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Library Matters is a podcast by Montgomery County Public Libraries exploring the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning.
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Now displaying: 2018

Library Matters is a podcast of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) in Montgomery County, MD. Each episode we explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning. Library Matters is hosted by Julie Dina, Outreach Associate, Lauren Martino, Children's Librarian at our Silver Spring branch, and David Payne, Branch Manager of our Davis branch and Acting Branch Manager of our Potomac branch.  

Nov 7, 2018

Listen to the audio

Julie:  Hi, I'm Julie Dina.  In this episode of Library Matters, we're doing something a little different.  For the past few months, MCPL has invited children ages 10 through 14 to explore literature by recording a video about a book they've enjoyed. 

We've collected some of these book talks to share with our Library Matters listeners.  We hope you enjoy the enthusiasm these young readers have expressed for their books and for reading as much as we have. 

You can see these and more of MCPL’s literary explorer videos on our YouTube channel mcplmd.  MCPL’s literary explorer program was made possible by grants from the NBC Universal Foundation and Washington's NBC 4 

Book Reviewer 1:  Welcome to Serenity, America's ideal community, ideal, I muttered, ideal for clones until they figure out what's going on.  That's when it dawns on me.  I haven't seen a single human so far, no parents, no Purples, no sign of life: Masterminds, a criminal destiny by Gordon Korman. 

After their escape from the Purples, the four clones reach the outside world.  However, their mission is not finished yet.  They must bring down Project Desirous for the faith they had created for them and the other six clones.  The 11th had probably died during the escape.  The mission brings them back to the heart Serenity. 

There, they might learn an awful truth about their cloning.  Masterminds is filled with creative strategies to get out of nearly impossible problems, mixed with twists and turns, showing kids can do unbelievable things.  They can inspire you to make an incredible act for the community, but be careful, you might inhale the book.  

Book Reviewer 2:  What? And you're taking me where? How could you do this to me? Today, we're going to talk about the book The Truth About Stacey by Raina Telgemeier.  Stacey has had a crazy year between babysitting her diabetes and moving, she has had her hands full. 

She joins the club with three other people named Christy, Claudia and Marian.  She realizes that keeping quiet has changed her life and that she will never do it again.  I love this book because it was serious, funny at the same time and it had a lot of cliffhangers that popped up at surprising moments.  Find out more, read the book The Truth About Stacey by Raina Telgemeier.  

Book Reviewer 3: Being a kid can really stink sometimes especially when you're in middle school.  But sometimes the experience of being a kid can really be exciting and funny.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid is written by Jeff Kinney. 

This book is about a kid named Greg Heffley, whose life is ruined by his family: his big brother Roderick, his dad Frank, his mom Susan and his little spoiled, most loved, trouble-proof brother Manny. 

The book is a diary that Greg’s mom got him, but it's not cool to have a diary.  So Greg says, this is really just a journal.  Greg writes in his journal every day about his life at school and at home.  He has light bulbs that go off inside his brain. 

Sometimes the books blow out or explode, but it’s not really light bulbs that go off inside his brain, but ideas that sometimes work and sometimes backfire.  I love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series by Jeff Kinney because it makes me feel good inside and makes me giggle too and other people should read this book because whenever they're frustrated, it will make them feel better.  

Book Reviewer 4:  Have you ever found out that your friend is half goat? Battled the Minotaur? Saw your mom disappear in golden light and be claimed by the sea god making you a demigod? Probably not unless you’re Percy Jackson. 

In the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson, along with Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood the satyr embarks on a quest to return the master lightning bolt to Zeus, king of the gods.  Along the way, Percy and his friends battle Medusa, play with the three-headed dog, travel to the underworld, escape Hades, God of the dead and battle Aries, god of war.  Will he and his friends save the world from a war? Find out in the Lightning Thief.  

Book Reviewer 5:  Hello, my name is Avi G, and today I'll be talking about Wonder written by R.J. Palacio.  This story is about a boy named Auggie with a facial difference.  Many kids think he looks weird and that he is horrible and ugly. 

Only his family is there to protect him including his sister Via and his two parents, then he enters school at Beecher Prep in fifth grade.  School is a huge challenge for him.  Will he be able to overcome this challenge and make new friends and fit in with his peers or will he have to quit school eventually? This story is wonderful.  It just shows how a boy called Auggie can face the world and show that he can actually fit in. 

When seventh graders bully him and hurt him, he doesn't cry and stays strong and his friends help him deal with the bully.  Read this touching story about Auggie as he makes new friends and proves himself to be ordinary.  

Book Reviewer 6:  Hi, my name is Elise, and I'm here at the Olney Public Library recommending this book called Awkward.  Awkward is one of my favorite books because they include so many details about characters and different stories brought into life. 

And then also there's different comic strips on every page and the reason that I love this book is the characters go super well together but then there's also the bad times and it makes you super anxious to go to the next page, so you’ll just want to keep reading on and on and on about it. 

A good thing about this book is that there's an adventure on every page.  So each time you open up the book, there's always going to be something new to look forward to.  I love this book because it's just super fun and creative and it's just really cool.  

Book Reviewer 7:  Have you ever wondered what it's like to be as fast as a cheetah, strong as an elephant, heal like a starfish, climb like a lizard or have echolocation like a bat.  Well, in the book Going Wild by Lisa McMann, Charlie Wilde has all those powers.  Thanks to her bracelet she accidentally found. 

Charlie first discovered her powers playing her favorite sport, soccer.  She sprinted 70 miles per hour across the field, dodging everyone in her way except her enemy Kelly.  Kelly collided with Charlie and her foot smashed into Charlie's leg.  But Charlie barely felt a thing because of her activated bracelet.  Charlie is even more adventurous different than this one.  Find out by reading this action packed page turner.  

Book Reviewer 8:  How does it feel to go from being a rich, wealthy princess like girl to a poor, orphan servant.  This is the classic story The Little Princess by Frances Burnett.  It is a story of a girl named Sara Crewe whose life goes downward after she learns that her father has died and has left her without any money. 

This is a story set in England in a boarding school which Sara attends and she is living the life of a princess.  Once her dad dies, she ends up as a servant living in the attic.  Even when she's starving and freezing, she uses her imagination and determination to survive. 

Though this book was written in 1905, the themes are still very relevant today.  A true princess is not just wealth or money, but the richness in your heart, being kind, strong and persevering.  This is the classic timeless book that you will enjoy and love reading.  

Book Reviewer 9:  If you go to middle school, maybe you will agree with this book and if you go to middle school next year, maybe this will help you to survive a rough year.  My name is Sean and I would like to introduce a book named Middle School:  The Worst Years of My Life. 

Rafe K is going to sixth grade and what he got the first day was getting a new boy named Miller and having a long speech by the principal and getting a rule book and reading it slowly and then a really good idea came to him. 

Something may have changed the whole year.  It's that he breaks all the rules trying not to keep the rule three times and he named that Operation RAFE, which stands for rules aren't for everyone.  Will he win this game and survive this year with Miller and the teachers? Read the story to find out if he won or lost.  

Book Reviewer 10:  What happens when seven different students with nothing in common wind up in the same class with Mr. Terupt teacher magic.  This book is because Mr. Terupt, a realistic fiction story by Rob Buyea, Peter, Alexia, Luke, Jeffrey, Anna, Danielle and Jessica land in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class. 

They're completely different and have never gotten along.  That is not until Mr. Terupt brings them all together.  But it isn't until he's gone that everyone and everything really begin to change.  This is a great book because you can see how the characters learn and grow and how Mr. Terupt in that one amazing school year changes their lives forever. 

Julie:  We hope you enjoy these engaging book talks.  We're so glad these young readers shared their enthusiasm for their books with us.  You can find all these books in MCPL’s catalog. 

Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast.  We will love to know what you think. 

Nov 6, 2018

Summary: As part of our Literary Explorers series, kids ages 10-14 came to MCPL branches to record video book talks about books they've enjoyed. We've collected the audio from 10 of these recordings to share with our Library Matters listeners.

Book talks are brief summaries/reviews designed to convince others to read the book being described. You can see videos of these and other Literary Explorer book talks on our YouTube channel, mcplmd. The Literary Explorer program was made possible by a grant from the NBC Foundation and Washington's NBC 4. 

Host: Julie Dina

Books Loved in this Episode:
(In order of appearance)

Masterminds by Gordon Korman  

The Truth About Stacey by Ann M. Martin

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Going Wild by Lisa McMann

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson 

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Read the transcript

Oct 24, 2018

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David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters; video host David Payne.

Lauren Martino:  And I'm Lauren Martino.

David:  And today we are going to be talking about trees, not the ones with leaves on, but of the family variety.  And genealogy is our subject for today’s episode, and we are delighted to welcome two of our avid MCPL staffers who are going to share their genealogical experiences with us.  I, first of all, welcome Adrienne Miles-Holderbaum.

Adrienne Miles-Holderbaum:  Thank you.

David:  Adrienne is Senior Librarian at our Germantown branch.  Also I'm very pleased to welcome to today’s episode, Carol Reddan who is Library Associate at Olney.  Welcome Carol.

Carol Reddan:  Thank you.

David:  And you are both very dedicated, passionate, and experienced genealogists and we are very pleased to have you share your experience with us.

Carol:  I’ll take it.

David:  Well compared to some of us. Anyway let’s start by asking you both basically what is genealogy.  Let me start with you, Carol.

Carol:  What is genealogy?  Well, I had to look that up and a basic good definition is the study of the ancestral lines and that’s what I'm going to go with.

David:  We’ll take it.

Carol:  Okay.  All right.

Adrienne:  Yeah.  I looked it up and Merriam-Webster says it’s an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms and it’s a study of family ancestral lines.  I think everyone comes from somewhere and everyone has roots.  We just didn’t appear out of nowhere and that’s why it’s fascinating.

David:  Right.  That covers everything.

Lauren:  So what got you two interested in genealogy to begin with?  Let’s start with Carol.

Carol:  Just curiosity and I like detective work and it’s the ultimate puzzle, detective puzzle.  And everybody is always, “Where am I from?  What is my line?” And when you get real philosophical, you realize we all had to start from one point and then break apart and you get in that real chicken or egg kind of a mode and you just want to keep going further.  It’s just basic downright human curiosity.

Adrienne:  So for me it’s a little personal.  My father didn’t know his biological parents.  He was a fostered child in New York City and he always wondered who his parents were and he would always talk about it with us.  So it’s a natural interest that I’ve already – always had.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to know.

So I think that also kind of guided me to become a librarian because I’ve only been doing research for so long on this topic and just wondering like how we get to where we are, in general.  So that was very influential.  And I'm interested in genealogy.  Also I really enjoy Henry Louis Gates.  He is an author and he has the show in PBS called Finding Your Roots and I watch every episode.  It’s fascinating to me to find about history and about people and I just – it’s just – I find it infinitely interesting.

Also as an African-American, I’ve always wondered about my roots because a lot of our roots are kind of missing due to the Transatlantic slave trade.  Even my last name I’ve always known it wasn’t my last name, for other reasons, my dad was a fostered kid, but also because a lot of African-Americans, our last names aren’t like blood-related.  So immigrants from other countries also have changed their last name to anglicize them.

So I think it’s not just African-Americans and I have that curiosity, but I’ve always wondered like, ‘where does my name come from, where does this come from,’ so that kind of stemmed my interest in genealogy.

David:  So the fun fact, USA today found that genealogy is the second-most popular hobby in the country after gardening, and the second-most visited category of website after pornography.  Why do you think that genealogy has become so popular?  I’ll start with you, Adrienne.

Adrienne:  I guess it goes back to familial origins.  Everyone has them, even if you don’t know them like in my father’s case we'd all have it no matter what.  Like I said earlier, no one just placed here like out of nowhere, we don’t just come here.  So I think it’s fun, it’s interesting.

David:  And rewarding.

Adrienne:  And rewarding, right, rewarding and it’s time-consuming but rewarding and it’s – I think it’s a skill that anyone can develop if you have the patience and the interest.

Carol:  Yeah, I would concur, I think everybody is curious about where they are from, but I just think the influx of DNA, DNA testing and now it’s so easy and it’s advertised and it’s publicized and it’s very easy now.  Price keeps coming down to just send in a sample and find out your DNA and start that search.  So it’s easy.  It’s more accessible now to start it sort of as a hobby.  But, yeah, you do have to be careful because it can’t be a hobby or it can really like overturn your life and I have those stories too.

David:  Presumably you talked about accessibility.  Presumably the availability of electronic resources...

Carol:  Well, that end – to just send away for a kit now, I did ancestry like four years ago and it was like $150.  Just like when you bought a toaster in 1950, it was a certain price.  And what is a toaster?  $12.99 on sale.  And the cost of these kits keeps going down.  They have specials.  So it’s making it easier for more people to do and more and more people are doing it, which is why I keep getting updates on the ancestry why my apparently ancestry keeps changing because they have more people to match it against, because more people are doing it.

Adrienne:  What’s interesting is my father did it in 2006.  He did like ancestry – I don’t remember what DNA website he used, but it was expensive, but also it wasn’t very specific.  It was like very general.  It was like 50% European, 50% Sub-Saharan African.  So he is like, okay, now it’s like super detail.  The sample size is larger.  So they have more I guess DNA to pull from.  So it’s like so different, so…

Carol:  But even still be aware because there are commercialists.  I always thought I was German.  Now I got my results back and I have to buy kilt. Keep the lederhosen because it happened to me.  It happened to me because I get updates and if you go and get a tattoo, you might be in trouble with the Viking tattoo.

Lauren:  So Adrienne, you’ve been doing genealogy research for a while now.  How is it different now than a DNA testing as so readily available from when you began?

Adrienne:  Sure.  I feel like it’s easier.  I’ve been getting – so the website I used, we entered our email addresses and then you can also be contacted.  So I’ve been contacted from like distant cousins and I’ve contacted distant cousins and we were like, “Are we really related?” How are we related?  What does it mean?” And I don’t know how accurate or what it even means or if it means anything.  But I definitely think it’s the world is smaller and we are more accessible, so the information is more accessible and you are more -- yeah.

Lauren:  You are making connections with people whereas before you just might just know them as a name in a book.

Adrienne:  Right, right, but if you have like names or last names like familial names that you are aware of, it is interesting to kind of contact those people with the last names who are matching and really figure out the common ancestor.  I’ve done that with like one person in particular.

Lauren:  I love doing that.

Adrienne:  Yeah.

Carol:  That’s the best way to do.  It is to find a match and then to try to go up the trees and it’s like a little puzzle to find the point where you connect and it is changing a lot because I’ll get updates all the time.  I’ve done 23andMe and Ancestry and I get updates on both of them all the time and Ancestry particularly it just gets easier and easier.  The more people do it, more people upload pictures like just you think you will never see a picture of your great, great, great grandfather, you might.  And that’s like when you hit pay dirt.  That’s like when you see a picture of these people.  That’s the best.  So distant cousins are uploading military records, pictures, family – all kinds of content.

Lauren:  Wow! It is exciting.  So did you find a lot of difference between like the two, you said you use like 23andMe and Ancestry?  Did they agree with each other or?

Carol:  No, of course not.

Lauren:  Not?

