If I Live To Be 100
Lessons from the Centenarians
September 24, 2002
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". . . interviews changed her [the author] intent, her questions and herself."
". . . isn?t shy about letting the reader see both sides of longevity . . ."
"It is the author?s growth that engages the reader as she learns to listen . . ."
Neenah Ellis, author of If I Live To Be 100, Lessons from the Centenarians, wanted to interview hundred-year-old people to get an oral history of the twentieth century for a radio show. What she learned through her interviews changed her intent, her questions and herself.
Being a reporter, Ellis doesn’t try to hide from her mistakes in her early interviews. She also isn’t shy about letting the reader see both sides of longevity; the loneliness and pain as well as the hope and joy. We meet Roy Lankin Stamper, a born-again Christian who is 103 and still prays for another wife. We share Ellis’s excitement when after her first interview with him, she learns he has remarried. She introduces us to Ruth Ellis, the oldest living black lesbian who still remains socially active and independent. However, after staying a week with Ruth, Ellis and the reader learn of the agonizing pain Ruth is in and her desire to leave this world.
The interviews are all interesting, but not necessarily inspiring although as Ellis becomes attached to a Centenarian, so does the reader. It is the author’s growth that engages the reader as she learns to listen and realizes she can change her life now to live the kind of life she wants when she, too, becomes a Centenarian.