Well, In Poland…

Intro from Jay Allison: Jonathan Menjivar is a young-ish producer (he's 24) and this is his first shot at a first-person story, practically his first shot at any story (see Neal Pollack Takes On America ). He came to produce it here in Woods Hole in the little cottage on Park Road. 

The piece began as a travelogue and became increasingly intimate. There is some bravery involved in looking publicly at your own life and relationships as you're living them, especially when you're young. We think Jonathan is a promising new voice and his piece raises intriguing questions about personal narrative, story movement in time and space, perspective, levels of involvement, resolution, etc. Discuss 'em.

Notes from Jay Allison

Justine and her family...
Justine and the family she left behind. L-R Justine’s mother Basia, Justine, her grandfather Stansilaw, her sister Natalia, and her grandmother Maria.

This piece is not constituted of emotion recollected in tranquility. It is a story told in its own midst. It’s an attempt to look at what is happening while it’s happening, while the emotions are current.

Jonathan came to work on it here in Woods Hole with the Transom crew as part of our sort-of-artist-in-residence program, in which we give support, gear, and a place to stay to someone with a story to tell.

Our goal in this is to support emerging producers and to explore process. During production, we huddle and cajole and advise, but finally the piece belongs to the producer and receives its premiere here, for you. We hope that the ensuing open discussion will be useful, because it will contain various perspectives – the producer’s, ours, and yours . Please listen and join in.

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Listen to “Well, In Poland…”

Notes From Jonathan Menjivar

Justine & her Grandfather
Justine and her grandfather Stanislaw on the day of her first communion.

About a year ago, just as the discussion for my last Transom piece was starting to die down I left behind all thoughts of anything like the Internet and went to Poland with my girlfriend Justine. But I brought along my tape recorder. I had a vague plan to make a piece without any after-the-fact narration. Just talk into the tape recorder and capture all of my impressions as they happened. You know, because it’d just be fresher that way. It was my first time out of the country (except for weekend jaunts to Mexico which doesn’t really count when you’re from California) so I figured that maybe if I rattled off enough I might say something interesting. Turns out I didn’t.

Justine did have interesting things to say though. And I ended up capturing this other thing, this dynamic between me and Justine that seemed to take on a life of its own – more than just the trip to Poland, more than just the story of Justine.

Working on a story about someone you live with isn’t a good idea if you don’t have the space and distance to do it. I told the Transom folks about some of the material and they offered me the chance to intern for a month. They not only gave me over 800 miles of distance from Justine but provided some much needed advice along the way. Thanks all around.

Notes For Editing

Justine and her Uncle
Justine and one of her many uncles. He still drives that horse
drawn cart around town.

Jonathan,

To summarize, redundantly, my general thoughts, expressed in a bossy opinionated way. Take ’em or leave ’em…

Always keep alive a sense of what is HAPPENING IN THE TIME AND SPACE OF THE PIECE. You begin with packing to go on a trip and on a mission. That intention must remain alive. Help us know how things are going. Check in with us. Tell us WHERE we are from time to time, how long into the trip it is, and how the mission is going.

The mission, it seems to me, must have to do with LOVE, CONNECTION, UNDERSTANDING. The purpose of your trip can’t be tossed off at the top, e.g. “I wanted to understand her better.” The stakes have to be higher, concrete. The way you two pack your bag supports this. You are required to undergo CHANGE, if only in your perceptions, in the course of this trip. Our questions, as we go along, will be — is he changing? why? would I change if I were him? what will happen if he does or doesn’t?

Natalia and her Grandmother Maria
Justine’s grandmother Maria and her sister Natalia.

Pick the characters that are important and develop them. Let the others fall away. Always remember the main characters are you and Justine. We always need to be learning something about the two of you — and YOUR RELATIONSHIP — in learning about anything else. Otherwise, the information just hangs there and we don’t know what to do with it. Am I going to be quizzed on this, we wonder? Or can I relax, because i know I’m being looked after. Keep our eye on the ball.