Carol:  The DNA part of it I don’t really want to focus on so much because you just – for me being 99.4% European, so for a European, Europe was a mess for so many years and I'm the commercial where I always thought I'm just German and Irish, German and Irish, pretty straightforward, but I did ancestry three years ago and it said 29% Scandinavian, 25% Italian-Greece, 24% Irish, Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish and I was like, oh, I'm way more exotic than I ever thought and I was getting into it and loving it.

But then the update comes and you go full circle and it’s like right back where I started from, German and Irish.  Yeah, so I take it with a grain of salt and what the DNA is telling you is who your DNA matches people where they are living today.  It doesn’t tell you, oh, this is matching people from the past.  And the thing about people is they have always moved around a lot.  So my DNA tells me what my DNA looks like to people related today.

But my ancestors, if I go up family trees, I have ancestors in Switzerland in the 1500s.  I know they were there at that point.  I don’t know where they were in the 5th century, the 6th century, the 7th century and all that’s impacting your DNA.  So I suspect in a couple of months I could have a new update saying something even yet more different, so that I take with the grain of salt.  I put more importance on the family trees and oral history and how those combined.  That’s what means more to me.  I know it’s kind of fun to say, oh, I'm this, I'm that, but, hmm, you are just a mud.

Adrienne:  Yeah, and I feel it the same way.  I think one interesting thing is my dad did his DNA and he is like 42% Iberian Peninsula which is Spain and I'm less than 2%, but I know I'm his daughter.  So what genes did I get?  So it’s just – it’s like if I really was just to go by my DNA, it wouldn’t really tell a story.

Carol:  And the other part of that is every time every person is a card deck shuffle of genes.  So I always think about Queen Elizabeth and Norman the Conqueror and he is supposed to be like 26th great grandfather, but really if you were to extract DNA from him and her DNA, I wonder if they would match on any segments because a first cousin you should match 12 to 14%.  A second cousin 6%, a third great grandparent like 12%, so it’s diluting, diluting, diluting, but yet like I saw that picture, my great, great grandfather and I swear we look like him.  It’s spooky and creepy and great.

David:  Well, you both talked a little bit about resources.  Let me ask you both, ‘what MCPL resources would you recommend for genealogy?’ Actually I should mention for our listeners that any O and O resources that we mention in today’s episode can be found in the show notes for today’s program.  So, Adrienne, let me ask you.

Adrienne:  Sure, Heritage Quest is a database that has census records, the US Freedman’s bank records from 1865 to 1871, Revolutionary War era pension and Bounty Land Warrant application files and you can search, find information on people and places describe 28,000 family and local histories via Heritage Quest.  We also have newspaper databases for arbitrary research and that’s pretty popular.

A lot of customers come in looking for a specific arbitraries of family members.  We have links to Legacy.com, the Social Security Death Index and we have vital records all on our database, on our lib guide.  So, yeah, that’s our – and then a librarian to show you these resources.  So I think those are pretty awesome resources and I know Carol has some books that she recommends.

Carol:  Yeah, I do have some books that I really, really liked.  First one is, you mentioned Henry Louis Gates Jr who does the PBS series and he wrote a book Finding Your Roots, and this book goes into several celebrities in-depth.  Robert Downey Jr, Kevin Bacon, it’s just interesting to see their -- to a certain degree, and it absolutely proves it – How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Denise May Levenick, some helpful points on keeping, archiving and keeping keepsakes.

Also Genealogy for Dummies, Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm always your good basic guide and AARP Genealogy Online, Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm again, was also very helpful.  But the other one I do want to mention which is fairly new, Adam Rutherford, a brief history of everyone who ever lived.  This is more like a critique.  It gives you – he is a geneticist and it gives you the real low-down on what DNA testing is good for, what it’s not good for, we over-promise, we over-expect and it’s pretty realistic and it’s very, very interesting.

Adrienne:  I think also we have a link to the Montgomery County Historical Society on our website and that’s good for local history.  If you are doing local genealogy research you could use their resources also, so.

Lauren:  In addition to MCPL’s resources, do you have any other sources of information that have been helpful to you or you think might be helpful to other people that are beginning genealogy research?

Adrienne:  The Ancestry.com which I think is the most popular website that people use for genealogical research.  I have only used it like  I haven’t really got in-depth.  I don’t know, Carol you use it.

Carol:  I have been using it.  So I did Ancestry and right now I have a subscription.  So I will pay extra for a few months while I really delve deeply into family records or whatnot.  And so it’s giving me access to just a zillion databases, military records, most importantly the family trees that other members have compiled and you can easily go up those and then the content that they’ve added on their family trees, they’ve done all the research for you basically.  Newspaper clippings, wedding photos, graves, pictures of grave sights and things like that, so the thing I found most valuable is the family tree access that Ancestry offers.

Adrienne:  I would agree.  I have a cousin doing research and he gave me access to his the family tree via his account and I was amazed, but he has found another…

Carol:  Right.  One thing about 23andMe that I like though is that when it gives you your match list, when you send in your DNA and the company comes back and they tell you your ancestry or whatnot, they will also give you DNA matches which typically can be like a thousand people who've also done that service.

So these are like your distant cousins, it will hierarchy it.  Like it will have the people who you are most closely related to on down to, you know, that you share 15% DNA within 10 segments down to 5th or greater cousins and you share like a little half segment percent of DNA.  And it's fun to go and click on these distant cousins and 23andMe lets you bring up both charts and they will overlap and show you exactly what chromosome you are related to that cousin on.

And then you can block out like I have Jewish ancestry.  So I have cousins who I can put our charts together and I can see that we are related on the 10th chromosome which is where my Jewish ancestry is.  So that tell me I'm related to, it’s a Jewish ancestor we have in common.  So then I can go on Ancestry that website and look up the family trees and I'm looking, trying to find the Jewish ancestor.

Adrienne:  That’s so cool.  The Family Tree DNA is the site that I used for my DNA, I guess, my DNA results.  But – so it’s similar for that website but there is also a site called GEDmatch.com where you can upload your raw autosomal data and then it combines different – anyone who uses it, so anyone can download their raw autosomal data from any of the other websites like Ancestry.com or Family Tree DNA or whatever and then…

Lauren:  So raw what data?

Adrienne:  Raw autosomal, I hope I'm pronouncing that right.

Lauren:  What does that mean exactly?

Adrienne:  Okay.  Let me find out.

Carol:  And while Adrienne is looking, I’ll just want to bring up a point about people when you get results from Ancestry and 23andME or private companies who just swear they are not going to share your information and I believe them, I believe them, but many people and I’ve done it, you upload your DNA to this public site which now is just billowing out with tons of DNA, but it’s awesome because this is the way they are catching a lot of – catching cold cases and…

Adrienne:  And we talked about that…

Carol:  This is a huge breakthrough for crime solving.  It’s like combining genealogy with forensics.  They go and you take the DNA from a crime scene and they’ll upload it to the public database and they’ll get a hit and you might have a person’s fourth or fifth cousin, but they’ll – but then they will give it to a genealogist or better if you can be both the genealogist and the forensic crime expert.

Lauren:  So everyone leave librarianship.

Carol:  Well, my dream job, but then they work it back and they are starting to solve a lot of cases like that.

Adrienne:  So autosomal DNA is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes.  An autosome is any of the numbered chromosomes as opposed to the sex chromosomes.  So humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes, X chromosome and the Y chromosome.

Lauren:  So it’s basically just the DNA data?

Adrienne:  Yeah, it’s just your raw data.

Lauren:  Okay.

Adrienne:  I'm not a geneticist, but I know I had to upload that.

Lauren:  It sounds good to me.

Adrienne:  To GEDmatch.com, which is really helpful if you are doing genealogy research because it broadens the pool.  So not just people have used Ancestry.com, other websites they’ve used.  If they’ve used GEDmatch and they’ve uploaded their data, you can like access it.  It's like open-source DNA.

Lauren:  Open-source DNA, public domain.

Adrienne:  Public domain.  There is also a website called Geni.com like Geni.com, like genealogy, not spelt that way, but Geni.com another librarian told me about it and she has done a lot of family research with that.  It’s also an open site.  It’s free, so Ancestry does cost money, but Geni.com is free.  So that’s another barrier for Ancestry.  You have to do monthly or yearly fee for it.

There is also Facebook genealogical groups that people are members of.  There is also an old school message boards for different surnames that you can join.  So people with your surname or if you are doing research for someone in your family that surname you can join the message board.  Also YouTube has videos.

Lauren:  YouTube?

Adrienne:  Yeah, so there is like videos and like how to conduct your family, like I just did a research and I found a bunch of stuff and people like it and it has a lot of views.  So you can also use YouTube to do your research to know how to do your research rather, if you don’t come to a librarian, you can go to YouTube.

Lauren:  You mentioned a while back just like the patience involved.  I think that that’s sort of preventing me from starting on any kind of journey like this, because just the scariness of the sheer amount of research all of this requires, do you have any tips for beginners like kind of where to start, what kind of resources probably the first go to?

Carol:  I would say the first is the census records and it does take tenacity and will power to stick through it.  But when you find something out that’s so gratifying, it makes it so worth it.  So census, I’ll give you a little family story and how I solved and how difficult and time-consuming it can be to solve it.  So my mother always told me when she was little, she would visit her grandmother, so my great maternal great grandmother, and in her room she had a picture of a really pretty young girl that she would look at and cry.

And it was her niece who she loved very much and she had passed away in the flu pandemic in 1918 and she would get teary-eyed every time she looked at this picture.  So I was, “What’s her name?” I just lost the history.  She doesn’t even know where the picture is.  And so I was like always curious about what her name was, and my great grandmother loved her and everything.  So I started with census records.  And it is just excruciating.

My great grandmother's name was Laura Hollenbaugh who was born in 1875 and she married a McDorman [Ph] [00:21:47].  So Laura Hollenbaugh was one of like eight kids which was really common.  In Pennsylvania you have eight or nine kids and it’s a real problem when these things come through the woman, and to follow census records through the woman because of all the name changes.

So I wanted to find out who this relative who died in the flu pandemic was, and I know that it’s my great grandmother's niece.  So I go through my great grandmother all her brothers who carry that last name and I go through all the census records, and then some of them are -- 1900 is a mess because of a fire, and da, da, da, da, da, and you just have to like stick with it.  The handwritings faint and light and messy, but it didn’t appear it could have been any of the brothers.

None of them had a daughter that would have been the right age around 1918.  So then I had to go to the women, her sisters and you start going through and – but I hit pay dirt, Mable Ployer.  She was actually 40 in 1918 and I saw her church death record, the actual death record signed by the doctor.  She reported feeling ill on October 1st, 1918, and so she died on October 9th.  All the church records for October and November influenza, influenza, influenza and it was Mable Ployer.

She was my great grandmother’s niece, but they were peers.  They were like the same age because she was the daughter of my great grandmother’s older sister who was like 18 years older than my great grandmother.  So I know her name, but I know I need the picture.  I need that picture.

Adrienne:  I would say talk to family members to get names from your oldest family members, so your grandparents or great aunt or someone that is, that might have the memory of someone that was older than them.  So like my grandmother, her grandmother, like so you can go back as far as you can and get family names.  I think that’s a good way to start.  And then I would say then I would look in the census once I have the names and like have the rough dates and locations, like places, because when you look up census, you need to know the dates, you need to know roughly the area or the state where they were from.  So I think that’s important to get oral histories from older people.

David:  So presumable assemble as much information possible…

Adrienne:  Exactly, exactly, I think that’s so important to get that first.

Lauren:  Yeah.  When you do a search in any of these databases and they have their charts to fill out; fill out as much as you possibly can, because then – otherwise you will be getting hits of just tons of non-applicable data.

Adrienne:  Right.  And you can also -- they spell things differently in the census records.  Sometimes it was like a neighbor – it looked like the person wasn’t there.  The neighbor is like, oh, that’s so and so and so like the names, the spellings can be off even the years can be off.  For me the race could be off because when I look to like some – the one year my family was Mulatto, then they were black, then they were Mulatto.

So it’s really like – it’s kind of tricky even when you have the census data.  So I would say start with oral history from your family and get the names, get the dates, get the places, and also vital records after you have the information.  The birth records, the marriage, death certificates, census, use the library.  And also be prepared for the emotional reaction because you may not have one, but someone in your family may have one about something you discover.

So just be aware of that.  Not everyone is excited.  So just be aware of that.  Not everyone will have the same excitement you have or the same curiosity.  They may say you don’t want to know that or I don’t want to know that.  So just be prepared for that too because I think that’s something I wasn’t really prepared for when I did the research.

Lauren:  Do you have any examples or any stories?

Adrienne:  Sure.

Lauren:  That you would be willing to share it or…?

Adrienne:  No, my father, so I mentioned my father not knowing his birth family.  I actually found his maternal, his mom and her family and he was kind of like curious but then said he didn’t want to know, but then he found out and it was just so much – there are so many different emotions and she actually passed right before we found the family and ironically I was able to find the family based on obituary.

So I had been doing research for a long time and just couldn’t quite connect all the dots and then I found her obituary and she passed away in 2015 and then I found like all the family names and part of her story, most of her story and then I was able to find her living relatives through Facebook.  My brother did and so we were contacting people and we got some really interesting responses from some of our family.

They were – there was one person who was barely – didn’t want to talk to us and then there was one person who was so wonderful and he is the one that connected us with everyone else.  So we got some different, some pushback, what’s your aim, why are you contacting us, so, yeah, you just have to be careful with that, but it turned out they are really lovely people.

Carol:  So my story is my rocking chair I have in my house now, my little rocking chair that I got many years ago when I just needed stuff to fill a place in my – this had been in my parent’s basement just kind of, I mean, not treated mean or anything, but it was just sitting in the basement and I was like, oh, I’ll take that and it was this little rocking chair covered in, a trillion tons of paint.

Any my father was hesitating.  He was like, “Well, yeah, okay, but…” And I think I had heard the story before.  It belonged to his great, great grandmother, my third great grandmother Sarah Bush and Sarah was – lived in Northeastern Pennsylvania like Schuylkill County, and she would rock in the rocking chair and wait and worry for her husband to come home from the Civil War.  It was her worry rocking chair and he never did.

He died at Gettysburg.  Benjamin Bush died at Gettysburg.  I was like, oh, that’s sad.  But I took the chair and we like sanded all the layers of paint off of it and refinished it, and it’s really more decorative.  I don’t really want to challenge it by sitting in it.  It’s just to look at, put a stuffed animal on.  But I would always go to Gettysburg like in the ‘80s and early ‘90s before all of this, and we tried to use the research tools they had at the time because suppose Benjamin Bush was buried at Gettysburg and we just came up and did nothing, nothing, nothing.

So I joined Ancestry.  So I start plugging in everything I know about Sarah Bush, her rough dates of birth and the family, and I start plugging it in and you start going up the family trees and I see that Sarah Bush was married to Benjamin Bush.  Sarah Bush died in 1914; she was born in 1816.  Benjamin Bush died in 1911, but they are buried together in Art Cemetery in Hegins, PA.  And I'm like, oh, I thought he was buried at Gettysburg.

Now you go up the family tree.  Sarah had a first husband Immanuel Moyer who is actually my great, great, great grandfather and he died in 1864 at the Cold Harbor Battle in New Kent County, Virginia and it makes me so sad because no one remembers him.  She was only married to him for like eight years but they had four kids together and then she married Benjamin Bush like in 1867 a couple of years after the Civil War was over and he did die.

