In February 2015, writer Bethany Brownholtz was approached by a therapist counseling refugees. One of the therapist’s clients hoped to document his escape from Afghanistan. Bethany proposed that the three collaborate on an oral history project—she would interview this refugee and create a narrative in his own words.
After two years, the project was completed. Due to language barriers, they needed a phone interpreter for all interviews, meaning that every interview took twice the time, or more if there were any points of confusion. (And there were—traumatic memories tend to be fragmented and difficult to place in time.) They also stopped periodically to make sure that the interviewee had time for safe emotional processing with the therapist who was present for all interviews. This process involved 8 interviews—and hours of transcribing, translating, and shaping the text—to become the story you read today!
Bethany’s passion for interviewing and oral history began while earning an MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University. There she served as Associate Managing Editor for How Long Will I Cry?, a renowned oral history book and play on Chicago youth violence. Currently, she works as an Administrative Assistant and lives in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.