As a child, Stacey Zembrzycki listened to her baba’s stories about Sudbury’s small but polarized Ukrainian community and about what it was like growing up ethnic during the Depression. According to Baba discloses with honesty and respect what happened when Stacey tried to capture the community's experiences through oral history research. Baba looms large in the narrative, wrestling authority in the interview process away from her granddaughter and then eventually coming to share it. Together, the two women lay the groundwork not only for an insightful and deeply personal social history of Sudbury’s Ukrainian community but also for truly collaborative oral history research and writing.
1 Building: Recreating Home and Community
2 Solidifying: Organized Ukrainian Life
3 Contesting: Confrontational Identities
4 Cultivating: Depression-Era Households
5 Remembering: Baba’s Sudbury
Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Index
According to Baba offers a highly original discussion of the challenges involved in “collaboration” and “shared authority” in research. It also provides a moving account of the struggles Ukrainian men, women, and families experienced in northern Ontario mining communities. Drawn from interviews and Stacey Zembrzycki’s intense discussions with her grandmother, this clearly written and engaging work will be welcomed by students from a range of disciplines and will certainly add to debates in history.
Julie Cruikshank, author of Life Lived Like a Story: Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders
The level of reflexivity and autocritique brought to the scholarship in According to Baba is rich and revealing, and much needed in the field of oral history. Works such as this are part of a project to move away from oral history as an imperial, colonizing project and to take it closer to the approach of our colleagues in ethnography.
Joy Parr, author of Sensing Changes: Technologies, Environments, and the Everyday, 1953-2003
This work is highly original from a methodological point of view – the kind of sharing of authority between the author and Baba is one not often discussed in the literature but frequently experienced in fieldwork. The narrative format is perfect: this is not just a history of Ukrainians in Sudbury but also, as all oral history ought to be, an account of the research leading up to it and of the author’s own involvement.
Alessandro Portelli, professor of American literature at the University of Roma–La Sapienza
Community studies inform us about social organization and general conditions, and this study does indeed show us how the community as a whole functioned. But Zembrzycki brilliantly organizes her book so that oral histories show us individual lives: the women who refused to talk about domestic violence but could not leave out all signs of it; women who gleaned a feeling of belonging by working with other women, often to raise money for the Catholic Church; octogenarians who fondly remembered themselves as teenagers going to dances and eating fried chicken sandwiches early in the morning; men who described the excessive heat in the mines that caused many to pass out.
This study is grounded in careful research in both written records and oral histories. It is also deeply personal and unforgettable.
Valerie Yow, Independent Scholar
Ontario History Review
“Who has not struggled to understand the older people in their lives,” asks Zembrzycki by way of her conclusion to this tremendously interesting and thoughtful book. This study provides a good, honest reckoning with an unusual research process. In this sense, it does all historians a service because it makes obvious those parents, grandparents, and other older people who almost invariably inspire – but almost never receive more than a passing mention – in the work of academic historians.
Karen Dubinsky, Queen's University
Canadian Historical Review