So family history kind of had some correct things.  She was waiting for her husband.  She was rocking in the chair, but it was her first husband Immanuel.  He didn’t die at Gettysburg.  He died at Cold Harbor and he – we also didn’t know he was listed in American Civil War Jewish veterans, which was something we never knew or anything.  So I tell all this.  I think this is fascinating.  I think this is awesome.  I'm like, “Hey, it’s not Benjamin Bush.  It’s Immanuel Moyer.  And don’t you know this?”

And my dad was like no, whatever.  And I'm telling my cousins.  They are like, “So?” And I'm like, “Doesn’t this mean I figured this out?  I figured this out.  This person is who you are related to.” And they are like, “Yeah, whatever.”

Lauren:  They don’t want their family legends.

Carol:  I’ve done all of this work for them.

David:  But it was rewarding for you.

Carol:  Yeah, totally gratifying.  The picture would just be like, ‘oh my gosh!’ So now you talked about history in a way weaving history with this research.  So now I'm like all about the Cold Harbor Battle, the Overland Campaign, we went down to New Kent County.  It’s very close to Williamsburg and I went into the Resource Center there and I'm showing the man who worked there, I'm showing him the park range or whatnot, see, he died June 21, 1864.

He was like, “Well, that’s wrong.  That’s impossible.” But I'm showing him the actual military record on my phone.  He was like, “No, because this battle ended June 10th.” I'm like, “Well, this says June 21.” And also the family story was that it was kind of mean.  They said, “Oh, yeah, he was on picket duty and he stuck his head out and got himself shot like it’s his fault.” Like give him a break.  Blame the victim.

But he had just been promoted to sergeant a week before and then – so the man at the station started doing some looking into his computer.  He was like, “What do you know?  You learn something every day.” And he found out there was skirmishing.  Some people had to stay behind and there were little outbreaks of rebellion and he like even made it through Cold Harbor Battle proper, but in the skirmishing, he was shot like in little rebellions like a couple of weeks later.  It makes me really sad.

Lauren:  So are there some groups of people that’s easier to find out information about than others, because if you’ve lived in the same place forever and ever and ever and you’ve got county records that go back forever and ever and ever, that’s one thing.  But if your ancestors came from another country, there are some special challenges if your ancestors came over in a slave boat, so there are some special challenges.  Do you know any research strategies for people that are kind of running up against it, because they don’t fit the common mold of people doing genealogical research?

Adrienne:  Yeah, definitely.  As someone who is African-American, so my descendance, in any descendance, even if you are in like the Caribbean or South America descendance of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade have a lot of difficulty due to slavery and we talked about that a little bit earlier that in the US it’s specific to the year 1790 to 1860, which was right before the Civil War.  An awesome resource.  Actually there is a PowerPoint from the national archives that has a guide to doing research for African-Americans, which is awesome, I’ve used it. 

And we can link to it in the show notes because I can send it and make it available to everyone.  So it says and I'm going to quote it, it says, "Some aspects of African-Americans in the census differs from that of other groups, particularly before 1870.  This is due to the enslaved status of the majority of the black population, and the legal marginalization of those who are free prior to the 1870 census.  Even after 1870, the census often undercounted the black population."

So it talks also about after 1870, so after the Civil War, this is – it’s the first time a list of all the African-Americans by name is provided, and it’s the first official record for a lot of families and the surnames in there usually, of former slaves, from their slave owners, and that’s the case for my family.  So I was able to do research on my dad’s side back to 1870 and that census is when I first see the last name, the family last name and it’s actually mills not miles.

So it was pretty interesting.  And then problems for all groups, so there might be hard for all eight groups if you have the wrong ages, if you use Geni.com or Ancestry.com, someone else might have done research, but it was incorrect and then you are using that research to do your own research, so then it just keeps going and going.

Lauren:  So you have to take it with…

Adrienne:  Exactly and mistyped names, the wrong ancestor, so you just have to be really careful and really – some of them might not be accurate but you just keep doing your research and try to connect the dots and you would see what makes sense and what – how does the story, how is the story really told and find out.

David:  Well, you both regaled us with some great stories.  Let me ask you about all the research and all the wonderful things you’ve come up with.  What’s the most interesting thing that you found out doing genealogical research?  Let me start with you, Carol?

Carol:  I uncovered a murder February 1922.  Everyone has that – if you look long enough, the things you find, so this was – I found this through Ancestry where in certain family trees, they’ve posted these articles, so apparently in 1922 my paternal grandfather’s cousin Lloyd Smith shot his father John Smith who owned a dairy farm outside of Harrisburg.  So that was the story.  That’s what he was tried for murdering his father.

His defense was that it wasn’t him, auto bandits did it.  So Harrisburg put him on trial and it was a fairly big sensation in Harrisburg.  The newspapers talk about like 200 people being – coming to watch the courtroom trials or whatnot, and I found pictures of the grieving widow with her youngest son, and he was acquitted and the courtroom, the newspaper articles referenced the courtroom erupted in cheers; they were very happy he got off because apparently his father John Elias was some known to be like a jerk or whatnot.  And even his mother was very, very happy he got off.  They hugged and he came back to live on the family farm and he lived until 1966.

David:  We typically close each episode by asking, I guess, what they are currently reading.  So let me ask Adrienne.

Adrienne:  Sure.  What am I reading right now?  When do I have time to read?  So I'm trying to read The Wife by Alafair Burke.  I'm also reading lots of organizational books for home.  I like design books just because I like looking at interior design, but also as a new mom to two and I work full time, I'm super busy, so I'm obsessed with organization.  So there is a couple of – yeah, right, anything to hack my life, so the Modern Organic Home by Natalie Weiss, Mad about the House: How to decorate your home with style by Kate Watson-Smyth and she is a blogger, a British blogger.

Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster and Loving Your Home Every Day by Melissa Maker and she is a professional cleaner and she provides her tip and I'm like I want to know.  And then also I'm reading another kind of organizational books for work.  So I'm reading about organization like management, so The Nordstrom Way: The Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Company by Robert Spector.  It’s an older book, but it has a lot of good tenets about good customer service.

And then another book called Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus.  So I'm obsessed with home and work like making both better, so, yeah.  That’s what I'm reading.

David:  It sounds like you will be organized.

Adrienne:  Yes, hopefully.

David:  Carol?

Carol:  I'm reading Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan and I'm reading this.  I had read it a couple of years ago.  So technically I'm rereading it.  We are going to have a nonfiction book club at Olney on October 24.  This is the book we will be discussing.  So it’s by Debbie Nathan and it sort of dissects the whole Sybil explosion.  If you remember in the mid ‘70’s, a book came out Sybil and the woman who had 26 personalities and about her doctor and…

Lauren:  It was a movie too, right?

Carol:  It was a miniseries with Sally Field that won many awards and it was an explosive book and everyone thought they had multi-personalities and they were starting to be diagnosed with the whole little explosion.  Well, Debbie Nathan goes into it and she does the book about Sybil whose real name was Shirley Mason, her doctor, and Flora Schreiber who wrote the book and the psychiatrist was Cornelia Wilbur and how Sybil really probably never had those personalities.

She just wanted to please her psychiatrist who just wanted to be famous and Flora Schreiber just wanted to hit book.  So one thing led to another.  Basically Sybil just had a few problems, but it just exploded into some movement.

Lauren:  It’s kind of true crimey, right.

Carol:  Not true crime, but you can make this stuff up.

Lauren:  Thank you so much Carol and Adrienne for joining us today and sharing your family stories.  Please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the app of podcast app Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts.  Also please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts; we'd love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

[End of audio]

Oct 23, 2018

Summary: Genealogy enthusiasts Adrienne Miles Holderbaum and Carol Reddan share their love of researching family history and talk about the resources available at MCPL and elsewhere to help you learn more about your own family's history.

Recording Date: October 10, 2018

Guests:

Adrienne Miles Holderbaum: Senior Librarian at Germantown Library and co-producer of Library Matters. Adrienne was a guest on the Library Matters' pregnancy episode, #30 - Baby on Board, Resources for New & Expectant Parents.  

Carol Reddan: Library Associate at Olney Library. Carol was a guest on Library Matters' August 2018 true crime episode, #38 - Murderous Memories - True Crime Stories

Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne

What Our Guests Are Reading:

Adrienne Miles Holderbaum: The Wife by Alafair Burke, The Modern Organic Home by Natalie Wise, Mad About the House: How to Decorate Your Home with Style by Kate Watson-Smyth, The Nordstrom Way by Robert Spector, and Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus.  

Carol Reddan: Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan 

MCPL Books and Other Resources Mentioned During this Episode

AARP Genealogy Online by Matthew L Helm and April Leigh Helm

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

Finding Your Roots by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

Genealogy for Dummies by Matthew L. Helm and April Leigh Helm

Heritage Quest: This database includes US Census and military records, city directories, full-text family and local histories, Freedman's Bank records, and more. 

How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denis May Levenick

MCPL Genealogy Guide

Other Genealogy Resources Mentioned During This Episode:

23 and Me: Consumer genetic testing service for genealogy and health.  

African Americans in the Federal Census, 1790-1930, Using Federal Census Records to Find Information on African American Ancestors

Ancestry.com: Popular genealogy database.

AncestryDNA: DNA tests for ethnicity and genealogy. 

Family Tree DNA: DNA testing for ancestry and genealogy. 

Finding Your Roots, PBS series

GEDmatch.com: DNA and genealogical analysis tools for amateur and professional researchers and genealogists. 

GENi: A popular genealogy tools for sharing family histories.   

Other Items of Interest:

6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Montgomery County Historical Society

Read the transcript

Oct 10, 2018

Listen to the audio

David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters, with your host David Payne.

Julie Dina:  And I am Julie Dina.

David Payne:  And today we're looking at local voting.  In case you haven't heard, it's election season again.  And on the ballots, there are a number of issues which have a bearing on local, state, national interest, things of interest.  And we're delighted to have a very special guest with us today for the podcast, Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, or otherwise known as Dr. Z, outreach coordinator at the Montgomery County Board of Elections.  So, welcome, Dr. Z.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Thank you.  Thank you for having me.

David Payne:  For our very first question then let's ask you about the Board of Elections.  So a lot of people don't know, what is the actual role of the Board of Elections, what do you actually do.  And what actually interests me is, obviously, elections happen twice a year, but I presume your work is year-round.  What do you do or what does your year look like for you?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Okay, so we administer the, not only the local elections, but the state elections as it pertains to a particular contest.  So we have them every even year, so a Montgomery County resident will vote, exercise their constitutional right every two years.  So, obviously, 2016 was the presidential elections. It's 2018; it's the gubernatorial midterm elections.  And then after this election we're looking again towards the presidential in 2020.  In between elections, on the odd years, we do a lot of outreach.  We look at best practices; we looked towards our neighbors and our counterparts across the U.S. to see what programs, what systems we could implement to improve the process, not only for the voters, but internally.

We do a lot of voter maintenance, equipment maintenance, extensive outreach.  We have an aggressive outreach campaign, an incredible team that goes out into the community.  So a lot of individuals will say, what do you do every other - like in the odd years.  I would love to say sleep.  But the fact is that we are always working.  And then what's interesting, the election profession is something that you don't really grow up wanting to be.  You know, when I grew up I want to be a police officer or a librarian or a physician, you never say an election administrator.  But it's a very rewarding profession.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  I was one of those 18-year-olds like, "Why do people vote?"  But now as an adult and in my past experiences it's very critical that every individual exercise their constitutional right to a secret ballot.  Maryland is extremely progressive as it pertains to the franchise.  We have a lot of incredible mechanisms in which we will allow voters to vote.  And so we are tasked, and that was the first part of your question.  We are tasked to be ready for every single registered voter who desires to exercise that right.  We always look for 100% turnout.  Some elections are dismal.  But we always prepare for a full turnout.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  And we want to ensure that if an individual has a desire to exercise their constitutional right that we are prepared, and we are transparent, and we are ready.

David Payne:  How many regular staff do you have year-round?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, we're about 24 full-time county employees.  And then we will bulk up to over a hundred temporary seasonal staff and do an incredible extension of our team.  It's similar to other departments like recreation; they hire a lot of lifeguards.  So when it's election season we have a lot of individuals we hire, from election judge recruitment, polling place support, operations, nursing home program, outreach.  You know, we really - there's a huge need to be there and ready to serve the public.  And we do a lot of outreach as it pertains to newly naturalized citizens to introduce them to their franchise.

For us, we have our bias because we know how the system works.  You know you have to register to vote.  But Montgomery County is extremely diverse.  I believe five of the 10 top the most diverse cities in the nation are in Montgomery County.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  And we recognize the abundance, the beauty of the various languages and cultures.  And so we want to meet them halfway so they understand their constitutional rights.  We want to make sure they're ready and they're prepared, and we want to meet them halfway to ensure a seamless, painless experience.

David Payne:  Great.  Sounds like you're doing a good job.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  I hope so.

Julie Dina:  Well, since I'm also in outreach for the libraries, I know you mentioned earlier the nursing home program.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Yes.  So we identify and we work with nursing home facilities, assisted living facilities in Montgomery County, and we do extensive outreach.  We will reach out to their social coordinator or therapist or a social worker and we set a date and time, and we train our staff to be competent in how to help these individuals exercise their rights to vote.  Whether health reasons or they can't access their polling place on Election Day or during early voting, we ensure that they could vote and leverage an absentee request to vote by mail.  And then also we would assist them and they could vote with our team members.  We send a team of opposite parties, democrat or republican, or a democrat and unaffiliated, and then we're there to serve.  And we will meet them at their facility.  So we coordinate that ahead of time.

In between the election seasons if there's new facilities that arise or maybe some will close or they expand, so we do a lot of maintenance to maintain those relationships with the different facilities in Montgomery County.

Julie Dina:  Wonderful.  So it sounds like you ensure no one is left out.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  That's our goal.  You know, that's our goal.  Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to their franchise.  We're always trying to find that equation, that precise science how to encourage people to vote, but that's at the personal level.  But we want to make sure that you have a multitude of options.  And Maryland, and specifically Montgomery County, I call it The Cheesecake Factory of elections, because if you ever go to a Cheesecake Factory there's a million things in that menu and you always pick the same one, as I am always guilty of getting the orange chicken.  But at the same time you have vote-by-mail numerous weeks before actual Election Day, you have eight days of early voting.  And then you have Election Day.

And on top of that, we have same-day registration, and we have an aggressive outreach component, nursing home program.  It's a large, large - we have a lot of tentacles in the community, but that little piece of crust, the turnout, we're always trying to fine-tune that to encourage individuals to exercise that right to vote every single election.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Julie Dina:  Well, talking about relationships and building relationship, can you tell us the difference between the county's Board of Election and the County Government, what are the major differences, if there is any?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, we follow policy procedures established by the Maryland State Board of Elections.  So we're kind of a quasi agency.  We're county employees, but we follow those rules established by the State of Maryland.  We do collaborate closely with the county executive, the assistant CAOs, obviously the County Council because they have to appropriate our budget.  And so there is a close relationship between county government, the council, the second floor, the county executive, the assistant CAOs, but also with the delegation in Annapolis and with the State of Maryland Board of Election.  So it's a large family, so there's a very close relationship with all the parties.  And then the most important individual is the actual voter.  So it's both from the bottom-up and from the top-down.  So yes, there's that close relationship between all parties.

