Women of Valor


An Assignment

Barbara Myerhoff, 1935 - 1985

In the following quote, friend Deena Metzger relates a story Myerhoff often told:

"Many years ago, Barbara Myerhoff was teaching a class at the University of Southern California in urban anthropology. As part of the course, the students were required to interview someone very different from themselves, someone with whom they would not normally converse. One young man in the class, who had lived an unusually protected and insulated middle-class life, was having such great difficulty in finding a subject that he considered dropping the course. However, the day the paper was due, he arrived in the class ecstatic.

"'I was at my wit's end,' he said, 'when it occurred to me to interview our Guatemalan housekeeper. Naturally, I was very nervous because I had never really spoken to her, and it was rather late at night. But as I had to do the paper, I went to her room and knocked at her door. When I entered, I explained my need, asking if it would be a terrible nuisance for her to tell me something about her life. She looked at me strangely and my heart sank. After what seemed a very, very long time, she said quietly, 'Every night before I go to sleep, I rehearse the story of my life, just in case someone should ever ask me. Gracias a Dios'."

  1. Quoted in Deena Metzger, Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992) 255.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Barbara Myerhoff - An Assignment." (Viewed on April 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/myerhoff/assignment>.