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Record Type: Review   ID: 168

The Life Story Interview (Qualitative Research Methods, Vol. 44)

Atkinson, Robert

The author is Associate Professor of Human Development and Director of the Center for the Study of Lives, University of Southern Maine. In this slim volume he shows how to help people tell their own stories in their own words Why do this? Because life stories "carry the wisdom of lived experience. They show us the development and the possible paths through life. Maybe most important, they lead us to the human spirit, to our deepest feelings, the values we lived by, and the eternal meaning of life" (p. 76). Telling your life in terms of your exceptional experiences doubles the above values because it usually concerns the growing edge of the autobiographer. Atkinson points out that it is a moving experience to share your life story and also to witness another’s life story. It provides clarity and confirmation to the teller, but the sharing bonds us together as human beings. "The more we share our stories, the closer we all become" (p. 76). Exceptional experiences themselves bond us with our species and with life, so including one’s EEs and EHEs in one’s life story even further magnifies the benefits.

He discusses the contexts and uses of life stories, their research use, how to generate data from them, and the art and science of the life story interview. A chapter is devoted to planning the interview and one to doing the interview. He provides a wonderful list of questions to ask that should be helpful not only in remembering details of ordinary life but exceptional life moments also. The fourth chapter deals with transcription and interpretation of life stories This is a useful volume for anyone interested in writing their EHE autobiography as well as a more conventional autobiography. It would be even more valuable to life story researchers, its primary audience. Interviewer and autobiographer alike in the process of creating the life story "discover deeper meaning in ourselves through the process of reflecting and putting the events, experiences, and feelings that we have lived into oral expression" (p. 1). I have heard or read many EHEers who have said the same thing about the act of sharing their experiences.

Publisher Information:Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998. Pp. vi + 97. Appendix A: Sample Release Form: 77; Appendix B: Cover Sheet: 78; Appendix C: A Sanple Life Story: 79-91; Bibl: 92-95; 1 table
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