We bought this book for educators who took part in a Professional Development course through a partnership between Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and then the Pandemic hit, and so we only recently were able to get the book to those past participants because the Springfield Armory was closed up. (We also sort of forgot about the books).
And I finally, too, got my own copy of Campfire Stories: Tales from America’s National Parks, edited by Dave Kyu and Illysa Kyu, and how happy I was to immerse myself in the stories of Acadia, Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Zion, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks.
Each section opens with an introduction by the Kyus (a married couple) about the park and then they share the research they have done to surface stories of the places, collected from library archives, and oral storytellers, and interviews with Native American elders and more. The editors purposely avoided the dominant stories of these places — the official stories, crafted by park officials — in order to explore other narratives, many from the margins.
This approach – to spend time with forgotten voices — works very well, as the collection of short essays, stories, poems and more bring the reader into the spaces from different angles, always with the awe and inspiration that each of these National Parks bring. I was almost disappointed that they only were able to do this work for six parks, but what a collection of parks!
The Kyus also framed these as “campfire stories” — thus, the title — meaning they chose narratives that could, and maybe should, be read aloud. I know as I read the stories, I could hear the voices of the writers and oral storytellers, and poets, in my my mind. The editors chose their pieces wisely.
This book was a nice addition for me to the Write Out celebration from October, reminding us all how to explore our natural spaces, and our National Parks, through story, remembering that the dominant narratives we often hear and read about spaces is merely the surface of something deeper, and richer, and discovering those voices makes for a grand adventure.
Peace (in the wild),