A piece of the past has returned to the present with Ann Banks’ audiobook First Person America. Originally published in paperback in 1991, Audible recently released the audio version with award-winning broadcaster Tony Kahn narrating the book. Banks takes the lost history of Americans during the 1930’s and transforms it into a powerful read that shows the lives of people from all walks of life.
Getting her inspiration from the Federal Writers’ Project from the 1930’s, Banks noticed that there were over 10,000 stories just waiting to be heard in the Library of Congress after the writers project ended. The goal of the stories was to paint a portrait of how Americans lived throughout the country, including a retired Oregon prospector, a Key West smuggler, a Chicago jazz musician and more. One thing that people should remember is that these stories were told in middle of The Great Depression, and people can see how different each area of the country was affected.
For some people audiobooks can seem hard to pay attention to, but with First Person America, listeners will be drawn into all the stories. After hearing about the struggle of union workers, immigrants, and others, it is like listening to long lost relative tell their story. Many of the interviewees have crossed paths with iconic Americana and world leaders, including Billy the Kid and a Czar.
Another interesting aspect of the stories is that the people were interviewed by emerging authors that have made an impact on the literary world. One of these individuals was Ralph Ellison, author of The Invisible Man, who interviewed a Pullman Porter, Lloyd Green. With The Great Depression at its peak, listeners will learn how the community and friends alike came together to help each other pay rent. When wives realized that the rent was not going to be paid, they would throw rent parties, where friends would come together and help those in need.
Listening to the newly released audio version is not only a history lesson, but also a social experiment seeing how typical Americans survived through the hard times.
TwistedTalk: Have you read First Person America? What did you think about the stories? Discuss below!