This is a growing oral history project created by students at City College of San Francisco in my “English 1A: Reading and Composition 1: Writing from Exile” course. My students are trained in interviewing and oral history writing by Voice of Witness, a San Francisco based publisher that focuses on oral history, and conduct interviews of classmates, family members, and friends in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In order to better understand the complex historical, cultural, political, economic, and legal factors that play critical roles in people migrating to the Bay Area, an interpretive analysis of the narratives of individual immigrants may serve as a personal look into the lives of individuals, each a cross-section of the whole. While scholars have collected much useful demographic data on immigrants, analyzed the causes and effects of their forced migration on their homelands as well as on their host countries, only recently has there been a turn to interpreting the narratives of individual refugees in light of each other, an attempt to understand the complex causes for migration – from political, to economic, to cultural, to social – by analyzing individual stories that contain unique mixes of many if not all of these factors (Harrell-Bond and Voutira 1992: 1). Interpretation is done by the researcher and the research participants, and is a group process aimed at fostering understanding within the research team (Herda 1999: 115). By analyzing the rocky paths of their departures in light of their shared dreams and aspirations for justice, health, and stability, a group identity may be fostered within the group of research participants that can help scholars, teachers and legal workers better serve this underserved and often misunderstood community in the United States.