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Stories of Our Lives

Memory, History, Narrative

Frank de Caro

Publication Year: 2013

In Stories of Our Lives Frank de Caro demonstrates the value of personal narratives in enlightening our lives and our world. We all live with legends, family sagas, and anecdotes that shape our selves and give meaning to our recollections. Featuring an array of colorful stories from de Caro’s personal life and years of field research as a folklorist, the book is part memoir and part exploration of how the stories we tell, listen to, and learn play an integral role in shaping our sense of self. 
De Caro’s narrative includes stories within the story: among them a near-mythic capture of his golden-haired grandmother by Plains Indians, a quintessential Italian rags-to-riches grandfather, and his own experiences growing up in culturally rich 1950s New York City, living in India amid the fading glories of a former princely state, conducting field research on Day of the Dead altars in Mexico, and coming home to a battered New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Stories of Our Lives shows that our lives are interesting, and that the stories we tell—however particular to our own circumstances or trivial they may seem to others—reveal something about ourselves, our societies, our cultures, and our larger human existence.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-9

A number of people have read this book in an earlier draft and kindly offered additions and suggestions and I thank them all: Beatrice Palmer, Barbara Gray, Jack Mulvehill, Rosan Jordan, Kevin Mulvehill, Carl Patrick, Mary Jane Mulvehill, Margo Culley, Urban S. Mulvehill Jr., John McAlevey,...

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Be Sure to Read This First: A Preface

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pp. ix-xv

This book is partly a memoir, but a memoir with a difference and a premise: that our life memory is informed by and greatly influenced by the oral stories that we tell or have told about our lives and the stories others have told us about their lives or the past or the nature of culture and...

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1. The Golden-Haired Maiden

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pp. 1-15

It is 1979 and I am sitting in a pub in Youghal, County Cork, Ireland, with six other people, five of whom have personal connections to an imperial past. Our informal conversation quickly turns to the subject about which I have come to interview one of them, though I will wind up taping...

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2. 7002 Ridge

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pp. 16-25

Of course, I was born in a place and grew up in a place and I have always felt strongly influenced by place. My early place was New York City. Like virtually everyone, I must have started hearing stories while still young, must have awakened to the power of narrative as I learned about...

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3. Foreigners Arrive

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pp. 26-41

Those other stories, which I heard “all my life” at 7002 Ridge, start in the second half of the nineteenth century, on the Kansas frontier—stories already recounted in the previous chapter—and in Battery Park in the City of New York. These seem to be the stories of my personal beginning, linking...

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4. The Lake

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pp. 42-66

The lake, my mother or grandmother would say to people who couldn’t place it, is “about twenty-five miles north of Danbury.” People might know Danbury, Connecticut, because of its noted hat factories or its fair, which had begun modestly enough in 1821 and developed into a sort of lavish,...

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5. Beyond 7002

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pp. 67-89

Growing up at 7002 Ridge I felt connected by stories and other knowledge, connected to forebears and a past, though I would not know the true story of John Henry for some years. Such a connection is not an inconsiderable thing: the places where you walk take on greater meaning;...

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6. Becoming the East Village

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pp. 90-112

In the phase of my life that transpired from 1963 to 1966, I was most involved in two kinds of stories: the fictional kind that preoccupied many creative writers at Johns Hopkins University and later, when I worked for the New York Welfare Department, the carefully typed kind that made up...

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7. Tinkly Temple Bells

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pp. 113-141

Before I even arrived in 1966, India had already entered my consciousness in many ways. Thanks in part to the Beatles and their maharishi, the country was enjoying a resurgence as a place of mysticism and mystery. Sitars and tablas could be heard in Western pop and rock music....

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8. Life in a Cornfield

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pp. 142-151

A couple of years later, in Bloomington, Indiana, I met my future wife, Rosan Augusta Jordan, probably first while she put in a few hours staffing the desk at the Indiana University Folklore Library (the folklore collection was housed separately at that time). She had finished her coursework...

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9. Mexico

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pp. 152-175

When I left Bloomington, I took a job at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and settled into academia. Although I do not mean to slight the many years I spent there, I do not intend to drone on about them. LSU and Baton Rouge turned out to be a bit of the Old South where I found...

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10. Long Ago and Far Away: Another Passage to India

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pp. 176-197

We took on what we called the “sahib project” because we were intrigued theoretically by the sorts of folklore an elite group would have and by the idea of studying a folk group in past time. Rosan, from her interests in ethnicity and group identity, was fascinated by the possibilities of looking...

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11. Katrina: We Leave, We Return, Stories Abound

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pp. 198-209

We leave New Orleans, running away from Hurricane Katrina, on Saturday, August 27, 2005, before the big rush of people, well before the deadly rush of water. We are not tied down to jobs, a business, cats, aquaria. The road out is an easy drive, not yet clogged by later refugees; dear friends...

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Contexts and Meanings: A Brief Afterword

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pp. 210-214

Writing recently in The New Yorker about business theorist Clayton Christensen, Larissa MacFarquhar notes that her subject’s success lies partly in that he is “a master storyteller.” The CEOs he has influenced “learned through stories, they remembered stories, and they repeated stories to the...

About the Author

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pp. 215-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780874218947
E-ISBN-10: 0874218942
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874218930
Print-ISBN-10: 0874218934

Page Count: 234
Illustrations: 20 b&w photographs
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867739714
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Stories of Our Lives

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Subject Headings

  • De Caro, F. A., 1943-.
  • Folklorists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Folklore -- United States.
  • United States -- Social life and customs.
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