Assignment

In order to gain personal insight into the lives of immigrants in this country, each student is to interview a first generation (im)migrant. They can be a peer, acquaintance, or family friend but they must have immigrated to this country and have a memory of that process. Thus, you should interview someone who was at least 9 years of age when they migrated to the U.S. Second, the migrant must be from Latin America or the Caribbean. You will be responsible for creating a WordPress site that includes:

  1. Transcript of at least two one-hour your interview sessions
  2. 5,000-7,000 word oral history based on the guidelines available in this WordPress.
  3. Appendix that includes your own reflections on the oral history process and migration, as we have discussed and read about for class.
  4. Oral presentation of project.

We will link these projects on a course web-site which will form part of a larger immigrant oral history archive. Each student will also be responsible for presenting on their individual projects. We will use some class times to work on the individual webpages. Oral history projects will be due week of finals.

Guidelines

Oral histories are created when one person interviews another person about a specific time period in the interviewee’s life or a specific topic they can recall. The interviewer takes the interviewee’s responses and creates a text of the interviewee’s words told through the point of view of the interviewee. This is not an exact transcript of what the interviewee says.  The interviewer must edit the transcript—moving parts around, taking parts out, and even adding words here and there (with the interviewee’s permission).  The final piece of writing should capture the voice and spirit of the interviewee. 

PROJECT OBJECTIVES

  • Conduct interviews to gather first-hand stories about Latino migrant experiences in the U.S.
  • Gather first-hand stories about immigrant experiences
  • Determine to what extent Latino lives reflect representations presented in the media.
  • Reflect comparatively on Latino migrant experiences
  • Be able to engage public debates regarding immigration through a more informed perspective

REQUIREMENTS

  • Text must be at least 5,000-7,000 words in length, excluding appendices and transcripts
  • You must include your interview transcript along with final Oral History Project 
  • Your introduction should include necessary background for understanding the person’s story. This may include knowledge of the country of origin, historical background, etc. 
  •  In an appendix to your oral history (which does not count as part of the word count), please discuss what you’ve learned through the interview about Latino migrant experiences, the migration process, and other things related to our coursework. 
  • You must obtain either oral or written consent for the interview and submit consent form with your project. 

PROCEDURE

You will be conducting oral histories with first generation (im)migrants.  The first step is to select an interviewee.  Your interviewee can be a Professor, a friend, a new acquaintance, or a person you contact specifically for this purpose.

You will need to find an approach a potential interviewee. When you have a person consent to an interview (form is provided below), you should write a brief paragraph about the individual, for example:  name, where he or she is from, how long she or he has been in the United States, why the person came here, etc.

You may ask your interviewee if they would like to have their name used or would rather remain anonymous.  If they wish to remain anonymous, you are to use a pseudonym rather than their real name in creating their oral history.

You will need to develop a set of open-ended questions for your interview.  A sample of interview questions is provided below.

Do some background research on your interviewee’s homeland and other background information relevant to their stories.

If possible, record the interview; take notes on interviewee’s mannerisms, etc.  This information will help you present a vivid narrative and representation of your interviewee.  After your interview, you will have to transcribe the interview into a Q/A format, word for word.  You will work from this transcription to create a final oral history narrative. Sample Narrative:

Q & A Sample

Q: So you really weren’t that excited to be coming here?

A: Well, no, not really. I mean, think about it. Would you be? I mean, you live in one place your whole life and then suddenly your parents tell you, “Look, we’ve decided it’s best for all of us to move to America. Your father has a better job and we’ll be much happier there.”

Q: Why didn’t you want to come here?

A: Well, all of my friends were in Taipei. They were all that mattered to me. I mean you spend most of your younger years in school, so it only makes sense that you’d miss your friends when you have to move away so far. Uh, I guess I might’ve been somewhat selfish. I mean my father did get a better job when he got here, but for the rest of us in my family it really was difficult. I think I was 12 at the time . . . yeah, 12. I started in middle school here, yeah, and it was a pretty awful experience. It’s not like middle school is normally a great time in your life anyway, is it? But coming here at that time and not knowing English all that well, well that certainly didn’t make it any easier for me. I was lonely here.

Q: Why were you lonely?

A: Uh, it took me a long time to get to know people. In my school I really didn’t know anyone else who was from Taiwan. Most everyone else had either grown up here or they were from Mexico, yeah mostly they spoke Spanish or English. But no one spoke Cantonese—that was the only language I knew then.

**Source: PBS Independent Lens, New Americans. 

Transformed into Oral History

No, I wasn’t all that excited to be coming here. I mean, think about it. Would you be? I mean, you live in one place your whole life and then suddenly your parents tell you, “Look, we’ve decided it’s best for all of us to move to America. Your father has a better job and we’ll be much happier there.” At that time, all of my friends  were in Taipei. They were all that mattered to me. You spend most of your younger years in school, so it only makes sense that you’d miss your friends when you have to move away so far. I guess I might’ve been somewhat selfish. My father did get a better job when he got here, but for the rest of us in my family it really was difficult.

I think I was 12 at the time . . . yeah, 12. I started in middle school here and it was a pretty awful experience. It’s not like middle school is normally a great time in your life anyway, is it? But coming here at that time and not knowing English all that well certainly didn’t make it any easier for me. I was lonely here. It took me a long time to get to know people. In my school I really didn’t know anyone else who was from Taiwan. Most everyone else had either grown up here or they were from Mexico, and mostly they spoke Spanish or English. But no one spoke Cantonese— that was the only language I knew then.**

Resources