Annemarie Anderson is SFA’s Oral Historian. Annemarie received a master’s degree in oral history from the University of Florida in 2017, as the first graduate of that program. She also earned her bachelor’s degrees in English and history from UF.

When did you collect your first story?

In 2014, as an undergraduate at the University of Florida, I applied to be a part of a summer oral history class. At the end of the semester, there were empty spots for a fieldwork trip that the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program had planned in the Mississippi Delta. Four days later, I got in a van with fifteen strangers and headed to Mississippi to interview Freedom Summer volunteers. I was hooked. I’m best at interviewing elderly ladies. I’m not really sure why, but they really open up to me.

In the era of “Look at me!” you’ve chosen work that elevates others and puts you in the background. What do you find satisfying in that kind of work?

I’m a steward of stories rather than a storyteller. My work exists because someone chose to share their life and their memories with me. Listening is hard and emotional. Connecting with strangers has transformed the way I see the world.

When you’re not collecting and processing oral histories, what are you reading, watching, and listening to?

Currently, I’m reading Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. I’m watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I’m always on the road, so I listen to lots of audiobooks. The last one I finished was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. (Ava and I listened to this one together on a trip to northwest Arkansas.) It was heartbreaking but good. My favorite audiobooks are the Harry Potter series narrated by Jim Dale. He is a mean impersonator of both Hagrid and Professor McGonagall.

What’s the best story you’ve ever told? 

The work I’m most proud of is my master’s thesis work. I collected fifteen interviews about African American life in the Florida Panhandle. Those interviews challenged me to think about the place I am from in a more nuanced way.

What Southern dish do you love? Loathe?

I love cheese grits. If I eat them in the morning, my day will be good. My least favorite food is baby lima beans. I hated them as a child, and I hate them now.