1. Was my childhood a happy one? By the time I had grown and was a young girl, I knew that my heart was usually happy. But when I was a small child, I wasn’t aware enough of things to be able to think about whether I was happy or sad.
These are the last lines of Chapter 3, “Life in the Bush,” and they emphasizes the division of Nisa’s life into two parts: one made up of lived experience and the other of retrospective consideration of that experience. This passage reveals Nisa’s intricate understanding of what it means to tell a story. She demonstrates her own innate awareness that a storyteller does not merely relate events but also layers them with significance and meaning. This understanding is one of the things that makes Nisa such a compelling narrator and sets her apart from the other women Shostak interviews.
This phrase also demonstrates Nisa’s ability to structure her narration neatly and eloquently, in such a way that her transcribed interviews are compelling and effective as they stand. She knows what patterns can make a sentence or a passage moving and memorable. Here, beginning with a question signals a break from the previous section of narration and alerts the reader to a new idea or set of ideas. She follows this break with her answer, broken into two sections so as to provide the most specific and accurate answer possible. Moreover, she remembers her childhood well enough to be able to distinguish between different stages of it and to attach various emotional states to those stages. Specificity, precise language, attention to detail, and the ability to analyze events and feelings are all essential qualities of a good storyteller, and in this passage Nisa demonstrates her possession of each of these characteristics.