Keep alive the idea of your American-ness. That’s the one thing you have in common with all your listeners. To the degree your perceptions are in some way “American” it will help streamline the cross-cultural story for which you and Justine are our poster children. I am still intrigued by what you said last night about how you never felt more American than when you were in Poland. Develop that maybe.

Think SCENES. Set up places where things HAPPEN, where change takes place, even if only in your mind. Think footnotes. It allows you to dip into the past, while remaining within a scene. Never take us into the past without telling us WHY we’re there. It’s a short piece, not a novel, and we can’t be without bearings for too long. I’m really not trying make you over-linear or obvious, just solid and directed. Tell a good story. The way you would around the table. Every part has a purpose toward a goal.

Think CHARACTER. I need to build a GROWING sense of who Justine is, and who you are in relation to her. What must I know and when must I know it?

Maria and me directly behind their house.
Maria and me directly behind their house. She’s a lot stronger than I am. Those hills and fields just beyond the fence stretch on forever.

Re-examine your sequence. Pull all the information out on index cards, look at what each scene or moment in terms of how it functions as a story element or character growth and ponder whether it should be moved. Remember, we always need reasons to CARE about each step along the way. That’s your job.

Be able to graph the curve of 1) your change, 2) Justine’s change or reaction to you, 3) your change together. This is what you’ve made us care about in your opening. Keep us posted. it can be very subtle. It can be in the way you eat, or the way she touches you differently, or in how loud you sing. My sense is that there is a move from outsider to insider, from discomfort to comfort, a move toward “adoption” of a context and family and new hybrid identity. It’s a love story, dude. But it can’t be over-romantic. It needs to have awareness of itself.

Cut all details you can’t defend in terms of the forward motion and layering of the story. Give us less rather than more. Do we need *both* quotes from Kundera or would one do, with a quick modifier? Remember, it takes time to absorb information as a listener in real time, and if you jam too much into our brains, some of it just won’t fit. Breathe.

The Cottage
The cottage in Woods Hole, MA where Transom kept their Artist in Residence under lock and key.

Build toward the ending with the ring. Drop clues. Give us questions, your questions, make us accomplices in your decisions/transformations. The main question I have on the ending is it feels just to pat to stop right there. I’d love an ellipsis and it occurred to me, and maybe you or Viki suggested it earlier, leave that stuff about the SIZE of the ring as the last thing… a tail out. Go out on that, on the continued negotiating, pondering, FITTING. I like that. It’s still romantic, but less naive.

all for now…

-Jay


Support for this work provided by the
Open Studio Project

with funding from the
Corporation for Public Broadcastingand
The National Endowment for the Arts
NEA

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  • Jay Allison

    4.04.02

    Reply
    Well, In Poland…

    Jonathan Menjivar is a young-ish producer (he’s 24) and this is his first shot at a first-person story, practically his first shot at any story (see Neal Pollack Takes On America ). He came to produce it here in Woods Hole in the little cottage on Park Road. 

    The piece began as a travelogue and became increasingly intimate. There is some bravery involved in looking publicly at your own life and relationships as you’re living them, especially when you’re young. We think Jonathan is a promising new voice and his piece raises intriguing questions about personal narrative, story movement in time and space, perspective, levels of involvement, resolution, etc. Discuss ’em.

  • Amy Silverman

    4.05.02

    Reply
    remarkable!

    this truly is an epic, in so many respects — a long journey, as jay infers. i need to listen to it several more times to absorb it — which may be my only real criticism. the piece is not immediately accessible like MTV or People magazine or even "This American Life," with the music and the Ira Glass introduction. but i liked that, once i got in the groove. it might be possible to make some trims that will move things along more quickly. i was left with the impression that the piece was very long, where i’d rather be left thinking it was too short. i love the way in which jonathan put himself in the story. (ironically, as you’ll recall, jonathan, i believe it was what i was looking for in your first piece!) the fact that jonathan was making a radio piece about this experience influenced the experience in many ways, and he was honest with himself and the listener in exposing and exploring that — bravo! i loved the relative trying on the headphones, the soon-to-be-fiance asking of the proposal, "is this for the radio show?" — i laughed out loud. it’s easy to use those devices badly, but they really worked here. i was definitely invested in the characters by the end and wanting to know, would everyone live happily ever after? ultimately, would the ring fit?

    great work, jonathan!!!

