Because if you follow the StoryCorps facilitators' example -- sitting in a booth and interviewing a friend or being interviewed yourself for 40 minutes, then emerging with audio copies for yourself and for an archive of Americans yakking about themselves -- you will emerge enriched, surprised, moved. Granted, Isay has selected about 50 of the most amusing and poignant of the 10,000 interviews that his interviewers have gathered in booths ranging from Grand Central Station to audio-equipped trucks that travel the country -- and which perhaps are coming soon to a town near you.
But these are stories with impact. A Korean woman bucks cultural tradition by insisting that her husband actually say things like "I'm sorry" and "I love you." An East Indian woman adjusts to her son's non-arranged American wedding. A birth mother tells her son, 28, that she regrets placing him for adoption. There are stories of back-breaking work on farms and in steel mills, of bounty hunters getting beaten up by meth dealers, of inmates bewailing the boredom of prison and promising not to relapse into drugs yet again. A family's only college grad pays tribute to her mother, who worked long hours cleaning offices after crossing the border illegally from Mexico. A young woman recounts how she helped her sister stop cutting herself. One of the Memphis sanitation workers recalls the last night of Martin Luther King Jr. Survivors of cancer, Katrina and 9/11 recall slow deaths and drownings and terrified scrambles down high-rise stairwells. Remarkably, most of those in this last group are willing to forge on and are (mostly) free of survivor guilt. Each of them shared that booth with a friend, and they made sure to tell their stories.