David Payne:  Do you work closely with other Maryland County Board of Elections [CROSSTALK] [00:08:51]?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Yes, we have our neighbors.  I mean, there's over 24 counties in Baltimore City, so we work closely, and we also meet for best practices.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Sometimes you have smaller counties, like Wicomico, they do some really great things.  And also, they want to implement what we do in Montgomery County.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  And later on we'll talk about some of the successes that we implement here in actually one of the programs, it's the only program, it's called the Future Vote Initiative.  It's the only program in the entire United States that brings in students as young as middle school to work as Election Day aids, and the goal of the program is for them to serve as a full-fledged election judge before they graduate from high school.  And just in 2016, we had over 1,100 17-year-olds serve as an election judge.

Julie Dina:  And do they all have to go to Montgomery County public schools?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  No.  As long as you are a Maryland resident and registered to vote you could serve as an election judge.  Obviously, if I you live in Howard County or Prince George's we don't want to take their voters from them.  But at the same time, a lot of them will work for Montgomery County, they live close, maybe near Sliver Spring, and so it's just a matter of the voters' interest.  And we let them know you could vote for the - you could participate in Prince George's County and, but a lot of times they’ll serve for us.  At the end of the day, whatever works for the voter works for us.  But for those individuals that do live outside of Montgomery County but within Maryland we do coordinate with them, so they could vote either by mail or during early voting, but we still want them to cast their vote even if they're working for us on Election Day.

David Payne:  So, Dr. Z, let me put you in the spotlight.  How long have you worked with the County Board of Elections?  What do you most like about it?  And what you find most challenging?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, I joined the Montgomery County Board of Elections on September of 2003.  And actually a little tidbit, I was the outreach coordinator for the public library system from 2000 to 2003, when I joined - prior to joining the Board of Elections.  What I enjoy is meeting individuals, informing them, giving them the tools to be successful to have an outstanding experience while voting.  There's a lot of sacrifice that come before me to have the opportunity to engage and empower the community to vote.  I personally, my family is from El Salvador.  So even during the Civil War I had an uncle who actually disappeared trying to bring democracy to El Salvador.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So I have a personal vested interest in the right to exercise your voting privilege.  What's challenging with my position is the hours.  And I've been blessed with a great family; I have two sons.  Sebastian is 12 and Julian, he's nine, and a beautiful wife, Karen.  And polling 15 hours a day, but it's a short period.  You know, it's a short-term commitment with long-term impact because 90 days leading to an election it's busy.  There's a lot of moving parts.  You want to make sure that the machinery is well-oiled, and so you pool a lot of hours.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Election night is a long day.  The last day of early voting it's a long day.  But it's very rewarding.  And there's always - of course, we all take our vacations and our breaks, but my family, they, when I became a father my children were young.  And so they know that it's an even year, "Good night, Dad.  See you tomorrow."  And so that's the most challenging, is the time commitment needed.  But the reward is way - they're much, much, much, that the rewards are like ten-folds.  And so it's a commitment, it's a sacrifice.  And it's my little part I could help to defend the constitution.

David Payne:  And, I presume, the ultimate reward is seeing high voter turnouts.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Yes.  In the beginning when I worked, that was my goal.  And then I would get frustrated because then the turnout wasn't as high as I expected.  But my reward is daily.  Today, this is a reward for me, the fact that I could inform, and educate, and empower a voter; someone may learn something today.  That will satisfy my cup for the day.  But yes, we always, not just me, but the entire agency, from the director down to myself, we always desire a 100% turnout.  And we if we in the low 16%, like we did in 2014 or a little under 25% this past primary, we will always tweak the machine and hopefully aim for a higher turnout.  But at the end of the day, we're all adults.

And for your reason why you desired not to vote, it can't be for the options, because once again, we have The Cheesecake Factory options of voting; there's a lot of options for you, so your time, your vote, your voice.  So it's imperative that you decide how you're going to exercise that constitutional right through a secret ballot.

David Payne:  Absolutely.

Julie Dina:  And while we're still on that note, for our listeners, can you tell our listeners why it is very important to vote for the local elections.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Well, all politics are local.  And it's important that there is an empty seat at the table.  And I think by exercising your right to vote you are being known.  You show up, you're prepared, you get your sample ballot, you do your due diligence and your research, and you mark your ballot, you scan it, and you go home, and you get that famous I Voted sticker.  And so I assure you, you will feel so much better when you get the sticker on your lapel or on your chest; it's a badge of pride.  And like I said earlier before, a lot has transpired to keep that right to vote.  There's so many countries around the world that desire to have what we have.  And when you have an average or a low voter turnout it does hurt.  But at the end of the day, I'm here to serve.  I'm a public servant, and I will do anything to help you reach that goal of helping you vote.

I can't tell you how to vote, do not carry your left or right, center, up and down, north, east, west, south; it doesn't matter.  But my desire at the end of the day is that you cast your vote.

Julie Dina:  And have you mastered ways that might be helpful to get great turnout?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  You know we've done a lot of outreach.  On average, we average about a thousand outreach events in election season.

Julie Dina:  Wow.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Where it's - we, for the presidential, between the 2014 gubernatorial general and the 2016 presidential primary - general primary, I apologize.  General presidential elections, we did over 1,100 events.  And I personally do not care if it's a room with five people, like today, we're four.  And - or a big event, like Oktoberfest in Kentlands with 5,000; it doesn't matter.  That opportunity to connect with an individual, and so we have done farmers' market, PTAs, food drives; we've done it all.  We've gone to clinics and shelters.  So at the end of the day, we want to meet individuals halfway.  So we've done it all, both electronically.  We're kind of meeting millennials with this whole QR codes and geo-fencing, and a lot of neat things are going on right now.  But at the end of the day, whether you got a sample ballot or you get a geo-fence tag, whether you got a QR code in the mail, whether you saw us at an event or a farmers' market or at the library, that individual must take ownership and a desire to vote.

David Payne:  So we talk about voting.  Dr. Z, can you remind us when Election Day is this fall?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Yes.  So Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th.  Our polls are open from 7:00 AM till 8:00 PM.  We have approximately 235 precincts.  Voters should definitely look out for their sample ballot, which is mailed several weeks before Election Day.  And then, also, we have early voting.  So if Tuesday, November 6, and you're busy, then you could vote during early voting, which is October 25th, that's a Thursday through Thursday November 1st, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, that includes the weekend, Saturday and Sunday.  And we have 11 early voting centers across Montgomery County.  What's interesting, you're not tied to a specific early voting center.  So let's say, I'm going to use myself as an example.  I live in Clarksburg; I am doing events Downtown Silver Spring, at the Silver Spring Library.  I could flex my right to vote at the Silver Spring Civic Center.

But for Election Day you are tied to your Election Day precinct.  However, we are blessed with traffic in this area.  If for some reason you can’t make it to your precinct you could go to a neighboring precinct, you would vote a provisional ballot, and then we would do some research to ensure that whether that ballot is accepted in full or not.  But we do encourage you to do due diligence, to go to your neighborhood precinct on Election Day, but the early voting centers are there to facilitate access to the franchise.  So you have early voting, you have Election Day, and then you have vote-by-mail.  Right now we have the absentee vote-by-mail application online.  You can make a request via email or the old style, download an application and mail it to us.  And then we will do our due diligence to send the appropriate ballot style to that address that is presented on the application.

Julie Dina:  So, for those who haven't already registered, how can they do so, and how can people find out if they have registered in the past or not?  And also, how would they find out where their local polling station is?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Okay, great questions.  So the first thing, I encourage individuals to go to our website, which is 777vote.org.  You go to our website, and if you scroll to the bottom there's a tab that says Voter Lookup.  And you would click on that or tab if you look on your cell phone and you - it depends.  You have to be correct, unless you have a touchscreen monitor at home.  And what you would do is you would put your last name, first name, date of birth, and zip code, and we will cross-reference that information, it'll tell you've registered or not.  If you don't get anything back from the database then we would encourage you, on the same website, especially if you have a Maryland driver's license, a Maryland permit, or a Maryland ID, you could register to vote online on our website, and it's easy.  You could see, it says Voter Registration, and there's a tab that says Register Online.  But you must have one of the Maryland-issued IDs in order to do so.

If you do not have an ID, driver's license, or permit, there's also a tab, Register to Vote, and you could download the paper format, fill that out, and mail it to us to the address that appears on the application.  Even if you live in Prince George's or, let's say, Washington County, it's the state form.  And on the back of that form is the corresponding address for that corresponding local board of election of Baltimore City, so you can mail it to them.  If you are already registered but you want to do maybe a name change, address change, party affiliation change, you could actually fax your application to the local board of election if you don't have a Maryland ID or driver's license or permit.  But if you do have those forms of ID you could update your registration online.

You could go to the libraries.  The libraries will have copies of the voter registration application.  You could go to the local DMV or the Motor Vehicle Administration to register as well.  There's a lot of options, there's a lot of - you know, this is Maryland, and you live in Montgomery County there's no excuses.  And I, trust me, I've spoken to thousands of voters over my career, and I've heard all the excuses, and I come back with …

David Payne:  There isn't one.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  There isn't one.  This one's on you, my friend.

Julie Dina:  It's all on you.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Yes.  So there's a lot of options.  And they could also call our office, 240-777-8532.  And I will - definitely glad to help, and we're there to serve.

David Payne:  Great/

Julie Dina:  Sounds good.

David Payne:  So, a couple of other voting questions.  When is the last day to register to vote?  And also, if anyone perhaps new to Montgomery County, are there any particular residency requirements to vote?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, as it pertains to the deadline, it's Tuesday, October 16th.  As it pertains to residency requirements, if you've registered to vote, we have something called same-day registration.  So, let's say you missed the voter registration deadline and you're new to the county, you could register to vote during early voting.  You would present ID, Maryland-issued ID or driver's license or permit.  And if you don't have that because you just moved in, then proof of residency, bank statement, the lease of your home, utility bill with your name and the address, and then we could register.  And then we will grant you the opportunity to vote during early voting.  Now, if you missed the voter registration deadline, which is once again, Tuesday, October 16th, and you don't leverage same-day registration during the eight days of early voting, from the 25th of October through the 1st of November, then we would provide you a provisional ballot on Election Day.

We would do our due diligence to research, because it could be that you lived in Prince George's County, could be that you registered and maybe you got married or divorced and there's an error on your record.  We always provide - we always give the voter the benefit of the doubt.  We will do extensive research.  And if it happens to be that you are registered to vote and you casted a provisional ballot, then we will make recommendations to our board of directors to either accept or accept in part your provisional ballot.  If you're truly not registered and you showed up on Election Day, November 6th, and you are given a provisional ballot, you will be ready for 2020.  The provisional ballot application doubles as a voter registration application.  Another quick tip is look out for your sample ballot.

If you don't get your sample ballot within, like, two to three weeks, either contact the Board of Elections or go to our website just to make sure that you're registered to vote.  So, if you're listening to this podcast I would highly recommend not to wait until November 7th, which is a day too late, because Election Day is the day before.

David Payne:  Right.  So as you say, no excuses.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  No, no excuses.  Yeah, there's no excuses.

David Payne:  Yeah.

Julie Dina:  How exactly do they determine the polling stations?  And how many polling places are there in the county?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So there are, give or take, about 235.  They change, sometimes we consolidated precincts, sometimes we add precincts.  We keep tabs on the population growth of the county.  We look at our, we call it MD Voters, which is our voter registration database.  Everything is based off of that, the allocation of election judges, the allocations or creation or consolidation of precincts.  Obviously, if you look at Silver Spring, 50% of our voters live in the Silver Spring area.  So if you would look at a precinct map you'll see over close to 75 to 80 precincts in the Sliver Spring area.  If you go to Poolesville, there's two precincts.  So it's based on population, and based on our voter registration database.  So we have about 660,000 registered voters, it's always growing daily.  And so after an election we will tweak, if needed.

If a precinct grows too big, for example, let's say they have 3,500 voters, then we may consider identifying another facility within the neighborhood, and even splitting that.  But there's like an extensive research, vetting, we have opportunities for the community to give us recommendations and to share their concerns.  We don't anything on the fly.

Julie Dina:  Okay.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  That's not how we roll.

Julie Dina:  So you just don't say [CROSSTALK] [00:26:57].

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  No, you vote here now [CROSSTALK] [00:27:01] we don't operate like that.

Julie Dina:  Okay.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  We don't want to disenfranchise voters.  We want to facilitate their right to vote.  And sometimes schools close, they open, they do a refresh, like some libraries do refreshes.

Julie Dina:  Yes.

David Payne:  Yeah.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Or they'll build a new facility.  And so we always add.  And we may temporary relocate voters to a different location.  And we understand that sometimes the voters do get upset with us, but ultimately our goal is not to upset you.  Our goal is to protect you, and your right to vote.  So I tell voters to be patient with us, you know thank - and there's one thing I always want to tell individuals, you need to thank our volunteers, our election judges.  After an election all the campaigns are like, "Woo".   Either they're sobbing in a corner or elated and popping champagne.  But don't forget our volunteers; don't forget our team members, the staff.  Because - and I'm going to take the liberty of saying that without our volunteers and without the staff this party wouldn't take place.

David Payne:  Right.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So when you go and vote, say thank you to our election judge.  If you see a young lad or a young lady volunteering at the pools handing out I Voted stickers, say thank you, tell them how proud you are.  That little extra smile, you know.  We don't want to see frowns; we want to see your teeth, okay.  And thank us, because at the end of the day we're there to serve.

David Payne:  What's the typical voter turnout that you may expect for a midterm election?  And presumably you're anticipating a large turnout or hoping for a large turnout.  Is there sort of a benchmark figure that would be acceptable for you?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  100% is acceptable, nothing less; nothing less.  We always aim for 100, it could be 60%.  It all depends on the climate, it depends what's going on in the nation, depends what's going on local politics.

David Payne:  The weather even, I suppose.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Even the weather.  Yes, even the weather.  And it's interesting because even when I compare what we have, and we're blessed what we have now.  And I compare it, for example, to El Salvador, they don't have provisional balloting, but their voter turnout is higher.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  It's interesting.  And so we always aim for 100, let's say we get 60%-70%.  Obviously, if we get 70% we're still missing 30% of the electorate.  But we try to target those 30%.  We have those famous super voters, and they will come regardless if there's a hurricane coming, they will show up.  And that's great.

David Payne:  Yeah.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, for those individuals that historically vote every year, we love you.  Can you help us identify someone who doesn't vote every other year and bring them with you, because then you're an extension of us, and that would be help us tremendously, because at the end of the day we have a finite budget, we all pay taxes, and we want to leverage that accordingly.  So please help us.

David Payne:  Can you give us suggestions as to where someone can find out about candidates for smaller offices, let's say, a school board or city council?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, we collaborate with a lot of organizations.  The League of Women Voters, whether it's Maryland or Montgomery County or your particular county, does incredible work.  Also, they have the voter's guide that goes out.  That's a good publication that you could get at your neighborhood libraries.  I believe they deliver them to all their branches.