  • Sydney Lewis

    4.08.02

    Reply
    Calling Jonathan

    Watching Jonathan make this piece was remarkable, and I’m hoping he’ll talk a little bit about the process of shaping the work. How he first saw it, how his ideas changed as he sifted through the material, if there’s any tape he now wishes he’d not cut, and how difficult or not it was to have several meddlesome people putting their two cents in. Also, sorry, can’t help it, how did Justine feel about the finished piece?

  • Viki Merrick

    4.08.02

    Reply
    while you’re at it

    PACO – how ’bout some words on Pollack vs Poland experience? Did you take something with you from the Pollack process and keep it in your pocket for use later – like motion, narrative tricks or other evergreen stuff?

    Spit out a golden rule.

  • jonathan menjivar

    4.09.02

    Reply
    Some words and other such nonsense

    So let me get this straight. I make this piece about the innermost details of my relationship and now I’m supposed to talk about it? What did I sign up for?

    Amy. Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad it doesn’t sound like TAL. I wasn’t aiming for it to sound like anything in particular except for what the tape said it should sound like. Which is kind of a cop out answer cause you can make tape sound anyway you want it to but I’m going to stick by that anyhow. But I didn’t want to make the piece obtuse or difficult to absorb. So where does it feel long? Anyone? I know it still does but I can’t quite figure it out. Are there things that you feel like you just don’t need to know? Or things you want more details on? Normally you’re dealing with hours and hours of tape trying to whittle it down into something sensible but when you make a piece like this you also end up dealing with hours and hours of stuff you think you have on tape but is all just in your head, the ordinary and everyday things you to say to each other when you’re fighting over who should wash the dishes. It should be easy to sort out but it’s not. At least, I didn’t think so.

    Syd you’ve opened up a big nasty door. You know at least part of what I went through after sitting and listening to that DAT with me. 45 minutes of me fumbling through narration for an earlier version. But I think the process went like this. Before the trip I figured I’d come out with some clear answers. I just wanted to understand what the hell Justine found so special about Poland. When someone talks as much about something like that it can get annoying if you don’t get it. Kind of like when I talk to her about radio. Then I think I felt like the piece had to say something big about the state of Poland. On the trip I felt this sense of Poland on the brink of something. A little over 10 years after Communism…50 years after WWII…Poland is struggling to figure out where it belongs. I thought maybe I could tell that story through Justine. She’s as much American as she is Polish now and in a way dealing with the same issues of identity on a personal level. But that was really hard. I didn’t know enough to make those claims and anytime I played anything for anyone…what they really wanted to know about was me and Justine. So I had to come around to seeing that perhaps that was interesting too. But I never had any intention of making that the focus. I mean, the proposal really wasn’t for the radio story. Really. If it was, I would have gotten it on tape. And believe it or not, even though I kicked and screamed, I don’t think there’s one piece of tape I miss now. They were all tied to earlier stories, different stories about Poland and Justine that don’t fit in with this piece. And Justine liked it. She didn’t know what I was cooking up but she was happy to see that maybe I finally understood.

