Saturday, August 20, 2016

Off the Shelf:
The Stonecutter's Aria

There's a reason why I've delved into examples of stories based on personal family history: I want to sample what other writers have been doing with their own stories. A very different style from the ones I've mentioned before is the book I pulled off the shelf for this month's read.

Last month, I shared a book taken mostly from the journals kept by the ancestors of one writer. For this month's read, I headed in an entirely different direction in exploring how researchers are sharing their family history.

Styled as a three-act play—or more likely, given this writer's Italian roots, an opera—The Stonecutter's Aria, the book I chose to read for August, was a complicated story, yet delivered in a straightforward and warm manner. I guess there are as many ways to share a family's story as there are families.

Told through the voices of the various people in her family tree, Carol Faenzi's 2005 publication is actually billed as "a work of creative non-fiction." It is also part memoir, as the author's search for her family's roots served as a therapeutic antidote to unfortunate events which occurred in her own life.

In filling in the blanks in her family's story, Carol Faenzi of course fictionalized many of the day-to-day events in the lives of her great grandparents. There is no possible way to know the minutiae of what was said, done, and thought during the everyday lives of these residents of the Tuscan village of Carrara. What might be considered, in the eyes of a trained genealogist, as a detractor to her work is amply made up by the life she breathed into the story. It is more likely that the reluctant family audience whose eyes might have glazed over in the strict adherence to verifiable fact alone would not remember as much of their family's saga as would someone treated to Faenzi's handling of her own family tale.

In contemplating how to eventually share my own family's story, I've tried on many different styles and versions—with many more such examples to share as I work my way through my collection. It's become quite obvious to me that, if anyone is to remember the details of an ancestor's life, the writer needs to be able to breathe fresh life into the assemblage of facts from long-gone centuries. With all the twists and dramatic turns in the story of the Faenzi family's generations, Carol has indeed produced a legacy by which her ancestors may be remembered.

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