Why tell history stories?
I’ve always liked the idea that art holds a mirror to humanity. The other night at Mezrab House of Stories, I was shown how profoundly those images can connect strangers. I told a crowd of about 200 about the worst moment of my life, when I was a teenager expelled family and friends. I felt terrifyingly alone until a 17th-century English poet became my beacon. Her story was so close to mine and the personality revealed in her writing made her seem like a friend. I held onto my picture of her through those horrible times and that experience drives my storytelling today. After the show was over, a woman came up to me and said simply, “I’m sorry for what you went through.” Unexpectedly, I found my throat clenching and my eyes flooding. It wasn’t over this hurt I’d thought long healed, not exactly. It was the simple act of recognition, to have a stranger acknowledge that my sorrow was just and what happened to me was wrong. It made me see how the act of storytelling doesn’t just reveal and heal storyteller and audience, it connects them. By telling stories of those who’ve come before, we weave ourselves into the great web of humanity. Our circumstances may be different, but our experiences of them are similar. Stories of the past show us just how human we all are.