    And Viki, Pollack vs. Poland. Here’s a golden rule for you. Get someone who likes to talk. As much as Justine was reluctant in the beginning, once she got used to the mic she had as much to say as Neal ever did. That’s essential. I don’t think there are any tricks I can lay down. Maybe just things I learned from both pieces that I’ll combine next time around. I wish I would have kept the tape rolling like I did with Neal. I didn’t want to cause sometimes I just wanted to enjoy my vacation but there’s just not enough sound in this piece. I’ve learned that I need to write everyday when I’m actually taping. Talking into a tape recorder just isn’t enough. I’ve learned that you really can move things along quickly and they’ll still make sense. My first version of this story was under 30 min…I think the first version of the Pollack piece ran over an hour. And I think I’ve learned a lot about balancing out my level of comfort with interviewees. That part where I really push Justine about her sister…maybe I’ll be able to do that with someone I know a little less…find some middle ground in between that and how I was with Neal when we first met and he asked me, “So, you got any questions?” And all I could say was, “Umm. Not really.”

  • Joshua Barlow

    4.10.02

    Reply
    ME, WE, & I

    Hey Jon.

    I’m curious as to whether or not you considered revealing more of yourself as a part of this story. I can easily see how as the recording took place the focus was shifted from Poland to the personal experiences of Justine who had lived through many of the changes in that country. However, at many points in the story, it was more about the current relationship between you 2.

    While there was a lot of focus on Justine’s experience and perspective based upon her upbringing and what she found when she came to the US, I found myself wondering (as a listener), "Well, what’s the deal with Jon? Who is he? Why is he who he is?"

    Were there reasons you didn’t go down that road? Did you feel it might introduce to many details for the listener? Was there a notion that if you got too 1rst person personal, it might delve into areas that might be too far from the focus of the piece?

    I’m sure a lot of people who write from and about 1rst person experiences would be interested in why certain decisions are made in certain cases.

  • Kimberly Kinchen

    4.11.02

    Reply

    Jonathan,

    I listened to this yesterday….first, I did not think it was too long, actually it seemed just about right. I actually felt like I wanted to know just a little bit more about you, about Justine…but I would rather be left with that sense than feeling that I’d been told too much.

    In general I tend to not enjoy these sorts of 1st person self-reflective types of work – there is something about putting really personal stuff out into the public spotlight that I don’t always trust. So I have to say I went into listening to this with that caution…but it seemed just right to me. Maybe because, while you were working in the first person, your focus did turn outward more than anything. So my take is different that Joshua’s on this. I suppose we could have heard more from you, but I like how much you reveal yourself in your choices about what you have included in the work without going too far into that exhaustive 1st person, and I don’t think I would have liked the piece as much had you had that focus.

  • Neil Sandell

    4.11.02

    Reply
    Senior Producer, Radio Current Affairs, Canadian Broadcasting Corp, Toronto

    Congratulations. This is a wonderful piece of radio. The intimacy and candor drew me in right away. I admire Jonathan and Justine’s willingness to take the risk and reveal themselves to the microphone.

    Jonathan’s craft is so confident as to be invisible. It never gets in the way of the story. And yet the storytelling is sophisticated. I think the way Jonathan shapes his story is quite artful.

    I have two questions for Jonathan. 1. Did you worry that by doing this story you might jeopardize your relationship with Justine by being invasive. Tell me about your thinking on this. 2. Editing usually means throwing away material we love. Was there one bit of tape that you wish you had been able to keep?

