histories, and the connection between the written and the spoken story. Students will conduct oral history interviews as one means of discovering stories that need to be told. By listening to these stories, students will make important discoveries. They will discover a wealth of stories set in the wider world. They will discover that each story, especially in the retelling, makes its own set of demands. They will also discover their own important stories. There will be autobiographical writing assignments, as well as the opportunity to write fiction. The class will conduct a series of interviews at Hour Children, an organization that supports women who have recently been released from prison. Students will create a series of dramatic monologues based on these interviews. There will be an end-of-semester staged reading of the monologues by professional actors. There will also be an end-of-semester multimedia exhibit, during which students will present conference work.