David Payne:  They do, uh-huh.  Yeah.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  You know, in the advent of internet, Google it.  [CROSSTALK] [00:30:45] tell people, "Google it."  And if you don't know how to Google it, find someone who does.  Everything is online nowadays.  I know sometimes the candidates, I know they will mail out the mailings, the research seen, so read that information they send.  We will not - all we will provide in our sample ballot is the candidate's name and the contest for which he or she is running for.  Other than that, the League, a lot of nonprofit organizations, there's a multitude of forums - forums that will take place for the different contests, keep your eye out on those.  I say go to those forums and ask your questions, and the local newspapers and print.  Print or online, or TV, but do your due diligence, get your sample ballot, do your research, markup your sample ballot; vote.

David Payne:  Be informed.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Please, yes.  Yes, please.  Because it makes early voting and Election Day go much smoother when you know how you're going to vote your ballot, as opposed to taking 69,000 leaflets, and the voter's guide, and the posts.  And then the voter is like, "Why do I have all that paper laid out on them and on that ballot booth?"  Do your homework beforehand; I'm telling you ahead of time.  So you got about two months, so get cracking.

Julie Dina:  It's funny we talked about googling it earlier, but I was going to ask you, how has technology helped to improve voting procedures and efficiency, and just voting in general?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, right now, we're working with the Department of Technology Services to create geo-fencing or geo-tagging.  And hopefully, I'm crossing my fingers, but what would happen is as you go near an early voting center you get a little tag, a notification that you're close to the Potomac Community Rec Center.  It'll have information, it'll have directions; it's pretty neat.  And the reason I wanted that geo-tag capability is also when we do outreach into the community.  We're going to visit all the high schools or when we come to the libraries, we could geo-fence the Rockville Library, and everyone who's walking around the Rockville Library could say, "Oh, people are - I could register at the Rockville - there's someone from the Board of Elections."

Those are kind of the things.  And it's something that I was dying, I wanted to do since, actually 2014, but the technology wasn't there yet.  And it was expensive back then.  Now it's cheaper.  That's one of the kind of things we want to implement with the advent of technology.  We're starting to QR code everything because that's the language of millennials.  A bookmark, you know, and it works for the libraries.  But for us when you go to a student and you give him a bookmark with information they look at it like, "Okay, thank you.  Oh, that's to my grandmother."  And it's funny because, "Okay, I guess this is not going to work."  But they love QR codes because they'll just scan the QR code and they could register the vote, they could sign up to be an election judge, they could get information; so QR coding is great.  It's simple, it's inexpensive.

And texting, you know, texting.  And we're starting to use more social media.  That's another - you know, it's been around for a while, but I think more agencies are using social media.  But it looks easy, but it does take time.  And so - but I think those are the three tips, I would say.  Geo-fencing and QR coding are two good quick ways to leverage technology in favor of promoting or selling your services.

David Payne:  Sticking with technology, the hacking of elections is a very topical subject.  Can you tell us what hacking elections actually means, and also what procedures the Board of Elections has to ensure the protection of our voting process?

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  So, there's a lot of internal mechanisms in which we implement as guided by the State Board of Elections, especially when you do the VPN network for early voting we don't share Wi-Fi, we don't upload results on election night over the internet.  I mean, we literally drive everything.  I think individuals, because of the age of the internet, everyone's an expert.  And so I tell individuals, at least in Maryland and Montgomery County, it's secure, okay.  I think what we need to focus is encouraging your neighbors to vote, marking up your sample ballot, ensuring that your voter registration is current.  Even if you are moving within the same building, so let's say you live in apartment 101, you marry; you have two kids, now you move into apartment 201 in the same facility, that's a new address for us.

So make sure everything is current.  And make sure you make a cognizant decision, am I voting by mail during eight days of early voting or on Election Day.  The hacking, security; we got that covered.  Trust me, we got that covered.

Julie Dina:  Cool.

David Payne:  Sounds good.

Julie Dina:  So do you have any tips for those who bring their kids to the polls, and also for, and I can tell there's got to be crazy things or crazy situations or stories that you can actually share with us.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Yeah.  So with children, if your child is 12 and older and you bring him to the polls, we will request that they fill out a voter assistance form, because the thought process is that individual could entire the voter to change their decision who to vote for, okay, because they're 12, and kids are very intelligent, very sophisticated thinkers.  Having said that, for those families with children grade six to 12 in Montgomery County, we welcome them to work as future vote ambassadors on Election Day.  All the information is on our website, 777vote.org, and the upper-right-hand corner, it says future vote, or midway on a page on the left-hand side it says Future Vote, has all the FAQs on how to register your child, there's a training that's mandatory, so one-hour training session in middle October.  They'll work in their precinct; they earn SSL credits that they need.

And then once they hit 16, we would love for them to serve as election judge.  And they could earn up to $210.  But this is also for our voters.  So if you're an adult and you have some extra time and you want to serve as an election judge, go to our website, signup, serve, and we will call you every other year to see if you're available.  Now, interesting story, I have a lot of stories.  Let me see, we'll try to find a PG story - rated G story.  So this was the funniest.  And so we had one of our future vote ambassadors, sixth grader, big-eyed 11-year-old, and we happened to forget to pack the power chord for one of our voting system, this was several years ago.  So the chief judge was ecstatic, "Oh my god, what are we going to do?  We need a power chord, we're missing one.  We have to call the office."  So they called the hotline, you know, our helpdesk.  We said we'll deliver the power chord tomorrow morning, it's okay, there's a battery pack, you're fine.

So there was this 11-year-old and he said, "Oh, let me look at the equipment."  And they're not supposed to touch the equipment.  He's like, "No, I'm not touching; I just want to look at it."  And he told the chief judge, "Can I call my dad."  He's like, "Okay."  He's like, "Dad, go to my PlayStation and go to my DVD, and take the power chord off and bring it to me now."  So then the dad's like running up the street, goes to the precinct, and it fit.  It worked.  And so now the chief judge could sleep at night, because the meeting was on Monday night.  And then he woke up early, showed up at the polls at 6:00 AM to open the doors at 7:00.  And the power cord, it worked.  And then the funny thing is after the student did their four-hour shift in the morning he came back in the evening, knocked at the window of the school.  And the judge is like, "Are you okay, what's wrong?  Did you forget something?"  "Yes, I forgot my power chord."  And he took his power chord back from his PlayStation.  So that's a funny story.

Julie Dina:  Wow, that's really cute.

David Payne:  We're ending on a happy note.  Dr. Z, we always close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are reading or recently enjoyed.  So, something other than League of Women Voters election guide, perhaps.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  Uh, COMAR and the Maryland election law book, unfortunately that's what I read, unfortunately for now.  You know, finding time to read, and with my sons, that's - every year I say I'm going to read this book.  I have a book called, Path to Power.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  It's the autobiography of Lyndon B.  Johnson.  I owe the library a lot of money.

Julie Dina:  Take note.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  I've had that book since 2004.  And I always have to restart it because I forget what I read three years before.  But yes, but that's one of my list of things to do.  So I won't lie.  I don't read much lately.  But right now what's on my desk are the COMAR and Maryland election law.

David Payne:  Well, thank you.

Dr. Gilberto Zelaya:  You're welcome.

Julie Dina:  I've got to say, Dr. Z, it's been very enlightening.  Thank you so much for joining us on this particular program.

Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcasts App, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts.  We'll love to know what you think.  Thank you once again for listening for our conversation today, and see you next time.

[Audio Ends]

Oct 9, 2018

Summary: Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, Outreach Coordinator at the Montgomery County Board of Elections, joins us to discuss how elections are organized in Montgomery County and the Board's ongoing efforts to empower voters to participate in elections.

Guest: Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, AKA Dr. Z, the Outreach Coordinator at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. 

Hosts: Julie Dina and David Payne

What Our Guest Is Reading:  The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson) by Robert A. Caro. The Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR)

Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:

Early Voting for the 2018 General Election: Thursday, October 25, 2018 through Thursday, November 1, 2018. 

Election Day for the 2018 General Election: Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Find your polling place

The Future Vote: An initiative to increase youth civic participation and promoting civic duty, community involvement, and recognition of the importance of preserving participatory democracy.   

League of Women Voters, Montgomery County: A nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed civic engagement. 

Maryland State Board of Elections

Montgomery County Board of Elections

Read the transcript

Sep 26, 2018

Hear the audio

David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with our host David Payne.

Julie Dina:  And I'm Julie Dina.

David Payne:  And for today's episode, we're going to be delving into the fascinating world of banned books.  Why banned books?  Well, because in the public library world, one of the highlights of September is Banned Book Week.  And here to tell us and share their passion and interest for banned books are two of our librarians from the MCPL system, Danielle Deaver, who is the young adult librarian at Germantown.  Welcome Danielle.

Danielle Deaver:  Thank you.  I'm happy to be here.

David Payne:  And from Olney Library, we welcome Alessandro Russo, who is the Senior Librarian there.  Welcome Alessandro.

Alessandro Russo:  Thank you.  I'm glad to be here.

David Payne:  And um, Danielle, you've had some experience with banned books displays at Germantown?

Danielle Deaver:  Yes, I have.  We do banned book displays in our adult and children's sections.  And this year I got to do the one in the adult section.

David Payne:  That's great.  And Alessandro you were telling me earlier your rebellious nature attracted you to the field of banned books?

Alessandro Russo:  Yes, I believe it was when I started as a volunteer and they told me I wasn't allowed to read certain books that I was like, "Hey, I'm going to do completely opposite and I'm going to read these books."

David Payne:  That's great.  That's great.  Well, let's start by looking at band book next week and asking you both, what's the purpose of banned books week, if I start with Danielle?

Danielle Deaver:  Sure. Well, I think the purpose is basically to draw attention to the fact that all over the country every day, books are being challenged by people and even banned by library system, school systems and other -- and government agencies.  And I kind of, though it had existed forever, but I found out today that it started in the early 1980s when book challenges started becoming more common.

David Payne:  And you mentioned it started -- We will go back to 19, the 1980s.  Do you think that over time since then it's attracted more and more interest?

Danielle Deaver:  Oh, I think it definitely has.  It's become, sort of, something that you see merchandised now where you can actually buy bags that have banned book titles on them.  And I think it's become, you know, something that is kind of starting to attract a lot of attention and popular culture.

Alessandro Russo:  And as you know, social media and it becomes more available and to see, you know, and to track news and information.  I think people are getting a better understanding of what banned books are and why kind of this movement is growing in a sense.

Julie Dina:  Well, since we're talking about banned books, when exactly is Banned Book Week and more importantly, how does MCPL participate in banned books week, Alessandro?

Alessandro Russo:  Banned books week is from September 23rd to September 29th.  And just in general, I believe our system, we do a great job in displaying banned books and kind of adding a little literature to explaining what banned books are.  And we actually, I know they're doing a story time at Gaithersburg Library with a banned book.

Julie Dina:  Danielle, did you have anything to add?

Danielle Deaver:  No, I mean we do the displays and it actually generates a lot of conversation.  We had a little girl today who came in and said, you know, "What's a banned book?"  And her mother actually said, "Well, let's go over and look at them and I will tell you about that."  So that was, that was really nice.

David Payne:  So, I think we should, we should clarify for our listeners, Banned Books Week is actually a national event I think.  Is it from the American Library Association?

Alessandro Russo:  Yes, yeah.

David Payne:  Can you tell us, really talk about banned books and challenged books and there's a difference between the two.  Can you explain what, what the difference is Alessandro?

Alessandro Russo:  So challenged book is basically presenting the question of why are we going to remove this book from a collection or why are we going to censor this book?  And then, a banned book is actually if the verdict get passed by whoever saying we are officially pulling this book from the stack or the collection.  So the easiest way to look at it is a challenged book is phase one and then if it goes further, phase two, is the banned book, so.

Danielle Deaver:  And we actually only see a small snapshot of what it's challenged around the country.  The American Library Association tracked 416 books that were challenged or banned in 2017, but 82% to 97% of book challenges are never reported to organizations that track such things.  So there are probably a lot of challenges and even bans yes, going on.

Julie Dina:  So what would you say is MCPL's policy regarding book challenges and has MCPL ever banned a book?

Danielle Deaver:  Well, I asked around about this and people who have been here much longer than I have say that in their institutional memory, about 30 years, they have not seen or heard of any books being banned from MCPL.

Alessandro Russo:  So it's actually in MCPL collection policy on page 10 section 4, Intellectual Freedom.  It's, and there is -- I'll just quickly go for what we're looking for. The statement pertains to all formation formats, including print, video, audio, digital, and electronic formats.  "Libraries assure that the collection is open and accessible to all residents.  It is committed to well-balanced print electronic and electronic collection, which presents various points of views on all subjects, controversial or not.  Libraries do not remove, restrict, or withdraw materials because they are regarded as discriminatory or inflammatory by an individual or group."

David Payne:  And there you have it.

Alessandro Russo:  Yes.

David Payne:  So, looking at the lists over the years of banned books and challenged books, obviously a great diversity in amongst the titles that fall into that category.  But what are the think of any, of the strangest reasons that you've come across for banning a book?  Let's start with you Alessandro.

Alessandro Russo:  My favorite is a cultism or Satanic worship, which in particular, the example was any -- the Harry Potter series when they came out and it's that kind of just an interesting way to read that book as many people read it in a completely different way.  But yeah.

Danielle Deaver:  The strangest reasons I found were in 1983, the Alabama State Textbook Committee wanted to ban Anne Frank's diary of a young girl because it was "A real downer."

Julie Dina:  Wow.

Danielle Deaver:  Yes.  And in 1987, school officials in Alaska tried to, or actually did ban the American heritage dictionary because it used slang terms such as "bed," "knocker," and "balls."  So they just banned the dictionary.

Julie Dina:  Okay.

David Payne:  Okay.  On that note.

Julie Dina:  On that note, now can you tell us about what are the most common reasons for challenging or banning books?

Danielle Deaver:  Sure.  Officially, the top three are that the material is considered to be sexually explicit, to contain offensive language or be unsuited to age group and most people who bring book challenges are parents.  But a lot of people have started noticing and writing about lately the fact that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that feature diverse characters, diverse, you know -- or are written by diverse authors.  And in 2015, nine of the top 10 challenged books included diverse content.  They were about, you know, transgender teens, they were about LGBTQ characters.  And so, that's a disturbing trend that's kind of not officially on the radar.

Julie Dina:  Why do you think those are the most common ones or are the top three that keep popping up?

Danielle Deaver:  Well, Professor Emily Knox in Illinois researched this topic.  She looked at the ALA's annual top 10 challenged book lists from 2001 to 2015, and 29 diverse books appeared a total of 63 times on the list.  And they were all -- a lot of them actually said that they were in question because they depicted racism such as, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  And, you know, she kind of brings up the fact that, you know, this is -- these books are being challenged for being about diversity implies that the topic of diversity itself is inherently wrong or controversial, which is of course, you know, extremely disturbing.

Alessandro Russo:  Yeah.  It's kind of like that overall discussion.  Actually, I had a discussion with a colleague of mine the other day about should classics be banned because they are written in a different time period.  And so, someone reading that nowadays without any kind of prior knowledge can read it as being offensive or you know, racial.  But both of our curt collusions came, it's kind of like learning about history, if you kind of censor that part of history, that way of writing, how will you learn about the present and the future?

David Payne:  Right.  So can I ask you both to give us some examples of some recently banned, banned books?  Let's start with Danielle.