  • jonathan menjivar

    4.11.02

    Reply
    more or less

    Josh/Kimberly. As everyone in Woods Hole can attest, it took a lot to get what little of me that’s in the piece there in the first place. I know it’s silly to decide to do a first person piece like this and then be reluctant to reveal yourself but that’s the way it worked out. Josh, your questions are good ones…ones I think I asked myself but in the end what it came down to was that I’m not the interesting part of the story. I kind of figured once I labeled myself as the dorky, unsophisticated American in the piece I could spend my time talking about the things I thought were more interesting. There’s that bit that Jay mentioned in his note to me about me saying I felt more American in Poland than I did here at home which is true. But I don’t know…once I really thought about it, it’s just a grand pronouncement that’s been said before. So I let the small details like my view of the buildings and hanging wet towels say that for me. Kimberly, I think you hint at the fine line in first person pieces between being a character in the story and making the story all about yourself. Someone like Scott Carrier or Lawrence Weschler…they know how to dance on that line. But I was scared to fall off the wall onto the wrong side. Neil, thanks for your kind words. I don’t think I was ever too worried about being too invasive with Justine. Even at the beginning when we were packing and she turned around, saw me with the mic and said something like, "I’m getting ready for a trip, I’m not making no damn radio story!" I wasn’t too concerned. She knew what I was up to and the whole immigrant story is one she wanted told too. There were moments where I did feel like maybe I was making her talk about stuff she didn’t want on tape, but those ended up being the most real and so I pretty much just had to keep them in. Plus, I knew I wasn’t making her look bad. As to question #2…there’s lots of great stuff I didn’t use…long parts about her grandfather’s imprisonment, us discussing the the different viewpoints on death in America and Poland (I think Justine said something about a conversation she had with friends once about how Americans decompose much slower than Poles…all those preservatives!) but they were all part of a different story and they didn’t move this one along. It’s a great feeling to realize that except for in forums like this…noone’s ever going to know that tape existed.

  • Jay Allison

    4.11.02

    Reply
    out-takes

    Jonathan, if you remember particular interesting out-takes, we can put them on the site.

  • kimberly kinchen

    4.13.02

    Reply
    bring us the tape

    I would love to hear some of those out-takes.

    To be a bit more specific, the thing that I really enjoyed about this piece is that it was so intimate and revealing, without being sentimentally schlocky or pretentious, or any of the other things that it seems can happen easily in 1st person work. And it seemed honest, without trying too hard. So, yeah, you’re walking that line, with grace.

  • jonathan menjivar

    4.14.02

    Reply
    ok…umm

    I’ll see what I can dig up.

  • operations

    4.18.02

    Reply

    Only In Poland Bonus Audio

    Taped Over Tape
    Listen Listen in MP3

    Conversation Controlled
    Listen Listen in MP3

    These weren’t clips that I really held onto for a long time. But I liked them and did have them loaded on a track in ProTools just in case. They reveal some nice details about what it was like for Justine growing up but just didn’t fit anywhere.

    Stanislaw
    Listen Listen in MP3

    Mass Grave
    Listen Listen in MP3

    Both of these scenes belong to an earlier version of the story when I was still trying to achieve what I talked about in a previous post (link to #5 of my thread).

  • kimberly kinchen

    4.25.02

    Reply

    jonathan,

    thanks for the bonus tracks…the first two I especially enjoyed, that combination of funniness and sadness – what should be the simple act of communicating gets infused with scarcity and censorship.

    I also just really like Justine’s voice.

  • jonathan menjivar

    4.25.02

    Reply

    yeah Kimberly, that’s what I liked about those moments too. They kind of reflect Justine’s whole viewpoint on growing up in Communist Poland. That to a kid, most of the time things weren’t really that sad. More than anything it was this big comedy of errors. Especially in retrospect. And I could get sappy about Justine’s voice, but I won’t. I like it too.

  • Susan Jenkins

    5.02.02

    Reply
    intimate rollercoaster

    Hey Jonathan. What a graceful and moving study of a relationship in the moment. I was away for a while so I’ve only just listened tonight. The tone and feeling of your piece reminds me of the kind of honesty and intimacy that French/European filmmakers often achieve (and Americans almost never do) in their character-driven movies.

    I was surprised when it ended…I had just become invested in "what will happen to them?" I think I must have thought we would fly back to the states with you and see if anyone’s perspective changed, or if there were any insights not readily available upon return. Having just returned from a remarkable and overwhelming trip myself I guess I’m intrigued by the fluctuations of mind that accompany fluctuations in country.

    I didn’t think the piece lacked for sound, although that’s easy to say when you don’t know what you’re missing. I felt like I was watching the whole time though, the images throughout are easy enough to conjure.

