Choose a topic to explore in depth for your final paper. Review background
material on that topic (lectures, assigned material, portfolio items from your
colleagues, or other primary or secondary sources). Use the background material
to compose more detailed follow-up questions for your first informant and/or
to interview a different family member on the topic you've picked.
For your interview essay, make a historical argument about your topic, one
that is supported by details from your family. Be sure to cite the background
material if you use it in your essay.
General questions for further conversation:
- How did your family celebrate birthdays when you were young?
- Was there any birthday or other event that felt like a real rite of passage?
(a Sweet Sixteen party? a Bar Mitzvah? a 21st birthday party? a graduation
- When you were a kid, what was the best party you ever attended?
- Who was your best friend as a child? On a perfect summer day, what did you
like to do with your friend?
- What is the most important difference between your childhood and children's
- Did you keep secrets with your friends? Did any of your friends ever betray
a secret? What would you have done if they had?
- Did you often invite your friends to dinner with your parents? did you ever
invite a friend to a family event? What did those occasions show about your
friend or about your parents?
- How are/were relationships with your same-age friends different from your
relationships with your siblings, cousins or other relatives your own age?
- What sorts of pets have you had in your life? Which was your favorite? Why?
- What names did you choose for your pets and why?
- Did you ever have special responsibility for a pet or other animal your
- Have pets in your family been like family members or just animals?
- Have attitudes toward animals changed over time in your family? Which generations
have raised animals for food (such as chickens or pigs), or kept working animals
(such as horses or ratters)? Which generations have hunted or fished for food?