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The Essential Questions: Interview Your Family to Uncover Stories and Bridge Generations

If you want to go beyond the names and dates of your family history, Elizabeth Keating’s book is an essential resource. She provides advice on interviewing techniques and the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask. Specifically, she suggests questions about childrearing, beliefs, marriages, treasured possessions, and memories. Her final chapter—“What Do You Wish People Knew About You?”—will give your children and grandchildren a head start on understanding you and your generation.

Drawing on her own experience in learning about her family, as well as her work as an

anthropologist, she writes with both knowledge and empathy. Reviewers have called it “down-to-earth and easy to use,” “urgent, timely, necessary, and utterly relatable,” and “a gift to families everywhere.”

-Beth Luey

From the publisher: Uncover new sides of family members you’ve known your entire life with this indispensable guide that includes space for journaling.

Just as the oral histories of people around the world are disappearing amid rapid change, there is a risk that your family’s personal stories, too, will be lost forever. In The Essential Questions, anthropologist Elizabeth Keating helps you to uncover the unique memories of your parents and grandparents and to create lasting connection with them in the process.

As you seek to learn more about your family history, how do you get beyond familiar anecdotes and avoid the frustration of oppositional generational attitudes? By asking questions that make the familiar strange, anthropologists are able to see entirely different perspectives and understand new cultures. Drawing on her lifelong work in this field, Keating has developed a set of questions that treat your parents and grandparents not just as the people who raised you, but as individuals of a certain society and time, and as the children, teenagers, and young adults they once were. The Essential Questions helps you to learn about the history of your elders, to see the world through their eyes, and to honor the language they choose to describe their experiences.

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