    Also as to the length question, I don’t think it’s too long but I wonder if it ends in the right place.

    If there weren’t a longer version in mind, I think ending on the wedding proposal (she said yes) might work better than ending with the ring-looseness discussion, although ambient grass-crunching noises are easier to fade than the bedroom. Only because it seems like if you’re going to leave people wanting more you should leave them definitively.

    Like a rollercoaster. You ever ride one where they take you through the most dramatic hills/loops/whatever at the beginning then towards the end everything wimps out? I remember feeling that once the initial shock wore off, I liked the adrenaline…but by this point we were into the rolling hills part of the ride where the thrills aren’t. Maybe I feel rollercoasters should have thrills throughout, and not just at the beginning. Why not be hair-raising right to the end?

    Congratulations. I hope it finds a radio home (Savvy Traveler comes to mind).

    P.S. one more question, did you think about scoring, just a little, with music? (I know this is a big TAL thing, but their style is not what I would have in mind).

  • jonathan menjivar

    5.03.02

    Reply
    hearing things

    Susan, it’s nice to hear the piece described as a rollercoaster of any kind. I had lots of fears of it dragging along. And once I got passed the idea of intimate rollercoaster sounding like a bad band name, I really liked that idea. Like how as a teen when you ride one with some crush, even though you’re going how ever many miles an hour a rollercoaster goes, if the night summer air is the right temperature that moment is intimate and perfect. That speeding coaster holds everything.

    About the end. Originally I ended with that piece of tape about the ring fitting because it was the only mention of the ring I had. But then it made sense. I didn’t want to just ride out on the proposal. Cause you know, it didn’t feel like everything was clear and I wanted that conveyed. I mean I feel like I’m going to be wrestling with Poland the rest of my life. This summer for example Justine’s going back for 2 months and if I can scrape up some cash, I might go. But you know, we’re still dealing with all those same issues that came up in the beginning of the piece. And not just the "do we go to Poland this year?" one. It’s not just an issue of fighting over vacation destinations. More about trying to figure out a way to bring a little of Poland back into our everyday lives.

    I’m working on a revision of the piece with Ben Adair for The Savvy Traveler (it’s going to be so much better!) that hopefully makes those feelings about the end a little more clear.

    Scoring. I actually brought a CD I burned with the word "scoring" written on the cover to Woods Hole. The problem is that anything I know about using music has come from listening to TAL. And until I can find another way to do it, I’m scared to. Real quick, you want to hear a funny story? The other day Justine and I were getting out of our truck and for some reason talking about the story and she tells me, "yeah, there’s this song you could have used there that would have been perfect." And I told her that yeah, maybe it would have but there’s not music anywhere else in the piece so it would have been weird. She turned and looked at me, "Really? I thought I heard music. I guess it’s just Poland."

  • Julia Barton

    5.13.02

    Reply
    Julia Barton

    Hi Jonathan,

    Such a great piece, and very brave also, on the part of both you and Justine. Absolutely you have to keep the ending with the ring. Not only does Justine sound very practical about the ring (which is kind of in contrast to your "euphoria" feelings described before), but it hints that this isn’t all over, you guys both have a lot to think about.

    The only thing I was left wondering was, what happened to Justine’s sister after returning? Where is she now? You only mention that you stayed in an apartment of hers. I can see why she might not want to be interviewed, but the piece so concerns Justine’s feelings that life might be somehow better for her in Poland, and here she has a sister who went back. Is there any way to include her story a little bit, just to satisfy that curiosity, without blocking the flow of the piece?

    Good, admirable work.

