I am so glad that Summer Shorts has returned again this year for another round of wonderful short narrations recorded by the best of the best audiobook narrators in the business. Today I have the good fortune of featuring Dion Graham. June wouldn’t be audiobook month for me if Dion didn’t stop by the blog. During his first visit he made me laugh. Last year during Summer Shorts he made me think about our country and it’s potential. This year he made me speechless by choosing a story that touched me deeply, one that I might have never read otherwise. It’s just another example of the power of audiobooks. More to the point, the power of beloved audiobook narrators.
What follows is our discussion about “Days Gone By,” life, and fatherhood. Life is good, y’all!
Literate Housewife: Dion, we’re together once a second year in a row for Xe’s brilliant Summer Shorts program. We’ve also worked together on my Baby, It’s Cold Outside narrator love fest in December of 2012. So far I’ve been delighted to share your narration of Letters to Santa from Shakespeare characters (Thinking about that still makes me laugh out loud. You rock as Cleopatra, by the way) and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Tell us a little bit about what you selected to read for this summer’s program.
Dion Graham: Hi Jen! It’s great to be with you, again. It hardly seems like it’s been a year since we were talking about our 16th president. Time goes by so fast! And that’s a great springboard to talk about “Days Gone By.” The first piece that Eric Jerome Dickey ever had published, it’s a look at the lives of a few friends via the rear view mirror. Memory. Time. What happened? What might have happened? Where did the road take you? And where did you take it?
LH: As someone who has never read Eric Jerome Dickey before, I didn’t know what to expect as I started listening. What a wonderful story “Days Gone By” is. I loved the look at a group of old friends who both played in their own blues band and fought for Civil Rights. It’s amazing to think of all that their generation saw in a life time. When we’re in our golden years, what do you think those future young people will be interested in hearing about from our experiences?
DG: Haha! Well, any parent will tell you ‘uh, maybe nothing!’ I’m kidding a little. But I remember being a young(er) person and how tiresome listening to old(er) folks stories could be. When we’re in the bloom of youth we can be so absorbed in looking at and experiencing that bloom that we can hardly be bothered with stories from ‘days gone by’. I remember when the idea of being 40 seemed a galaxy far, far away. But as my Granny used to say, ‘Life is a good teacher’– sometimes followed by ‘Life is a hard teacher.’ Sometimes you look back and recognize those previous seemingly insignificant moments around which the galaxy of your life has pivoted. But old heads digress…
Who knows, Jen–maybe they’ll want to hear about where we were on 9/11. Or when the space shuttle Columbia burned on re-entry. Maybe they’ll have a hard time believing we ever flew in such crude crafts–why wouldn’t you just teleport, or open a wormhole? Maybe they’ll want to know about our first loves. How intoxicating WAS it? Or what we’ve made of lost love. What were you like when YOU were 21? Gay people used to not be able to get married? Wha’???
LH: I was touched by its theme of regret. These characters lived such rich and eventful lives, but they never forgot what was left unsettled from their younger years. It’s hard not to think about the things I’ve left unsaid in my past. What did you take away from this story when you first read it?
DG: I was gobsmacked by it, utterly knocked out by the recognition of life lived. Eric and I have known each other for quite a while now and I’d asked him if he had anything that he thought might be good for this project. He said ‘I have this short piece I wrote a long time ago. Let me see if I can find it’. Little did I know that it was the first writing that he’d ever had published, written when he was a lot younger, too. What a great piece of work to come ‘right out the gate’ with. It was full of such love for it’s very human characters and the lives they’d lived. It was so full of embrace for the roads they’d walked and where they’d ended up. I was struck by the reflected truth that, though there are many roads not taken, you can’t really go back–you can only take the road forward. So dust off. And keep on walking.
All this in his first published work. Resonant. And amazing.
LH: I’m asking all of my Summer Short narrators this question: When you’re not recording, where would we be most likely to find Dion Graham and what would he be doing?
DG: Well, when not recording, shooting something or onstage I’d like for you to be able to find me outdoors in some beautiful place on the planet. I’m a big nature boy so any day I can be out on the trail or in a kayak someplace (Hawaii’s always nice) is a good day. Those days have been too few lately and I need to do something about that. I live in New York City, borough of Brooklyn, County of Kings so in the day to day there’s always great stuff to do right here, too: cinema, all kinds of great music, fantastic museums… But you might find me just walking through the diverse landscape that is NYC taking it all in. Or hanging out at my beloved Park Slope Food Coop. Or just reading.
LH: On top of today being special because we’re together again, Yippee! it’s also Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day to you! I know you’re a proud papa. What’s your favorite part of being a father?
DG: This means you are the first to wish me Happy Father’s Day and I say thank you kindly. My daughter just graduated Magna Cum Laude from college so it’s a particularly proud Father’s Day for me. And sobering: my daughter just graduated from college? I’d have to say my favorite part of being a father has been watching her grow into the vibrant confident young woman that she is. I remember an apple cheeked little cupcake face who used to do a little happy walk not so long ago. It’s amazing to see her walk her journey. And it’s always good to hear your daughter say ‘Daddy, I know why I’m so grounded. Thanks’. I guess that was a long way of saying my favorite part of being a father is…being her father.
LH: When I think of my dad and when I was young, I remember pretending to fall asleep listening to Ernie Harwell call the Tiger’s game so that when we got home he would pick me up and carry me to bed. Being a mom now, I imagine he knew I was faking all along and carried me to bed anyway. I love him so much! What’s your favorite memory of your father?
DG: Too many to count. But a few stand out. I remember my dad’s first solo visit with me in NYC. He was kind of a homebody so it was significant that I finally got him to come by himself. Life seemed less full then and we had a great time hanging, walking around NYC, laughing about old times, and doing some grown up father and son bonding. My dad always relished the memory of this little Mexican joint where we had breakfast one morning and where he had his first taste of sweet plantains. It’s not there anymore but it lives on in memory.
Another is sitting on the bed with my dad the night before he died. My dad was not always a man of many words. He said ‘I love you. More than you know’. I know, Pop. I know. Happy Father’s Day.
LH: Thanks again for visiting with me, Dion! I always enjoy our little DiJen projects.
DG: Thank you, Jen. You’re the best.
Now for the really good stuff: Dion Graham narrating Eric Jerome Dickey’s “Days Gone By:”
Today I’m featuring Dion Graham, but this isn’t the short recording being featured today during Summer Shorts. Check out the Going Public website, too!
About the Program
The audiobook community is giving back! Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.
Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will beavailable for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download. Full release schedule on the Speak Freely page.
ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation, advocates on behalf of adult learners and the programs that serve them, provides training and professional development, and publishes materials used in adult literacy and basic education instruction. ProLiteracy has 1,000 member programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and works with 52 nongovernmental organizations in 34 developing countries. Its publishing division, New Readers Press(NRP), has for more than 40 years provided educators with the instructional tools they need to teach adult students and older teens literacy skills for functioning in the world today. Materials are available in a variety of media, including the flagship publication, the weekly news source News for You, which delivers articles online with audio. Proceeds from sales of NRP materials support literacy programs in the U.S. and worldwide.
Summer Shorts ’14 is made possible by the efforts of the Spoken Freely narrators and many others who donated their time and energy to bring it to fruition. Post-production, marketing support and publication provided by Tantor Media. Graphic design provided by f power design. Project coordination and executive production provided by Xe Sands. Nonprofit partnership coordination provided by Karen White.
There’s even more tomorrow:
For the complete schedule, head over to the Going Public website.