Interview: L. Kris Gowen

Interview: L. Kris Gowen

When and how did your journey with this book begin?

I did the one thing that could bring a smile to my face.

My book journey began with a literal one as I drove across the country to grieve the loss of my best friend. Karaoke is one thing that always brings me joy, so when Molly died, I did the one thing that could bring a smile to my face. I got in my car and drove across country, singing in all Lower 48 states. I kept a blog of my travels so friends and family could follow along, but when I came back, I knew my story wasn’t complete. That’s why I wrote the book. I wanted some sort of closure on my grieving process. While I miss her every day, I feel the karaoke road trip—and the publication of One Nation Under Song—helped me honor my friend and my feelings of loss like a rite of passage. I left one phase of my life and began a new one.

What is different and important about your book?

I was surprised to learn there aren’t many books about karaoke. Karaoke is popular—enough for it to exist in all fifty states—yet, with one exception (Karaoke Nights: An Ethnographic Rhapsody published in 2001), I couldn’t find any books on American karaoke culture. I think it’s important for people to know that karaoke is for everyone, not just those who aspire to be professional singers. Karaoke communities are strong and supportive. Science has shown that singing in a group releases endorphins and strengthens human bonds. My story shows that research in action. For me, singing was a powerful way to grieve and find compassion. I hope that people try karaoke after they read my book and feel a sense of community in a room full of strangers coming together to share their songs.

What advice or wisdom would you like to pass on to others?

Find your own quirky thing that makes you smile, and embrace it.

Find your own quirky thing that makes you smile, and embrace it. Then go to it—not just on special occasions, but often. Feel the joy that something simple can bring you and express gratitude for knowing how to make yourself happy. Also, allow yourself to grieve loss. American Western culture does a horrible job of giving people space to feel the anguish of loss. Break from that norm and breathe in sadness and despair. When you lose someone important to you, you don’t “get over it,” but you do find a different way of living and loving. Honor your own path through that.

About L. Kris Gowen

L. Kris Gowen, PhD, EdM, received her doctorate in Child and Adolescent Development from Stanford University and her Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is also the author of Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teen Guide, a book for youth. She lives in Portland, Oregon — despite her dislike of gray skies. Donna Summer and Olivia Newton-John are her favorite artists to sing.

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