Danielle Deaver:  Okay, 13 Reasons Why is a teen book by Jay Asher that was made into a Netflix movie earlier this year.  And that has been -- that was the number one banned book in or challenged book in 2017 because of the discussion and the themes about suicide.  The book Drama, which is a children's book, a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, that is immensely popular in our library and I think all over the system, was challenged -- and it's also won a lot of awards.  And it was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered confusing.

And the other one that was kind of upsetting because I loved this book, was The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas.  And that's one of those books that has really drawn in even teenagers who don't particularly like to read.  It shows a side of the controversies over police shootings of black unarmed teenagers that we don't often see and that's the impact on the community.  And that book will also be a movie in a couple of weeks.  And that was challenged because it's drug use, profanity, and offensive language.  So that's just kind of a snapshot.

Alessandro Russo:  And then one that has made the list of, since 2007 is one of, one of my favorite young adult books is the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian, written by Sherman Alexie.  And the, the, the reason why it keeps, it's getting challenged are you know, poverty, alcoholism, sexuality.  Even though the book won a national book award, was a national book award winner, and I thought it was a -- even though it's fiction, it was a great look into living on a reservation life and kind of like the reality's a person would face day-to-day as a, especially as a teenager's point of, perspective.  One of my other favorite classics that have historically been banned is Catcher in the Rye.  And if anyone who read it knows the profanity and how many times the "F" word comes up in that book.

Danielle Deaver:  I think it's a good book.

Alessandro Russo:  But it's so -- I love it because it's so crude and it's so real, like it's just a teenager skipping school one day and doing what he has to do, you know.

Julie Dina:  Yeah, but that's not you.

Alessandro Russo:  No, I was the good teen.

Julie Dina:  We could tell.

David Payne:  So really when it comes to, to, to banned books across the whole spectrum, really we're looking at children's books as much as adult books as much as young adult books.

Alessandro Russo:  Oh yeah.

David Payne:  Is that correct?

Danielle Deaver:  Yes. Yeah.  Where the Wild Things Are, was challenged and banned when it first came out because the characters were imaginary, which some people thought I believe would be somewhat occult like.  And the -- also it was just, it was very real at a time when most picture books and children's books depicted children as being, you know, good little boys and girls.  These kid's, you know, hammering nails into walls and chasing the dog and running off to bed and being punished and they just didn't want to deal with it.

Julie Dina:  Well, now that you've listed examples of recently banned books, can you tell us which book actually tops many of the banned book list?  Let's start with you, Danielle.

Danielle Deaver:  Honestly, I could not find one clear winner, not over all the years.  The classics come up time and time again.  Let's see, Harry Potter was challenged more than 3000 times, although it fell off the list in like the early 2000s.  And Judy Bloom, who writes books for, I guess, tween and teen girls, wonderful books, she was banned quite frequently.  And Maya Angelou has also been banned quite frequently.  The Bible actually gets challenged and banned a lot.  It was number six on this year's list.

Julie Dina:  What?

Danielle Deaver:  For religious content.  Yes, I thought that was-

Julie Dina:  That's, that's what it's for.

Alessandro Russo:  Yeah.

Julie Dina:  Okay.

Danielle Deaver:  And also, I think more recent challenges have objected to, things like the stoning of the homosexual man in a book that I would know if I was better at the Bible.

David Payne:  So when it comes to banning books, what are the, or what do you see as the determinating factors that go into banning a book?

Alessandro Russo:  So there's a cool feature online that there's, it's not complete, but there's a map of showing the location of where these books have been challenged and banned.  And a lot of them are in Bible Belt America, Midwest America.  And so I would say just off of that information, location is a major influence, obviously content of the book and being part of the location aspect, the personal beliefs, you know.

Danielle Deaver:  Yeah.  Just anecdotally, I would say that if you get a big enough group of people who is challenging the book, it's going to be more likely that the ban will go through.  But I think Alessandro is right, it's a lot to do with location and just what type of censorship the population supports.

David Payne:  And interesting, interesting enough, I think banned books are a pretty much a worldwide phenomenon.  It's not just this country, right?

Danielle Deaver:  Yes.

Alessandro Russo:  Yeah.

Danielle Deaver:  Back to the ancient Greeks.

David Payne:  Right?

Danielle Deaver:  Yes.  And even when they're not officially banned, my manager and I today we're, or we're talking about how customers do sometimes find ways to kind of ban them themselves.  One of the branches I worked in had the racier issues of cosmopolitan turned backward so people couldn't see the cover.  And she was telling me that at some libraries, the book, Go the F to Sleep was constantly being turned around and once it was moved from new books to the stacks, it just disappeared.  And I did a display for Gay Pride Month in the teen section last year, and when I walked past it on the second day, all of the books had been knocked down so that they were, you know, the covers faced, were just down in the bookshelf and you couldn't see them.

Julie Dina:  You're sure it wasn't construction?

Danielle Deaver:  I don't think it was because the historical fiction display across the way with oddly enough totally fine.

Alessandro Russo:  Yeah, I think the most recent experience would be The Fifty Shades series.

David Payne:  Yes.

Alessandro Russo:  Where those tend to disappear or accidentally get re-shelved somehow in a completely different place.

David Payne:  Different place.

Alessandro Russo:  Yeah, yeah.

Julie Dina:  Which leads me to my next question.  Why do you think books get banned, do you think, for offending the sensibilities of mostly one group of people or do many different groups of people have to get involved?

Danielle Deaver:  I think that a lot of the people who, you know, write about this and think about it a lot more than I do, use the word fear a lot.  And a lot of it is society is changing and the things that are changing in it are scary and people don't want to deal with it, they don't want to read about it and they especially they don't want their children reading about it.  The largest group of people who challenge these books are parents.  And I think that that, you know kind of says a lot about how we think of childhood as a protected time, that isn't quite realistic.

Alessandro Russo:  And one of my favorite quotes is from a Simpson’s character saying, "Think of the children."  And so when I see a banned book or I hear about a banned book, that's the first thing that comes to mind.

Danielle Deaver:  "Think about the children."

Julie Dina:  Exactly.

David Payne:  But that leads me to my next question.  I'm going to put you both, both on the spot and ask you, have either of you ever been tempted to, to ban or challenge a book?  And if so, what's your response to yourself?  I'll start with, with Alessandro.

Alessandro Russo:  So absolutely not to the first part of that question.  Even I remember in library school, we were discussing about challenged books and what happens if you find, if there's a book out there that tells you how to put a bomb together?  There are certain limitations to that.  And the overall idea is if the book is going to cause harm to someone or is going to hurt someone in a non-psychological manner, then it's okay.

David Payne:  Mm-hmm.

Alessandro Russo:  Yeah.

Danielle Deaver:  Yeah, I've never been tempted to ban a book, although like Alessandro said, I mean, a lot of these, you know, if somebody writes an entire book about, you know, how to build a nuclear bomb, like he said, like, I mean, we're not going to buy it.  So a lot of that kind of takes place before the book ever reaches me.  But when it comes to like fiction and that kind of stuff where it's more of a judgment call, I think every person reads every book differently almost to the point where they read a different book than I would.  And so, I don't feel that I need to tell them what to read, they can choose.

Julie Dina:  Well, I'll start with you Alessandro because I know before the program started, you mentioned the answer to this question.  Does banning a book actually encourage more people to read it?

Alessandro Russo:  I believe so.  And then, I don't have a psychological explanation why, but I'm going to go based off of kind of that idea when you tell someone don't do something, they're going to do the complete opposite.  That, that movement it's kind of increasing too as you know, more, more diverse books get challenged and banned and kind of go against the grain of society.  So.

Danielle Deaver:  Yeah, I agree.  I think it does, it makes them more attractive to people because they feel like they're doing something daring.

Alessandro Russo:  Yeah.

Danielle Deaver:  And also, I mean I think people are starting to realize that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that address important topics.  There's a group called Commonsense Media and it's a nonprofit that advocates for kind of using technology and media in a positive way for children.  And it gives like ratings for various TV shows and movies and stuff.  And they published an article last year encouraging families to read banned books together because it was a good way to get into these sometimes difficult but really important topics.

David Payne:  So again, putting you both on the spot, can you tell us what your favorite banned books are and, and why?  Let's start with you Danielle.

Danielle Deaver:  Oh, I have to go with the, the really obvious answer, which is the Harry Potter series.

Alessandro Russo:  Oh, Harry Potter, yeah.

Danielle Deaver:  I just love them for the same -- you know, I think the -- what people saw as maybe witchcraft to me was just total escapism.

Alessandro Russo:  I will go with a graphic novel, i-it's the Bone Series by Jeff Smith.  And I believe they got banned originally because of political views and there was some cry because there was racism and violence.

Julie Dina:  And down to our final question, it's actually traditional on our show for us to ask this final question, what are you both currently reading? Let's start with-

David Payne:  Banned books or otherwise.

Danielle Deaver:  Right now I'm reading a book called Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano.  And I actually checked it out, it was an eBook from the Overdrive app at the Kendall County Library system.

Alessandro Russo:  So I usually juggle a few books at the time, but the one that I've been deep into is Jim, it's a biography, Jim Henson by Brian Jones.  And it's a fascinating book and it goes beyond the Muppets Incorporate and gets perspective of everyone he has worked with, his family, a recommended read if you're a biography enthusiast.

Julie Dina: Well, I would like to say a big thank you for coming on the program today.  Thank you so much for being our guests.  Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts, we'll love to know what you think.  Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today.  See you next time.

 

Sep 25, 2018

Summary: Freedom to read enthusiasts and MCPL librarians Alessandro Russo and Danielle Deaver talk about Banned Books Week (September 23-29, 2018), the annual awareness campaign that celebrates the freedom to read and warns of ongoing efforts to challenge and ban books. 

Recording Date: September 12, 2018

Guests:

Danielle Deaver, Children's Librarian at Germantown Library

Alessandro Russo, Senior Librarian at Olney Library

Hosts: Julie Dina and David Payne

What Our Guests Are Reading

Danielle Deaver: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano 

Alessandro Russo: Jim Henson: the Biography by Brian Jay Jones

Books and Authors Mentioned During this Episode:

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

American Heritage Dictionary

The Bible

Judy Blume, an American author best known for her children's books, whose books have been frequently challenged or banned. 

Bone series by Jeff Smith. The first book in the series is Out from Boneville

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank 

Fifty Shades triology by E. L. James. Includes Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed

Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The first book in the series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 

Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:

American Library Association Infographic of Recent Banned Book Statistics

"Banned Books Are Often Diverse Books. Check the Stats." by Emily Knox

Banned Books Week

Common Sense Media: Online guide to books, movies, and other media for parents. See also the site's "Why Your Kid Should Read Banned Books" article. 

MCPL Collection Policy: The Montgomery County Public Libraries’ Collections Policy presents the strategies to develop, expand, diversify, and build 21st century library collections to meet the library needs and expectations of the Montgomery County residents/communities.

Overdrive: An online collection of e-books, audiobooks, and e-magazine available for free to MCPL library card holders. 

Special Family Storytime: Banned Books: A family storytime held on September 25, at Gaithersburg Library that featured children's books which have been banned or challenged. 

Read the transcript

Sep 12, 2018

Listen to the audio

Lauren Martino:  Hello listeners welcome to Library Matters.  My name is Lauren Martino and I'm your host today.  And today we're talking about the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival.  And with me today is Dr. Jackson Bryer who's been involved with the festival from the very beginning in 1996 and who has edited several books about F. Scott Fitzgerald, welcome Dr. Bryer.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Hi.

Lauren Martino:  We also have with us Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, Professor Emerita at Concordia, Saint Paul, which is the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  We have with us as well Eric Carzon, who's the Branch Manager of the Twinbrook library and also very involved in this festival.  Welcome Ellie.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Thank you, good to be here.

Lauren Martino:  And welcome Eric.

Eric Carzon:  Thanks, good to be here.

Lauren Martino:  So Dr. Bryer, can you tell us a little bit about what the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival is?

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, it's as you said it started in 1996, which was the centennial year of F. Scott Fitzgerald's birth.  And in that year the City of Rockville decided they wanted to do something to commemorate Fitzgerald who is buried in Rockville.  We can talk about that a little later as to why he is here.  And they appointed a group of citizens from the community to organize what I think they anticipated would be a one-year celebration of him.  And we did that in 1996 and it was so successful that we've been doing it ever since.

It started as a one-day event and has now become a three-day event in the sense that there are programs on Thursday afternoon sponsored by one of our partners the Friends of the Library.  And an event on Friday night at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then the main event here in Rockville all day Saturday.  So it's a three-day festival.  It is in many ways sort of a dual event in that it honors Fitzgerald.  But it also honors writers both established writers who we honor every year with the F. Scott Fitzgerald award and also encourages younger writers of all ages to pursue writing of various kinds.

We have writing workshops and there are other programs where we frequently show a film.  We also have master classes and we have in recent years affiliated very closely with the Montgomery County Public Schools and we can talk about that as well.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And the number of the writers who have been honored from really panoply of the great writers of our century beginning with William Styron, John Barth, and another Marylander and even a fantastic novelist, E. L. Doctorow.  So many of them are gone now, so that it's wonderful that we had them and that fledgling writers got to meet them and talk to them and go to a master class with them.

Lauren Martino:  You’ve gotten over twenty years of writers you’ve honored in this festival.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And the last year was Annie Proulx, she was terrific.

Lauren Martino:  So when are the dates of the festival?

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  It begins on the afternoon of October 18th at Strathmore Mansion with a program in the afternoon.  It continues on Friday night October 19th at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then all day Saturday October 20th at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.

Lauren Martino:  Eric can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s role in this festival?

Eric Carzon:  Sure, yeah MCPL is very pleased to be part of the committee this year.  And we've planned several events throughout the library system to compliment the festival.  So the first one that's coming up is Tuesday, September 18th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library. And so we'll be doing our Twinbrook Library book discussion group.

And we're going to discuss Richard Russo's book Trajectory and Richard Russo is this year's honoree at the festival.  So if you want to be part of the book discussion group, you can give the branch a call at 240-777-0240, or just show up at the program, try to read the book of course before you come, but --.

Lauren Martino:  That always helps.

Eric Carzon:  We’ll take everybody who comes.

Lauren Martino:  But you're going to spoil the end.

Eric Carzon:  Yeah.  And then on Monday, September 24th at 07:00 PM which is F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, The Rockville Memorial Library is going to have a screening of Bernice Bobs Her Hair, which is a movie that was inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story of the same title.  We’ll also have a little bit of birthday cake courtesy of the Friends of the Library Montgomery County. And we’ll be showing it using MCPL’s new streaming movie service called Canopy, which people can access online by the way as well.

On Thursday, September 27th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library Ellie and Jackson who are here today are going to discuss the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, Winter Dreams and Babylon Revisited.  And then on Saturday, October 6th at 03:00 PM at the Twinbrook Library, we're going to show the movie Benjamin Button, which is also inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story.  And then we'll have a discussion afterwards with members of the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival planning committee.

And then finally on Thursday, October 11th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library, the three student finalists from this year's F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival Short Story Writing Contest will be invited to read and discuss their short stories with the audience.

Lauren Martino:  Are there other events related to the festival going on elsewhere?

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  There's luncheon that is given at the Strathmore Mansion that Jackson mentioned the three-day event, so that's on a Thursday.  Reservations do need to be made through the Friends of the Library.  And it's a smaller event, but I think that the room perhaps hold 60, so people do need to make a reservation, but it does get you in the spirit of the event and then on Friday at the Writer’s Center, Jenny Boylan who's going to introduce Richard Russo, the next day will be there to be honored herself.

