We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachael Rifkin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachael, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
Connecting deeply with others and communities that take care of each other make me very happy. To me this is why we’re alive and how we should live.
Things and people who manage to be both adorable and quirky-smart-funny are also pretty high up there on the list. Oh and my family, friends and assorted animals are pretty cool too.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I became a personal historian, aka someone who helps people save their family and life stories and turn them into family keepsake books (some personal historians also offer video/audio recordings) so I could help other people experience what I had. The work is creative, fun, always interesting, and fulfilling.
The downside is pretty much nobody has heard of personal historians except other personal historians, so finding clients can be challenging, especially initially. You have to first explain what you do before you can try to sell someone your services. The best way to do both is to become well known in your community. For me that’s meant giving talks and workshops on the family storytelling and joining community organizations (that also align with my values) so I can get to know lots of people in my city.
Clients tend to be upper middle class and wealthier middle-aged women who hire you to interview their parents. Everyone deserves to have their family stories passed down though (not to mention it’s super problematic to continue the tradition of mainly just recording rich people’s stories!). The stories we leave behind become our collective legacy, so it’s important that our legacy reflects all of our diverse, rich lives.
To that end, for the last few years I’ve been getting back to my journalism roots by writing about the legacy I inherited from my family and the importance of sharing our family and life stories for publications. I also recreated eight photos of my relatives to get people thinking about the stories and traits we share with our ancestors, and am writing a book on how delving into our personal and collective histories is necessary in order to understand how we got to today, and then from there we can consciously create the future we want together.
Every so often I plan storytelling events for fun too. I’ve hosted a couple Human Libraries in Long Beach, created one called Common Ground (#4 on this list), and one about the meaningful connections people make in Long Beach. Right now I’m working on a spring event with the theme of connection.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There’s lots of great places in L.A., but I usually stick close to home because I love where I live. So visiting guests get a taste of Long Beach, and maybe a day trip to some famous L.A. place that they’ve seen in movies.
Favorite Long Beach restaurants:
The consistently yummy Wood and Salt Tavern, who took over a location with constantly changing restaurants with consistently eh food.
Hironori Craft Ramen is my favorite ramen place ever, ever. Everything on the menu is good. Everything!
This Korean restaurant that offers traditional and vegan dishes. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I’d get cravings for Sura’s bulgogi.
The DonerG Turkish & Mediterranean Grill is my go-to place when I want something healthy, fresh and delicious.
Favorite Long Beach places and things to do:
I always take out-of-towners to Hilltop Park in Signal Hill. You can see all the way from the Queen Mary to L.A. It’s also great for really hilly walks (there are walking groups that do six-mile loops every week).
Naples Canals for the waterbiking, paddleboarding, and Christmas lights sojourns and duffy boat rides.
The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at Cal State Long Beach. It’s gorgeous and there’s koi fish. So. Many. Koi fish.
Favorite thing about Long Beach: The people. They’re quirky, they’re artsy, they’re passionate about their community. I’ve lived in Southern California for most of my life and Long Beach is the first place that’s really felt like home.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My grandfather for saving his stories specifically to pass down to subsequent generations. It’s because of him that I found both a greater sense of purpose and new career.
My writing buddy and fellow Long Beach Literary Arts Center (LBLAC) board member Ruth Kogan for nominating me for the Shoutout series! LBLAC deserves recognition as well because it’s full of supportive people who are kind of the best. I also helped co-create the organization, so there’s that too.
Other: My newsletter Theory of Relative-ity (https://tinyurl.com/2adhe6hn) is about the similarities and traits that run in famous and not-so-famous families, and what we can learn from recognizing these patterns. In 2022, I will be doing IG Live interviews with people about the family traits, friends and other influences that made them who they are today.
Angela Park for pictures of me