ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
On this Thanksgiving Day, you might find yourself sitting across from a nephew, a cousin or your own kids as they ask you some unusual questions.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Who are some of the most important people in your life?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Is there anything that you've never told me but want to tell me now?
SHAPIRO: While these may seem like questions you could ask at any time, the folks at StoryCorps realized that Thanksgiving is an opportunity to connect with a family member you might only see once a year. So they created "The Great Thanksgiving Listen." It's a project that encourages listeners to reach out and fill in the blanks of your own family history. There's even an app to record that conversation. It suggests questions and lets you upload your interview to the Library of Congress. Even an ALL THINGS CONSIDERED host, Audie Cornish, allowed herself to be interviewed for the project.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Today, we are going to be doing a StoryCorps session. So I'm very excited. This is really personal because this is family.
SHAPIRO: She figured if other people were brave enough to bare their souls, she could do it, too.
JULIAN TARPEY: Hi. How's it going, Audie?
CORNISH: (Laughter) How are you, honey? How are you doing?
TARPEY: I'm doing good.
CORNISH: I convinced my 17-year-old nephew to jump in the studio and interview me.
TARPEY: My name is Julian Tarpey. I'm 17 years old. And I'm speaking with my aunt, Audie Cornish.
CORNISH: All right, give me your questions.
TARPEY: OK. What would you say you are most proud of, and why would you say that it makes you feel proud?
CORNISH: Hmm. I feel like I'm most proud of my parents and family, which sounds really corny. But, like, my parents came to this country in the early '80s, and I was a toddler, and they didn't really know that many people. And they settled in a part of the country that was not that friendly to people of color (laughter) at the time, and they somehow made a life for us. And now that I'm the age that they were then, I complain about raising, like, my one kid. I'm like, this is so hard.
CORNISH: So the idea that they raised the three of us and that we're all really successful in our fields and have our own families, you know, one way or another, and they're healthy and happy, I just feel like that's the American dream. And they did it. I still don't know how. You know what I mean?
CORNISH: And I'm still just like, wait - so you just moved? They had to get college degrees again. So it's really astounding, and I can't take credit, in a way, for anything that I've done because I just feel like it all comes from them. They don't take no for an answer. There's no room they think they can't or shouldn't be in. Even if people don't treat them well, they are - they always hold their heads up high.
CORNISH: And I just feel like they've given that to us. That's, like, a thing that I know for a fact I can feel in my siblings.
TARPEY: Yeah. I love that. So what memory will always stick with you?
CORNISH: I think it would have to be the birth of my son, which sounds really corny. But I wasn't sure I'd be able to get pregnant, and it was a really hard road. And so all of a sudden, you're in the hospital, and it's happening.
CORNISH: And you're not even sure you're ready for it to be happening.
TARPEY: Oh, yeah.
CORNISH: And it was a really kind of long labor. And then there he was. Like, you know, they just put him on my chest, and he was breathing and quiet, and he sort of looked like my dad.
CORNISH: And it was just such a moving experience.
CORNISH: And it was a moving experience to see him with my parents. And I sort of feel like this was it, like I had done my job. They came to this country and did what they needed to do to make us successful, and now I was about to do the same - kind of carry on the thing that they were pushing for. And it was really intense and emotional because my parents were there and because you have all of these hormones (laughter) coursing through your veins...
CORNISH: ...And you've done a crazy thing.
CORNISH: There was this weird sense. I was very acutely aware in that moment of, like, family and my family in particular.
SHAPIRO: My co-host Audie Cornish being interviewed by her nephew Julian Tarpey. To hear the full interview and others, listen to the holiday special "The Great Listen" from StoryCorps and NPR on many NPR stations.
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