A Sampling of Family Stories

Bebs is from South Carolina and she has spent much of her life traveling the world helping teachers educate young people about how democracy works and why it’s worth fighting for. Here she tells a courtship story involving a party held the night before her parents were married.

While recording Nancy’s stories at her home in New Jersey I couldn’t help but notice the lovely Steinway grand piano that took up most of her small living room. When I asked about it, this is the story she told me.

Joanna is a dear friend and godmother to one of our children. Here she tells a story from the plains of the Midwest that highlights the fact that important life lessons can be learned in unexpected ways.

Pete shared this story with me after we shared a stage at the Virginia Festival of the Book in 2001. The story is about his uncle, Alan Seeger, who wrote one of the best known poems of World War I.

John was a descendent of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. who designed Central Park in New York City. John was a naturalist who spent his life helping children find magic in the marvels of the natural world. 

Dr. Bruce Perry is a world-renowned medical expert in the role early childhood trauma plays in brain and mind development. I met Dr. Perry at a juvenile justice conference and he told me a number of fascinating stories reaching back to his family’s history in North Dakota.

When I recorded Oleta in Glenville, West Virginia in 2000, she was 93 years old. Although in no way a professional, I think she is one of the finest storytellers I had the pleasure to meet during our travels around the country.

It might be helpful to remember now and again the suffering that comes from civil war so we don’t fall into that trap again. Billy is a musician and member of the traditional American music band Reed Island Rounders.

Stan was the principal of my daughter Emily’s elementary school in Nevada City, California. This story taught me that truly remarkable stories can often be found close at hand.

Dave Johnson is a poet who I met at the American Library Association annual conference in Chicago. His father was a preacher who one day showed his son what true moral courage is all about.

Sare Karloff is the daughter of the actor Boris Karloff. Here she shares two lessons she learned from her father.

While attending a traditional music festival in West Virginia, I recorded Suzette inside a rustic cabin during a freak summer storm with hale stones rattling on the tin roof.  Here she recounts a tragic event that took place in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I met Joanne when I gave a talk at the public library in Montclair, New Jersey. She told me the story of a very special ring and then showed me the ring to prove that the story was true.

John’s family come from the mountain in western Virginia that was celebrated in the Walton Family stories. Here he tells a story about how two elderly men from different cultures overcame the social restrictions of their time.