Sharing Our Stories; Sharing Our Lives

Paul Norwood of Colrain took classes at the Literacy Project in Greenfield. Photo by The Recorder/Paul Franz

Paul Norwood of Colrain took classes at the Literacy Project in Greenfield. Photo by The Recorder/Paul Franz

The 75 students who participated in the Literacy Project’s memoir-writing workshop Sharing Our Stories; Sharing Our Lives learned from some of the best writers in the genre. When Mass Humanities funded the project, the list of impressive literary figures on the syllabus included Jamaica Kincaid and Augusten Burroughs, among others. Sharing Our Stories evolved over the course of its six-week term and soon the adult basic education students in the class saw their own names added to the list of authors they would be reading.

Each week, the workshop was held at the Literacy Project’s five classroom sites (Amherst, Greenfield, Northampton, Orange, and Ware). The class read, discussed, wrote, and edited for the 1.5-2 hour periods in the fall of 2015.

Judith Roberts, executive director of the Literacy Project, told Mass Humanities that the project was designed to broaden the students understanding of the genre before working on their own stories. Before the project launched in September, 2015, she wrote “[The students] will learn about memory and how it functions; they’ll gain an understanding that memory is fragmented, that it reaches across boundary lines that may get blurred between what is truth and what is fiction. They’ll learn how truth feels, not just what truth is.”

These exercises introduced students to the transformative power of telling their personal stories and empowered them to present their final work aloud to their community.

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