She is very interesting writer I don't know what you know about her, but she has made some important changes in our life and she'll be there with other writers who will read in the honor of Jenny Boylan and Richard Russo.  So it's really literary rich time. And then on Saturday the number of people who are doing workshop, six different local writers are with these more fledgling writers in small groups.  They're coming and they range from Ethelbert Miller to --.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Susan Coll.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Yes and her husband.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Patricia Browning Griffith.  There are two fiction workshops, two nonfiction workshops.  Margaret Talbot who is a staff writer for The New Yorker is going to --.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  To be honored.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Do going to do a nonfiction workshop as the Ethelbert Miller is doing a memoir workshop and Susan Coll and her husband, Paul Goldberg are doing fiction workshops as well.  So there's a little something for everybody that's for beginning writers and immediate writers, anybody who is interested.  We try each year to have a theme.  This year in honor of Richard Russo, who has done a lot of work with first generation immigrant writers in his native state of Maine, in his honor we've kind of structured some of the festival around the theme of literature without borders.

And two other writers who are reading on Friday night at the Writer’s Center, not Jenny Boylan, but the other two writers are themselves not native to this country and are in sense immigrant writers. And so we want in some ways to stress that we think that's very important.  I'm sure Richard Russo will speak about that and about the program that he is involved in in Maine that encourages young first generation Americans to write about their experiences.

Lauren Martino:  So we have a lot of busy people in Montgomery County and there will be people that can only do maybe one or two of these events.  What would you – okay, let's do it for writers and for non-writers because it sounds like there's a lot of things out there, if you are a writer what is the one event you wouldn't want to miss.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I think you wouldn't want to miss the writer workshops and the master class, those are on Saturday.  And you go to ‘FScottfestival’ all one word ‘.org’ and make your reservation for that.  You do need to sign up for a writing workshop, a specific one because they are contained, they are small.  The event I don't think we said where it is, it’s in Richard Montgomery High School which is large – as large – some large and some small classrooms just rather perfect for our uses and a large parking lot.  And it’s very easy to find, its right out Rockville pike. It's very easy.

So if you want the master class I mean if you want the workshops, you do need to register.  But there also people can come in and there is a registration fee it's very modest.  But you can come in for anything, you can come in just to hear Russo or you can come in in the morning and see the movie at which she will be present to talk about it.  There are two wonderful movies made of his books, The Empire Falls and Everybody’s Fool, wonderful movies and we're going to have one of those.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Nobody’s fool, it's Nobody’s Fool.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Nobody’s fool.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  And he'll be talking about the film after the film is presented.  Also in order to maintain the connection with the F. Scott Fitzgerald, we're very-very pleased this year that F. Scott Fitzgerald's granddaughters, Eleanor Lanahan and Cecilia Ross have agreed to come to the festival.  They came to one of the earlier festivals, but they have been back in probably 15 or 20 years and they're coming this year along with Eleanor's daughter, Blake Hazard who is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's great granddaughter and who also now works with her mother and her aunt in administering the Fitzgerald estate.  And so they will be participating in a panel discussion on Saturday afternoon talking about what it is like to be the heirs of a great American writer and also what it is like to administer the estate of a great American writer.  So we're particularly pleased this year that they're going to be with us.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Blake is also a singer.  And they're going to be speaking exactly across the pike from the grave of their great grandfather.  You know that both Fitzgeralds and other members of the family I think about six or seven other graves of Fitzgerald’s are right across the street in the Saint Mary's cemetery.  There is a tour, but you don't need to take the tour to go to see the graves, anybody can go at any time and park back by the school and see.

So we beat on boats against the current on the gravestone and whatever little goodies people have left bottles, roses, signs, in honor of the Fitzgeralds.  Scott was moved there; he was buried in another non-sacred plot close by until his daughter until his wife’s death. And then his daughter and -- I don't know how she arranged it, it's quite amazing because I don't think they were good church goers all their lives, but they are now in St Mary's churchyard.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  And so is their daughter?

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Yes.

Lauren Martino:  So can you tell us a little bit about the Fitzgeralds connection to Rockville in Montgomery County.  Why were they buried?

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, Fitzgerald’s father's family was from Montgomery County and even though Fitzgerald lived most of his life in Midwest and in the east, he always had a real connection to his father's family.  And when he died he died very suddenly and unexpectedly.  And everybody involved his daughter and his widow all knew that where he wants to be buried was in Montgomery County with his father's family.  And as Ellie said he was originally buried in the Union Cemetery not in the church cemetery and so was Zelda. And then I think in the middle of seventies maybe their daughter arranged to have them move to Saint Mary's which is where many of the other parts of the family are, but it's true his father's family that he has the connection with Montgomery County and he came here often to visit. And he lived in Baltimore for fairly long period of his life, so he has that Maryland connection as well.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And close by Washington to, I believe his parents were married there actually.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah, yeah.  So that's the connection.  And as Ellie said the last -- this is the second time we've been at Richard Montgomery with the festival.  And you can literally look out the windows of the Richard Montgomery High School Library and see the graveyard where the Fitzgerald plot is.  So you couldn't be in a more appropriate spot for an F. Scott Fitzgerald festival.

Lauren Martino:  I wonder what it would be like to go to school in that place and then live in the shadow of this and your English teachers can always keep pointing to it.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  It would be wonderful.  I hope they all know that where the -- how close they are to a great legend, one of our great, maybe if you name five of the greatest I would put Fitzgerald in there.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Maybe they work that into their paper grading, F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried here, you can do better. D-.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  When you go there that spot is in the middle of a terrible traffic pattern and when you're standing there in that little graveyard, every time I've been there it seems peaceful somehow.  It's quite remarkable and there is a kind of sacred quality about it.  His mother actually died in Montgomery County.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  We're also very pleased that we have a increasingly close connection with the Montgomery Public Schools.  We have for many years had two short story contest as part of the festival; one for -- is open to anyone who lives in the DC Maryland, Virginia area and the other is open to students in Montgomery County.  And we gave two awards; well actually we gave an award for a winner in each contest and a couple of runners up in each contest.

Also in the last few years, we have asked each Montgomery County Public High School to name one of their students an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar and those individual students attend the festival as our guest.  They have special programs with the honoree and with other special people, master classes.  They receive a book signed by the honoree and also they get a certificate indicating that they have been selected as an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar.

So that’s quite a distinction and almost every high school last year name somebody as a Fitzgerald scholar and we're hoping I mean we usually have between 15 and 20 high school students who attend.  The winner of the high school short story contest does get to speak at the festival. And as Eric said this year we're very excited because the libraries are going to have a program where all the finalists, the three finalists for the student short story contest will be able to read their stories and speak about them at the public library as Eric mentioned.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And nobody will know who the winner is, of course see that will heighten the interest.  We hope that everybody who hears the stories will want them to come to here who was named though the actual winner of that contest.  Stories are wonderful.  Last year's story was just a marvelous, intercultural story, an intergenerational story, very sensitive story.  So I'm looking forward.  They're printed in our program too.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Is it too late to enter the contest?  When does the—

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  I think the student short story contest deadline has passed, but I think the adult or open short story contest deadline is August 11th.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Yes.

Lauren Martino:  So for next year, yeah.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Is past, but people should keep it in mind for next year.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  They should practice.

Lauren Martino:  About a year to work on it.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Can you imagine for your college entrance, I mean intrinsic reward of the honor is great.  But also it does not look bad on your college application.

Lauren Martino:  Who knows maybe you'll have an honoree for the F. Scott Fitzgerald award one year that's previously won the short story contest.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  In 2040?

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Winner, let me look that.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, one year when we applied for a grant, one of their letters of support was from a previous winner of the short story contest who has gone on to become a fairly accomplished short story writer and he testified to how important winning the festival's short story contest have been in his career.

Lauren Martino:  Wow.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  He is not a young person, I mean he is an adult who has submitted a story one and was very encouraged by that, and he’s continued to write.  I mean one of the things that could easily happen and he would be a perfect candidate.  He could very easily be one of our workshop leaders some day and that would be a wonderful succession of having a previous short story winner be the workshop leader in a fiction workshop.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  That such a good idea we should put that on our agenda.  I think that's a wonderful idea.  When I go back to the family a moment if I may because I think we left this out, it's pretty important.  Francis Scott Key of course is an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Lauren Martino:  Really.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Hence his name.

Lauren Martino:  Fitzgerald.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Yes and of course Maryland.  So that's very important Maryland connection.

Lauren Martino:  Are there other any references to Maryland or to Montgomery County in any of their works.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I think there's a beautiful one.  Jack will elaborate on this, he probably knows the passage by heart but Dick Diver in Tender is the Night which is autobiographical of the marriage particularly much more so than the Great Gatsby as you probably know.  But he goes home – his father dies and he goes home which is – I don't remember if the place is actually named but I always get the sense of coming back to Montgomery County.  It's a southern place in the novel.  And he thinks about tradition and his fine father is having a crisis in his own life and he remembers his father's strong ethos.  It's a very moving passage and one of the most autobiographical I think in all of Fitzgerald is about the middle of the book.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah I mean the passage is something -- he also wrote a very famous essay about his father when his father died.  I mean it's kind of ironic because his father was a terrible failure as a businessman and as a wage earner.  But it's interesting because his mother was by far the dominant person in his life and his mother's family supported Fitzgerald.  And his father for most of his life because his father -- his grandfather on his mother's side was a very successful I guess you'd say grocer; he ran a grocery store and he died – very relatively young and left quite a bit of money.

Fitzgerald's father on the other hand never could keep a job, but Fitzgerald learned from his father what you might call the graces of the south.  I mean he said at one point maybe in this essay I can't remember that he always referred judgments to his father because he always thought his father had that sense of noblesse oblige and southern grace that he admired and you know that cut across whether he was successful or not.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Actually when you think about the Great Gatsby begins with a reference to the next father, I don't know, you know my father taught me to reserve all judgment.  I don't know whether that came from Fitzgerald’s own father or not but it is an homage to fathers.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah and so his father represented something very important to him beyond whether he was successful.  I mean he never got over -- Fitzgerald never got over when his father lost his job.  They lived in upstate New York for a while, and he came home one day and said he lost his job. And Fitzgerald was very young at the time probably seven or eight years old and he said that was a devastating moment in his life.  But he still remained – had a tremendous respect for his father.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  The issue of money of course is so central in all of Fitzgerald's work in most 20th century fiction I guess.  But his first biography -- one of his first biographers, Malcolm Cowley, I think it was who said that F. Scott Fitzgerald resembled the little boy at the candy store window with his nose pressed against it looking and not able to afford what was within, just a kind of devastatingly sad picture and not untrue.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah I mean he grew up I mean all you have to know about Fitzgerald is to go to Saint Paul and see where his house was.  And his house was across the street from the backyards of all the biggest houses in Saint Paul and he was -- his friends, his playmates were all the children of Saint Paul's richest and most successful citizens.  And because of his grandfather's money, he was able to go to a very good private school.  But he was always aware that he was not one of them and he was always aspiring in a way to be one of them at the same time is realizing that was never going to be possible.  And all his work is filled with that sort of double sense of envy and regret that you find just by seeing the physical situation in Saint Paul.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And his story, the rich boy, of course starts with one of the most famous served catalogs of why the rich are different.  It's the one that Hemingway made fun of. but it's much more true than Hemingway's attacked on it.  The rich are different.

Lauren Martino:  And it's suppose around here there's a lot of that that resonates just with the extreme wealth we have --.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  These days.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah especially in the DC area.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  We ought to say something about Richard Russo who is this year's honoree.  He is a marvelous, marvelous novelist; Empire Falls which won the Pulitzer Prize is probably his most famous book, but he has got several other wonderful books.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I've been reading the older books now, I’ve read Everybody and Nobody's Fool.  Now I'm reading Bridge of Sighs.  It did get an award, but I don't -- I think it got overshadowed later.

Lauren Martino:  There's a warmth to him.  He loves his characters.  There's humor.  He puts them in ridiculous situations.  In Bridge of Sighs, a little boy gets stuck in a trunk and people make love over the trunk.  And I mean that’s the beginning of the book.

Lauren Martino:  He loves such a crazy situation, yeah, really.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  You know, the situations people get in and he pulls them out of them with the most loving, that's the word -- maybe that's too sloppy a word Jackson, but I get the sense that he loves his characters and he loves America.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, he's also written one of the funniest novels about academic life called Straight Man which is based on his long experience as a college teacher.  It's a very-very funny novel.  The other thing about Richard Russo that I'm particularly looking forward to hear -- in my experience he is one of the most articulate writers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.  What I mean is there a lot of writers who are brilliant writers, but who don't necessarily talk that well about what they do that doesn't mean they're not good writers they just write, they don't talk about it.

Richard Russo talks beautifully about the art of writing, the art of fiction, about teaching.  And I'm really looking forward to his master class where he'll talk about the craft of writing and will answer questions.  I don't know anybody I go to a lot of readings where writers come to town with their books.  I don't know anybody who is more interesting and more articulate in a Q&A than Richard Russo.  So I recommend that as one of the features of this year's festival.  I'm really looking forward to.  And he is a wonderful person as Ellie says in his books you can feel that.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  You wrote a memoir about his -- it's ostensibly about his mother.  But of course he is the other major character and he is a professor and writer in the book.  So there you get a lot of the pressures on a writer, time pressures and how you advance in academia and how you blend that with the needs of your family.  Again, the portrait of his mother is affectionate and a slightly humorous ironic.  And it's a wonderful book, it's a wonderful memoir.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  I think we have to say something about Jenny Boylan.  We ask the honoree every year who he would like to have introduced him or her at the event and it's usually another writer and we try to honor that request.  And this year Richard Russo ask the Jenny Boylan be asked to introduce him.

Jenny Boylan is a Professor at Barnard College in New York, but for many years she was James Boylan at Colby College.  One of his colleagues and she underwent a sex change about 15 or 20 years very publicly.  She has written about it.  And so has Richard Russo written about the trauma that he went through had seeing his best friend become a woman in a way and how difficult that was for him initially and now they obviously have maintained the friendship.  And I'm really looking forward to meeting Jenny Boylan, as I say she has written a couple of books about her experiences.  And I think people will be interested in her story as well as in Richard Russo's.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  By the way you said the word books gives me a chance to say that thanks to Montgomery County Library.  We will be selling books by all of the workshop people, Richard Russo of course and Jenny Boylan.

Lauren Martino:  The Friends of the Library will be selling this.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Yes, at the Saturday event.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And also on the Friday event.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  And the writers are usually very-very willing to sign copies of their books and to -- writers always like to see their books sold.  And if signing them will help sell them, they'll do it.

Lauren Martino:  So how do you choose the recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald award every year?  Who does the choosing?

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well the committee, the committee basically talks it over each year and we come up – I mean I have to admit that sometimes we ask somebody and they can't do it.  And so then we have to go to another choice, although in recent years it's very interesting when we first started out we were very lucky we got a couple of very good writers at the very beginning.  And then people began to turn us down because we don't offer a lot of money and there isn't much prestige.

