Friday, September 17, 2010

The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories by Alessandro Portelli~★★★★

Author: Alessandro Portelli
Title: The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History
Release Date: October 1st, 1990
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Genre: Non-fiction

Book Cover: "Portelli offers a new and challenging approach to oral history, with an interdisciplinary and multicultural perspective. Examining cultural conflict and communication between social groups and classes in industrial societies, he identifies the way individuals strive to create memories in order to make sense of their lives, and evaluates the impact of the fieldwork experience on the consciousness of the researcher. By recovering the value of the storytelling experience, Portelli's work makes delightful reading for the specialist and non-specialist alike."

Taryn's Review: This book was a surprise hit with me. The complexity of oral sources was truly highlighted by Portelli, but in the same token, he also pointed out oral sources' richness and their value to historians (and everyone!).

My class was not in agreement over the value of the oral sources, but I was one in favor of them and found Portelli's examples to be really wonderful. A young man named Luigi Trastulli was killed in a skirmish between the government and workers in 1949 outside a steel factory in Terni, Italy. In 1952/53, mass layoffs came about at the factory. When many of the people Portelli interviewed tied these two events together as happening at the same time, it brought up the question: Why were people remembering these events collectively as happening at the same time? He also interviewed miners who lived in a mine-owned camp from Harlan, Kentucky, and that portion of the book was a fascinating read as well.

Portelli did stray a little with his talk of phonology and the horizontal/vertical shifts of the interviews, but the rest of the book made up for it. He also pointed out the impact the interviewer had on the interviewee which was really eye-opening for me, as I hadn't thought about that aspect before. I really enjoyed this book immensely. It's one book that might seem like it wouldn't grab your attention, but surprisingly, Portelli not only kept me reading, but broaden my thoughts on the topic of oral sources in history and won me over as a supporter for the cause.

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