Jo Radner


NORWAY — What kinds of stories shaped New England identities in the 17th and 18th centuries? On November 24, at 11 a.m. at First Universalist Church of Norway, 479 Main Street, storyteller Jo Radner will give listeners a glimpse into that world in her performance of “Tangled Lives: Native People and English Settlers in Colonial New England.”

“Tangled Lives” blends and juxtaposes material from Abenaki and English tradition, tracing some of the intertwined threads in the relationships between English settlers and Native peoples as they struggled to control the Abenaki land of northern New England – land to which each group felt entitled, land on which different cultures clashed, mingled, and merged. Exploring questions of responsibility and justice, the stories reveal the way English and Native people in this region saw one another as defenders and trespassers, pursuers and refugees, relatives and aliens, kind neighbors and ruthless destroyers.

Radner presents stories gleaned from the written memoirs of two families who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 and migrated over time to settle the new English towns of Ipswich and Haverhill, Massachusetts, Penacook (Concord), New Hampshire, and finally Pequawket (Fryeburg), Maine. Because the stories relate to her own ancestors, Radner’s quest to understand colonial lives invites all listeners to consider how they and their relatives and neighbors are part of the history of northern New England.

Jo Radner received her Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before returning to her family home in western Maine as a freelance storyteller and oral historian, she spent 31 years as professor at American University in Washington, DC, teaching literature, folklore, women’s studies, American studies, Celtic studies, and storytelling. She has published books and articles in all those fields, and is now writing a book titled “Performing the Paper: Rural Self-Improvement in
Northern New England,” about a 19th-century village tradition of creating and performing handwritten literary newspapers. She is past president of the American Folklore Society and the National Storytelling Network.

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