Controversies in Storytelling

This post was inspired after visiting the Smithsonian’s African American museum. Three things stood out, two instantly; the third I must follow up with the museum ...positive this 'donated feedback' will increase revenue in the souvenir store!

The first preoccupation was wanting to experience exactly what I find in books I spend quality time ‘curating’, to Highly Recommend.

The other allure was realizing it would take several visits, if not more, to fully appreciate the exhibits. It’s next to impossible to take in the collections and walk away with an understanding of the deep stories told inside that museum... in just one visit.

Robert C. Post’s book, ‘Who Owns America’s Past’, is one book that comes to mind when thinking about the African American museum. The backstories and arguments behind curating collections, and which stories were (and were not) more important (to the majority); and as in the case of the African American museum, was there even a need?

Those reflections come to the forefront of my mind, particularly when thinking about such controversies (caught here and there over social media) about Bill Cosby’s work possibly being excluded due to controversies occurring in his personal life.

Shucks, if excluding work from Our Story is based on the controversies in our personal lives, no story would see the light of day.

I’m now thinking about Ghandi’s story. The reason I wanted to read his autobiography: ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’ was because in my eyes he was a symbol of peace and ‘true love’. Not that I feel any less about his work, but his (translated) story as told must be experienced.

Condoleezza Rice was another fascination for me. The only controversy I found about her, were assumptions I leaned on before reading her memoir, ‘Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family.’ That book is one of my favorites, and this is after reading hundreds of memoirs, maybe thousands!

Marion Barry’s memoir, ‘Mayor for Life’ as well comes to mind. Again, images of his personal life caught and kept my attention, over what I later learned, indeed what turned out to be ‘The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.’ A Must Read.

I can go on and on and on citing important books; ‘Life On the Color Line’ by Gregory Howard Williams, ‘All Souls: A Family Story from Southie’ by Michael Patrick MacDonald, ‘Love in the Driest Season’ by Neely Tucker, ‘The Black Russian’ by Vladimir Alexandrov, ‘‘Thou Shalt Not Steal by Bill ‘Ready’ Cash and Al Hunter Jr., ‘When We Were Colored: A Mother's Story’ by Eva Rutland, ‘Life Is So Good’ by George Dawson, ‘My Times in Black and White’ by Gerald M. Boyd, ‘Brother, I'm Dying’ by Edwidge Danticat, ‘The Bee Eater’ by Richard Whitmire, ‘Healing After Dark’ by Morris A. Cohen and Helen Compton, and neither last nor least, but for purposes of this post follows, ‘Who Owns America's Past?’ by Robert C. Post. These books tell important stories, far greater than conceptualized images internalized in minute glimpses, intangible to appreciate without knowing the backstory.

As Post’s book underscores, and is easily relatable, it is difficult to tell our story in a confined space, and that difficulty backslides to impossibility when controversy, imbedded in every, single story ever told, is of issue. I’ve heard it a lot. “Oh, that story isn’t important,” or promenaded in messages such as when books are run through courts, stirring controversy; ‘Roots’ and ‘A Million Little Pieces’ come to mind, while on the other side(s) of the fence are people pining for quality stories projecting a redemptive value that allows the vast majority to feel the ‘overall struggle’ was worth it.

Like it’s said about movies, the book is better. Guessin’ I’ma hafta make another trip to the museum, and then go get the book!

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