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Stories are family glue

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How to Write Your Personal or Family History
Katie Funk Wiebe

Good Books, 2009
222 pages
“Stories are the glue that holds families together,” writes Katie. “They join the past to the future and give children roots by building strong memories.”

After retiring from teaching English at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., for 24 years, Katie Funk Wiebe has written prolifically about her own life and the lives of others. In this practical book, she encourages us to write our own stories.

“History happens to everyone,” she says. “You’ve been living 24 hours a day, making decisions, objecting to certain ideas and endorsing others, and interacting with family and coworkers. I plan to convince you that if you took time to reflect, you’d find lots of meaningful stuff going on.”

Although this book is the result of three years of teaching life review at an elder college, Funk Wiebe has been encouraging the Mennonite community for years to “write it down” for future generations. She suggests that we begin with genealogy, then family history, followed by autobiography, and includes numerous suggestions such as filling out a personal information sheet, creating a timeline of one’s life, drawing former house plans to jog memory, collecting any family letters, diaries, and documents, and using the internet for accuracy regarding historical facts . She has practical advice about making the story readable and interesting; about polishing the final draft; and adds tips for publishing and distribution.

The most interesting parts of the book for me were the sample stories (highlighted on a gray background), some of which I paged to first. Stories fascinate us because they connect the human family, binding us together. Someone has said we read to know we are not alone.

“Don’t hang on to your life,” says Katie, “give it away.”

Helen Rose Pauls is “a Mennonite committee groupie” from Chilliwack, B.C. She attends Sardis Community Church.

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