But then as we began to honor certain writers, other writers who had previously turned us down suddenly were willing to come.  I mean I very fondly remember John Updike refusing us until we gave the award to Norman Mailer.  He somehow found it in his schedule to be possible to come to Rockville and get the award.  As Ellie said we've had just a star studded array of writers over the years.  I think we're now up to 14 Pulitzer Prize.  Well, not 14 different writers, but 14 Pulitzer Prizes won by the writers that we have honored.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  The real reason we have these people, they're willing to come here that they know Jackson Bryer who has edited their work or introduce them in some other context. And so we sit at the meeting and Jackson says, “Why don't I write so and so,” and we say, “Oh, sounds like a very good idea.”

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, that's partially true, but also the festival now has become well enough known.  So that when we invite a writer, they know who the other writers are that we've honored and they are very pleased to be on the list now.  So I think that's part of it too.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I noticed that Richard Russo's book – no, no, I noticed that Robert Olen Butler’s book, I just read another one of his mysteries and it features the F. Scott Fitzgerald award on the back of the, you know, on his credits.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Oh, which is it.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Biography it is featured along with the Pulitzer.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, last year we honored Annie Proulx and this year the national book festival in September 1st is honoring Annie Proulx.  They got the idea from us for sure.

Lauren Martino:  Are there any other previous honorees you'd like to mention?

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, two years ago we honored Garrison Keillor who is a great Fitzgerald fan.  And he very generously agreed to do a program on Friday night at Strathmore.  And he donated the entire receipts from that event, which we split with Strathmore.  And as you can imagine filling Strathmore brought in a great deal of money and we're not a particularly wealthy organization. And because of his generosity, we are in much better financial shape than we were before he did that.  And I know he has had some trouble since then, but we remain extremely grateful to him for that.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And he was wonderful with the high school students.  He refused to let anybody other than the high school students for that part of the day the next day.  And you could hear this laughter – all these high school students and they never did tell us what they talked about it.  But he charmed them and he certainly charmed us and --.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well and when we introduced the Fitzgerald scholars which is the group that he met with, he knew something about every single one of those students and had talked to each of them individually.  So given the difficulties he has been having I think it needs to be said that he certainly was a model honoree for us.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  He was indeed.  He was wonderful.  And I should mention that there's one local honoree, wonderful-wonderful writer I'm sure you know Alice McDermott.  She has been an honoree and she is also participated in other parts of the festival, otherwise there's no geographical limit to where we find the people.  But it’s wonderful to have her be part of it.

Lauren Martino:  I have a confession to make I have not read any F. Scott Fitzgerald since high school and I did not enjoy the Great Gatsby in high school.  Is there anything you can say to all of those people like out there like me who have just not taken a look at F. Scott Fitzgerald since their, you know, adolescent brains were –

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, I think you need to look, read them as an adult.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  You grown into him.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  I think I'm retired as a college teacher and I now teach adults, Ellie does too.  And the difference between reading when you're 15, 16 and 17 years old and when you're an adult is a very different experience.  I don't guarantee that you would love Fitzgerald now, but I think you are to give him another chance because I think after you've lived a little while you might see things in him.  Also The Great Gatsby is I think a great novel not because of its story or not because of anything other than how beautifully written.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Style.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Just is almost, you can read The Great Gatsby almost the way you read a poem word for word.  It's just beautifully-beautifully written and I think you should give it another chance.  But you could also start with some of his short stories which are obviously briefer and can be read more quickly.  And you know he may not be to your taste, but he seems to be to the taste of a lot of, as I said a lot of modern writers who admire him a great deal.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  The style is magnificent and of course he rewrote so many times.  Gradual dissertations have been written on comparing version one degree -- Version 7.

Lauren Martino:  Version 7.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  The green light didn't appear at first as it does in the beginning, it just appeared later.  And his wonderful editor, Maxwell Perkins relationship is so famous that there's a whole separate movie about Maxwell Perkins suggested that it become a motif and he put it in.  There was a big debate about the title of the book that is very revealing about what he thought of the book because it didn't begin as The Great Gatsby.  There are a number of other titles among Ash Heaps and Millionaires for example.

But as Jackson said the story of people with varying degrees of selfishness and jealousy and desires is wonderful on one level.  And although my daughter when she read it when she was too young she said, at age 15 she said, “I think they're very immature people”.  That was my impression too.  But then you read it and you realize well of course that's the point in a way I mean Daisy is not worth it the dream but to have such a dream.  And then to couch it in language which is poetic.  I've heard it read well, Jackson has seen the play which is the whole book.

And in Saint Paul, Garrison Keillor again arranged a reading of the entire book all one day with famous people reading each chapter.  When you hear it and you can't skim, you can't skip over anything.  You realize that it's a, there's humor in it that you missed the first time, little ironic twist stuck in and there's just great beauty.  And these lists of things are all interesting in themselves, you know the guests who come, their names and so forth.  And then there are historical people and then the man who fixed the World Series, for example you learn a little bit of history if you have a good English teacher. I taught high school before I taught college at Stone Ridge.

Lauren Martino:  Okay.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  For 18 years.  So there are hundreds and hundreds of young women out there who have -- I hope have a happy version of the book.

Lauren Martino:  Do you think that's a plug for listening to the audiobook verses reading it, would this make a good audiobook just because you can't skip over the language.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I like to do that because you -- I think you need both.  But yes you do hear things differently and you don't miss it if you are attentive, you don't miss anything so and you don't mind traffic jams or doing the dishes or whatever it is that's mindless while you listen.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, it show that Ellie was referring to is a show called gats in which the elevator repair service, theatre company had an actor who read the entire text of Gatsby while other actors were silently acting out parts of the book.  And this year pleasure of hearing this actor read the book.  He didn't act the book, he just read it.  He didn't attempt to act the roles, he just simply sat there and read the book and it was incredible.

And as Ellie said it brought out how very humors in a clever way Fitzgerald's languages.  There were a lot of laughs in that audience and a lot of chuckles and it was an incredible experience just to hear the book read out loud.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  In some way it is more satisfying than the movies.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Oh the movies, yeah.  The movies can’t because the book isn't really a great book because of the story.  It's a book -- it's a great book because of the way it's written and the movies can't convey that.  They've tried with having voice over say some of mixed lines but you just can't convey, it’s a different medium, you can't convey it.

Lauren Martino:  Are there any particular movies based on Fitzgerald books that you think are particularly well done or particularly poorly done, which you’d like to talk about?

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, it's interesting I don't think that the movie versions of the Great Gatsby, the two most recent ones are all that bad.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I love the Robert Redford movie.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah, I -- there -- it's interesting because each generation does a version of The Great Gatsby that is that generation’s version of The Great Gatsby.  And each version is slightly different because each version is made by a movie maker who sees different things in the book.  And I thought Baz Luhrmann’s version the most recent one was really quite good.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I hated it.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah, I know a lot of people did.

Lauren Martino:  Why did you hate it?

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  It was too noisy and too big and there was a psychiatrist who's not in the book and bunch of things like that.  But we showed -- Jackson arranged for us to see the Alan Ladd version that’s a 1940 or something.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  It ’45 or ’46, I can’t remember.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Which completely changes the story, it’s black and white in it.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah, but it's a gangster movie.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Yes.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  Because that was what was popular, you know, it starts with a silent stretch of film where some people do a gangland killing.  And I assume you're supposed to believe that Gatsby's henchmen are doing that.  And it's just a completely forties version of Gatsby.  And in a way I mean I certainly respect Ellie’s opinion of Baz Luhrmann’s movie but each generation should interpret the novel the way that generation wants to interpret it.

A book isn't static, a book, you know, a book means different things to different people.  And it means different things to different movie producers and directors and writers.  And the very fact that it's been done so many different times says something about its enduring power.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  There had been a couple of television, many episode ones like six hour depictions which have been good to.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah and you know there's a movie of Tender is the Night that's pretty awful.  And but – again, it was a testimony to the fact that somebody thought it was worth doing.  And there've been dramatic versions of both I mean Gatsby was made into a play in the twenties and it's been adapted into a play by a contemporary playwright.  And I've seen it and it's pretty good.  He is smart enough to remain pretty faithful to the book.

I think that same playwright is done it adaptation of Tender is the Night.  Fitzgerald seems to hold an appeal for people part of the reason obviously he holds an appeal for people is that his and Zelda's life story is kind of interesting.  I mean people, you know, there's a certain glamour involved with the Fitzgerald’s --.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  They defined the Jazz Age.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah and so people are interested for that reason but one --.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  He also wanted to be a playwright, I mean he did write plays, not successfully [Indiscernible] [00:41:46].

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  He wrote one very unsuccessful, but --.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  He wrote them when he was a kid.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Yeah, he did and he also wrote plays at Princeton.  He wrote the triangle club plays, but you know part of the reason he survives is Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald are one of the most glamorous literary couples of the 20th century.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  And tragic.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  And tragic and somewhat hard to understand like all marriages it's a mystery and it's fascinating to people.  But one would hope that if they're attracted by the story of their lives that they'll sit down and read the books and see that the real value is in the books.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  The President, the new president who is taking over from Jackson of our committee is undertaking a study of Zelda's art, the visual art.  And I think she'll have a good book someday about it.  And she gave a lecture at Twinbrook which was wonderful I thought.  You know everything -- she fascinates people and to the extent that they know more about her I just think people will turn to the books more they will see details in there.  In the diver marriage in Tender is the Night, there is a lot of the real Zelda.

Lauren Martino:  So we like to ask all of our guests at the end of the episode, what are you reading right now, we'll start with Eric.

Eric Carzon:  I am currently reading a short book it's called ‘The Poet Slave of Cuba’ and it’s fascinating.  So it's a story of this poet, he is a Cuban poet and he was a slave as well.  And it just -- so it's sort of an autobiographical poem about his life.

Lauren Martino:  Like a book length poem?

Eric Carzon:  Yeah, I mean it’s a fairly short book, but yeah it is fascinating read and it's just a very-very odd situation for this poor person, because he was a slave and then the rich slave owner sort of saw something in him, so he sort of ripped him away from his parents.  And you know, gave him a lot of opportunities, but he is still a slave.  Like even at some point in the story the slave owner who is a little crazy, frees his mother and father, but keeps him as a slave.  So like he is a slave and his parents are free and he can't be free until she dies and it just goes south from there.  So very fascinating story so far and I'm about I guess two-thirds of the way through.

Lauren Martino:  All right, thanks Eric.  How about you Jack.

Dr. Jackson Bryer:  Well, I just finished reading Anne Tyler's most recent book ‘Clock Dance’ and I'm a great Anne Tyler fan.  We'd love to get her to the festival, but she doesn't go anyplace so.  We've tried and now I'm reading a novel by a man name Kent Haruf called Benediction and -- which I'm liking very much.  But I certainly recommend Anne Tyler to anybody who has never read her work.  She's quite something and she's local.  She writes mostly about Baltimore.

Lauren Martino:  Ellie what are you reading.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  I'm reading Richard Russo.  Everything I can get and I’m so enjoying that the characters are so marvelous.  But I'm also going back to Robert Olen Butler who was – he has participated in two separate years and he started writing mysteries that are, sort of crime espionage stories that are set in World War I with, you know, Zeppelins and a character whose mother plays Hamlet.

Lauren Martino:  Oh wow.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  His mother plays Hamlet.  And it's really great fun and so I have read a couple of those for entertainment.  He is a person who is written very serious books about Vietnam experience, you know, veterans and so forth and love stories.  But he is also written some wild far out things like a collection of short stories based on imagined and real enquirer headlines, you know, tomato speaks for the child and the family or you know, really very strange stories.  He has got a great imagination, so that’s fun.

Lauren Martino:  So he is just trying to come up with a situation where this would make sense.

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham:  One of the things about this festival is and I think Jackson so much for inviting me to be part of it, he was one of my advisors at Maryland. But one of the great things is you get to know the authors who come and because you know you're going to be meeting them, you want to know their work.  And for example I wouldn't -- I don't think I would've read works about a sports writer like Richard Ford, but what a deeply satisfying experience it is to read his novels and that was, you know, the work of another summer for example. And then I really -- James Salter who wrote about Flying Aces in Korea.

Again sort of guy fiction, but it turned out no, no, not so, they're universal and they're wonderful.  And having the privilege of taking him to the grave to see the Fitzgerald grave shortly before his own death – shortly after our festival is something that personally I treasure a great deal.

Lauren Martino:  Eric, Jackson and Ellie, thank you so much for your time today and sharing your wealth of knowledge. We really enjoyed this conversation and I am so glad we could have you here today.

Eric Carzon:  Thank you.  Thank you, it’s our pleasure and we also hope to see you at the MCPL events and at the festival.

Lauren Martino:  Yes.  Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.  Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also please review us and rate us on Apple podcasts.  We'd love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

[Audio ends]

Sep 11, 2018

Summary: F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival organizers Dr. Jackson Bryer and Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, as well as Twinbrook Library Manager Eric Carzon, talk about the upcoming festival, as well as the life, work, and Montgomery County connections of jazz-era author F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recording Date: August 9, 2018

Guests:

Dr. Jackson Bryer, author of several books about F. Scott Fitzgerald and one of the founding organizers of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival.

Eric Carzon: Branch Manager of Twinbrook Library and MCPL liaison to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. 

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, Professor Emerita of Concordia University Saint Paul and one of the organizers of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. 

Host: Lauren Martino

What Our Guests Are Reading:

Dr. Jackson Bryer: Benediction by Kent Haruf, Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

Eric Carzon: The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle

Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The books of Richard Russo and Robert Olen Butler

Books, Authors, and Other Media Mentioned During this Episode:

"Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

John Barth

Bernice Bobs Her Hair (film): Based on a short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jennifer Boylan

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Robert Olen Butler

Susan Coll

Malcolm Cowley

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (film): Based on a short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald

E.L. Doctorow

Empire Falls by Richard Russo 

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo

F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Richard Ford

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This famous book has had numerous film adaptations

Garrison Keillor 

Norman Mailer  

Alice McDermott

E. Ethelbert Miller

Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo

Maxwell Perkins

Annie Proulx

Richard Russo

Trajectory by Richard Russo

Straight Man by Richard Russo

James Salter

William Styron

Margaret Talbot

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

John Updike

The Vegetable, or From President to Postman (play) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Winter Dreams" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode

The Elevator Repair Service Theater Company: Performs original works with an ongoing ensemble. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival: This literary festival features writing workshops, panel discussions, the presentation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award to a prominent author (the 2018 recipient is Richard Russo), and much more. The festival honors the works of jazz-era author F. Scott Fitzgerald and as well as the work of current, prominent authors. The festival also supports and encourages aspiring writers and students interested in the literary arts. The festival takes place Saturday, October 20, 2018 at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD. There is an opening lecture by National Book Foundation Executive Director Lisa Lucas on Thursday, October 18, as well as a special event Friday evening, October 19,"Readings in Tribute to Richard Russo and Literature Without Borders." MCPL will host several Fitzgerald related programs before the festival begins. 

Friends of the Library, Montgomery County: A nonprofit organization that supports MCPL by providing supplemental funding, programs, materials, and equipment. 

Kanopy: MCPL's free, online movie streaming service. Includes film festival favorites, award-winning documentaries, indie films and world cinema. 

The Writer's Center: A literary organization in Montgomery County, MD hosting writing workshops and literary events to promote the craft of writing for people of all backgrounds. 

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