Monday, September 12, 2011

DC Humanities Book Reviews: Growing Up in Washington, D.C.: An Oral History

After an Admittedly Long Hiatus... The Book Review Series Continues

The following is Bridget Sullivan's second book review for Human Ties. Sullivan will enter the second year of in the Public History Master's Degree Program at American University this Fall. She has worked extensively this Summer as a liaison to the Humanities Council's DC Community Heritage Project grantees, and on other projects related to District history and culture.

Connors, Jill, ed. Growing Up in Washington, D.C.: An Oral History. The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. (Charleston: Arcadia, 2001) 158 pgs.

This work is the end product of an oral history project completed by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. It is a compilation of quotes taken from the wide spectrum of oral histories collected. The body of interviews is comprised of residents of all DC neighborhoods, and a wide range of ages. This variety creates a picture of a vibrant community, and reflects the changes the DC community has experienced over the last few decades.

The Historical Society grouped quotes around seven major facets of everyday life including, holidays, working in the city, school, and the creation of communities. These categories allow the reader to truly explore many of the unique aspects and historical traditions of the neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. In addition to the breadth of knowledge available in this work, the Historical Society has presented it in an easily readable and simple format.

The strength of this project comes from the gems of knowledge and history within the interviews conducted, which allow these resources to speak for themselves. There is no attempt to force a traditional narrative. Instead, quotations from the oral histories are organized and presented in a way that gives the reader a strong sense of the environment in DC during any given period or event. An introduction to the oral history participants is another warm touch of this work.

The book is designed not only to give a sense of the DC community, but also to welcome the reader into that community. It presents an important, and often overlooked, side of the history of Washington, D.C. Washington as a community as well as Washington as our nation’s capital. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the local history of Washington, D.C.

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