The Other Voices

I’m presently reading a book called The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, which tells the biblical story of Joseph and his family, from the point of view of his only daughter, Dinah. More accurately, this is the story of Dinah, in which her father is only a supporting actor. Dinah actually is mentioned in Genesis, where in a few paragraphs her life’s impact on her male family members is revealed.

While reading this book I’m wondering, rather furiously, how much of history has been obliterated because only victors have recorded voices. Toni Morrison deals with this issue over and over again in her books, especially her latest, Paradise. Through these and other readings, the concept of voice as power has been drummed into my head. Not words; voice. Important distinction. There are untold voices in human experience, and every one has a story worth sharing; it just needs to be ferreted out.

My family’s been blessed by great storytellers on both sides. Grandma Jarrett in North Carolina kept entire lifetimes in her head, and in a favorite example told stories about an uncle who was a traveling doctor claiming to have a cure for cancer that he’d gotten from Native Americans. He was illiterate, so Grandma, as a young girl, had to write out the recipes for him. My mother and her sister Marie between them can recount births, deaths, and marriages of three generations (or more) of our Pennsylvanian family. Many of these stories are oral only; some of the greatest grief I felt at the deaths of both Grandmothers was the thought of how much knowledge was lost with their passing. Tim and I both seem to be gripped by the need to write things down; hopefully between us we can save some of our history, and give ear to a few more voices.

That also ties into my recent need to learn more about the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, mentioned in Tim’s article today. I’ll probably write more about this later.


A fringe benefit of having a voice is that you get to pick and choose your nicknames. A friend called me “sasspot” yesterday. I like it.

Postscript #2

The kong shing tsai that I had at Full Kee last week had whole chunks of garlic in it. I ate approximately 8 cloves in a sitting (literally biting into them), but they tasted good, not overly strong, and I didn’t reek afterwards. If anyone knows how to cook garlic like this, let me know.