  • Julia Barton

    5.13.02

    Reply
    just a mention

    Yeah, I understand you don’t have time to develop Natalia’s character or include her in the piece. I’m just talking about tying up a loose end. A line like, "Natalia has her own side of the story, of course, and she tells me sometimes she thinks about life in America the way Justine thinks about Poland" would be enough so that I wouldn’t be thinking about her the rest of the story, expecting her to appear at some point. Especially after that very powerful moment where they’re singing together on tape, and Justine describes her as her twin, it was very odd for me NOT to hear anything more about her. Maybe that’s just me. And maybe you don’t want to add an extra line to your piece and have to re-voice a bunch of it! BUT if Sav Trav is going to have you do that anyway, it’s just something to consider. I’ll be psyched to hear this story that show.

  • Ben A.

    6.22.02

    Reply
    air date on savvy traveler

    Hi everyone,

    Just to let you know, I’ve been working with Jonathan for a long time on this story and a new version is going to air on ST next weekend (feeding June 28).

    Jonathan has continued to work very hard on this story for the last few months and deserves special recognition for his endurance and his ability to sweet talk editors into taking big chances on him. Lucky for me, it paid off and "Well, in Poland …" sounds great and actually moved me to tears in one certain spot. I’m sure you’ll hear it.

    So nice work Jonathan and thanks to Transom for bringing this story to Savvy Traveler. It’s quite an accomplishment.

    Ben

    PS: I’m on a tight deadline until after July 4, but if anyone wants to discuss the editorial process, the decisions we made, the hows and whys, I’m totally willing. I just have to wait a couple weeks. Word.

  • Jim Sazevich

    6.29.02

    Reply

    Your story about Poland brought back so many memories of my first trip to Europe to find my roots – both in Poland and in Russia.

    I went first in 1975, as a "kid" of 25 yrs., and again in 1990, a little more organized and mature.

    I found the Polish and Russian people totally accepting of me, and just as curious about me and my ways, as I was of them and their culture.

    It took a while, but I eventually found my relatives in both Poland and Russia – and along the way – I partied with the Gorky Orchestra at a hotel in Smolensk, fished in the Neva River with some young Russian fishermen, and read from a newspaper on a park bench in St. Petersburg at 3 a.m. during a long "white night" when it never got dark.

    Thanks for your wonderful recording of your trip to understand Justine’s roots, and as she said "give context to her stories of home".

    Best regards,

    Jim Sazevich
    St. Paul, Minnesota

  • beedge

    6.29.02

    Reply
    show urls…

    the SavTrav show page:
    savvy.mpr.org/show/features/2002/20020628/feature2.shtml
    direct link to SavTrav realaudio file:
    savvy.mpr.org/show/features/2002/20020628/rafiles/20020628feature2.ram

  • Karen Engel

    9.10.02

    Reply

    I was just browsing Transom and this piece immediately caught my attention (as a child of a Polish born father and having travelled to Poland too) — and like everyone else, I loved it. Great work Jonathan — I liked the piece for its simplicity, the straight-forward, natural sounding recording and story-telling – and because the no-frills (I liked the lack of music, for instance) composition made it possible to HEAR all the many different elements in Justine and your relationship. Have you heard of Eva Hoffman’s book " Lost in Translation" ? – which describes Hoffmans’s experience as a Polish teenager suddenly having to cope with English and the way Americans communicate when her family moves to North America – an excellent book which not only looks at language but also our culture through our linguistic codes. Justine would like it.

  • jonathan menjivar

    9.13.02

    Reply
    o.k., so i stole from a book

    and one i never even finished.

    karen,

    thanks for the kind words. i’m really excited to hear you make any kind of connection between the piece and eva hoffman. when justine and i first started dating she kept trying to get me to read "lost in translation" but i was too busy with school books and kept putting it off. justine realized that it was going take me some time to get around to it, so she just took to reading me passages in bed before we went to sleep. she’d sit there and practically pound on every other page shouting out, "that’s exactly how i felt!" everyone should be so lucky to have a guidebook like that when you’re trying to get to know a new love. justine’s in grad school now studying language and immigrant identity, something that like this radio story, i think eva hoffman is directly responsible for.

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