If you’re an NPR fan, you may recognize Isay as the founder of StoryCorps, the seven-year-old project that has recorded the stories of more than 50,000 people.
Friends or family members do the interviews, the Library of Congress collects them all and every Friday, NPR’s “Morning Edition” airs one.
These stories are funny, poignant, authentic. Often, they’re extraordinary stories told by ordinary people. Often, they make listeners cry. “I’ve gotten maybe 10,000 e-mails from people saying ‘Every Friday, my mascara runs,’.” Isay told me recently.
Now, you can read some of the best in “Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps” (Penguin Press; $21.95). This new collection, edited by Isay, includes people talking about their moms and moms talking about their lives. It, too, would make a fine Mother’s Day gift.
Among the collection’s stories is one from Charlotte’s own Valerie Jo and Hagos Egzibher. Hagos is from Ethiopia. His mother, Zodie, came to America in 1989.
In the Egzibhers’ story, the couple recalls how their two mothers formed a bond, even though they didn’t speak the same language. And Valerie Jo remembered the time Zodie attended a performance of Charlotte’s singing Christmas tree: “…the tears were streaming down her face. I didn’t know what the tears were about until after we’d left, and on the way home she said, ‘I didn’t know God would let me live to see anything this beautiful!’.”
The couple told their story in 2008, when StoryCorps brought its recording booth to Charlotte and parked it at the Main Library. Zodie had died a year earlier. “My husband said this would be such a wonderful way to honor our moms,” Valerie Jo Egzibher told me.
At the end of book, Isay includes a list of interview questions designed to elicit rich answers. Here are some:
What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
What are you proudest of in your life?
Do you have any regrets?
Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?
Go to storycorps.org for more questions and interviewing tips.
Isay, by the way, has interviewed his own mom, and it was, he says, a great experience. “The one thing I’ll guarantee – no matter what,” he says, “you’ll find new things.”