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Interview Series with author Laura Lipari as presented by her Granddaughter

How this interview with my grandmother came about.

When I first decided to take a course entitled “Life History and Culture” I was anxious. The course was being offered by one of the first professors I met when I first arrived at University of Northern Colorado to finish my undergraduate degree. My course with Sally McBeth was intended to be my final anthropology course for my minor.  McBeth never fails to challenge and encourage all who enroll in her courses; to take my final anthropology class from her was an added incentive to enroll in the class. Throughout my entire college career thus far, my favorite courses have been those in anthropology, and I knew I wanted what could possibly be my final anthropology course to be one to remember. One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein states:
“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”
Curiosity always gets a hold of me while examining new cultures; anthropology is a great way to fulfill this inquisitiveness. Looking through an unbiased lens to see the similarities and differences between cultures has been such a gratifying experience. Using cultural relativism to observe different cultures has helped me see patterns emerge where I otherwise may not have noticed. I received the syllabus for “Life History and Culture” and decided right away this was going to be such a meaningful project that I could not pass it up. The requirements that were explained within the guidelines of this class were intimidating, but because the project was on a subject of my choosing and the idea of capturing someone’s life history really interested me, I knew it would be worth all the stresses and late nights of editing what was to ensue. Before jumping into the subject of “life history,” we read a life history memoir, Essie’s Story, that was co-authored by McBeth. Her collaborative project with Esther Burnett Horne was assembled from a collection of life events that Essie shared with Sally over a decade of storytelling. This great example of a life history really influenced my own procedure in conducting my life history interview. McBeth captured Essie’s voice and I felt the strong connection that interviewer and storyteller developed. I hoped that this would be as true for me and my life history collaborator. A life history, as introduced by McBeth, was a “field technique or methodology” that included a “…rigorous, yet compassionate effort to portray the lives of ordinary individuals in specific cultures and contexts.” (McBeth 2016: Syllabus) By capturing life histories we are not only re-establishing connections between humans that have since been lost with so many technological advances, but we are also capturing the stories of individuals themselves. The importance does not lie in the truth behind the stories being told but the impactful part of capturing these stories is in the analyzing and interpretations of the stories being told. By assessing the narratives that are captured the researcher can determine what was meaningful for the individual within their life and then placing these important themes and beliefs into the larger context of life itself. As Joseph Campbell discusses in The Power of Myth what can be seen in all cultures is the common myths that develop, also known as “mythmaking.” I find the methodology of capturing life histories to be a very important step in realizing the common themes that can be found throughout all cultures. The messages portrayed in the story tellers stories may or may not hold “historical truths” but they will hold a truth that is more important in the understanding of a certain individuals or the storyteller’s life. Choosing who to do this assignment with was easy and I knew right away–Laura Lipari; my grandmother who is one hundred and one years old. During the planning stages of my interviews, I knew I wanted to also capture the words of her sister–Virginia Curro; my grandmother’s ninety eight year old sister, whom my family calls ‘Aunty.’ These women have been inseparable during my entire life and most of their lives too, so I knew talking to my grandmother would be incomplete without my great Aunt there as well!

Our Relationship

I grew up in the western United States in Corona, California while my grandmother lived most of that time in Shaker Heights, Ohio–right outside of Cleveland, thus our visits were few and far between. To put our relationship into perspective, I was the youngest grandchild of my generation and never met my grandfather, Felice Lipari, but I grew up hearing all of the fascinating stories of his and my grandmother’s life together. Since I was the youngest and grew up far away from my grandmother, I always felt a great need to make the time to visit her and spend quality time with her and my great aunt knowing they don’t know me as well as the rest of my cousins and siblings. Laura Lipari and Brie This project is not just a school endeavor, but an undertaking that I have wanted to attempt for a long time. Through my family’s help and support, I am happy to say this has finally become a reality through the motivation and dedication to this class project. Capturing my grandmother’s life story is far from over and I will continue even after the class finishes in the retelling of her incredible life. The connection with my grandmother and great aunt from this project will be cherished for years to come. I am so happy to have captured the stories they both shared with me. Family is my number one priority in life and I am not the only one who feels that way. When I began my interview and my grandmother expressed the importance of family, I immediately lost all my pre-interview nervousness and knew that this project was going to be the most important endeavor I had ever taken on.

Interview Beginnings

I began my research by first talking to my Aunt Myriam, Laura’s eldest daughter, who lives in upstate New York, very close to where my grandmother and great aunt now reside in a quaint town called Bemus Point. It is a small lake town with an even smaller population that more than quadruples in the summer months as it is a popular summer home destination. Myriam assembled a rough timeline of my grandmother’s life and once I received this timeline, I organized questions to form my interview. Early in February 2016, I took a red eye flight to John F. Kennedy airport and from there caught a connecting flight to Buffalo to be picked up by my eldest cousin, John Lipari, who drove me to my grandmother and aunt’s house. Their home is a stone’s throw away from Lake Chautauqua and a beautiful hotel that faces the lake. The fire station is right across the street from the house, the post office and police station are down the block, as well as church they attend, and their hair dresser are all within a few blocks. By the time I arrived at my grandmothers, I was exhausted. No sleeping on the flight and anxious to begin the interview process, knowing the weekend would pass by in a blink of an eye, I didn’t want to waste a single moment. We arrived right at noon and the ladies were expecting us and I remember my grandmother exclaiming upon our arrival, “John is very punctual…He said 12 and he arrives right at 12!” We said farewell to John, who would be coming back after work to check on the ladies and me, and I sat down in a brown cushioned rocking chair identical to the one my grandmother was resting on; my great aunt was on a wooden chair next to us. We caught up about my siblings, parents, Cameron (my boyfriend), and how school was going then jumped right into the interview process. Please Note that this is the first part in an extended series by Gabrielle Lipari on the life of writer Laura Lipari. ___ Gabrielle Lipari is the great granddaughter of Italian and Sicilian immigrants. She grew up in Corona, California. She moved to Fort Collins, Colorado where she is pursing a History Degree at University of Northern Colorado. Her passion for History and Women’s Studies motivated her to collaborate with Laura Lipari on A Storyteller’s Life History to gain further insight into the life of an Italian-American as well as a woman of the 20th century. She now spends her free time working in a bookstore/coffee shop, reading, and hiking in the Rocky Mountains with her sister and boyfriend.


  • Bradly Lybbert
    Posted February 2, 2020 at 10:12 am

    What’s up to every one, as I am in fact eager of reading this web site’s post to be updated regularly. It includes nice stuff.

  • Rosemary Smith Lucier
    Posted April 4, 2017 at 12:57 am

    I was thrilled to see your story! Laura, Felice, and their children lived across the street from my family on Mesa Dr in Prescott, AZ. My sister Sherry adored your Grandmother and attributes her ability to pass French to Mrs Lipari! Sherry was Vivian’s age and they were good friends. Unfortunately, my sister has recently had major surgery and is currently facing some serious health issues. If there would be a way to connect my sister with some of your family I know it would lift her spirits immensely! I would be happy to fill you in more if you would e-mail me at [email protected]. Thank you so very much! Rosie Smith Lucier

    • wpsp2016
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Hi Rosie,
      This is Vivian’s sister, Myriam. I remember hearing a lot about your family and how much my family loved them. I forwarded your message on to my sister Vivian and I hope she will be in touch soon. Thank you for reaching out.

  • Kelly
    Posted March 12, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Great start! Looking forward to the series!

    • wpsp2016
      Posted March 13, 2017 at 7:59 am

      Hi Kelly,

      Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate it. We hope you continue to enjoy reading our posts.

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