Overall, the online interview via e-mail that I conducted with Michelle went well above my expectations.
I had imagined that she would provide answers that would be “sufficient,” but not long, and most likely flavored with guardedness. I can only imagine how someone might respond about details that are personal. If our interview pertained to information of the professional or clinical genre, I would expect a lengthy response as there would be no concern of privacy or disclosure.
However, since Michelle has already been an active member of an online community (Circle of Moms), perhaps she had gotten used to opening up about personal details due to the nature of the forum, sharing them with women that she had only had online or “virtual” conversations with. And, perhaps her frame of mind carried over into our dialogue. This is just my conjecture, but at any rate, I was glad that she was both interested in my topic and eager to share with me her experiences.
In her response, Michelle shared specifics with me about growing up being home-schooled, and how her parents would spend quality time every afternoon and evening by reading books to her and her siblings. Michelle’s parents, Stan and Linda, communicated to their kids that they cared about them enough to make it a priority to read to them every day. To Michelle, their commitment and attitude toward reading books to their kids said, “I love you.”
From my interview with Michelle, I learned that she developed a fondness for books not just because she like to read, but also because books were a physical point of connection to quality time spent with her mom and dad, and her brothers and sisters. Every child yearns and needs to know that from his or her parents. So, from Michelle’s own childhood experiences, I could see that she learned that spending quality time by reading books together was an effective way to say, “I love you”.
This was a core aspect of her emotional attachment to books, which she carried on by spending quality time with her own son and daughter reading to them.
I expected Michelle to share with me about how she read to her son, Asher, and daughter, Nyah, and what sorts of activities she enjoyed doing with them, as most moms relish sharing about their kids. For example, Michelle stated that she takes Nyah to the library every week and either she or her husband Tim reads to both children every night. But, it was background Michelle shared about on herself and what it was like growing up with books that provided me the most context; it was a surprise and a delight.
If I were to do the interview differently, I think I might have tried composed my questions on a Word document instead of in the body of the e-mail. With e-mail I am very limited in how I can “flavor” the content through adding layers of formatting and graphics–a little “marketing” to open up the rapport. Using a Word document would allow for more creativity and personal touch to color the content, per Mann and Stewart’s assertion in Postmodern Interviewing, (p. 88).
However, at the time I felt conflicted because I had it in my mind that there was something about getting an actual Word document that implied formality, a sense of intimidating permanence, despite artistic flair. To avoid any glitches, I opted not to take a risk (or so I perceived it to be so). I wanted to keep in the flow of an “online presence” as much as possible. I am not sure whether transferring my questions to a different format would have generated a less open response or not, but I was hesitant to add anything that might change our working dynamic.
As a whole, this interview gave me a great perspective on emotional contexts that are attached to books, but I do not yet have a perspective from someone who loves books solely for the book itself, (the book not serving a “dual role,” also as a gateway to nostalgia or a means to family bonding.) I would like to get additional perspective from folks who appreciate the qualities/components that are unique to the book as an object. However, so far I have seen how the book is a gateway to our memories, stirring within us great bonds of affection.
To see additional details of my online interview with Michelle, I invite you to view my post Interview on Traditions in Literacy: Storytime for further reading.