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Library Matters

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

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. 

 Read the transcript

Aug 29, 2018

Listen to the audio

Lauren Martino:  Hello, listeners, this is Lauren Martino, host of this Library Matters episode.  Before we get started, I want to let you know that this episode is all about true crime and includes discussion of murder and other related unpleasantries.  So be advised if you have any sensitive listeners or children around while playing this episode.  Okay, let’s get started.

Welcome to Library Matters.  I’m your host Lauren Martino and I’m here today with Carol Reddan who is the Library Associate at Only Library and also a true crime enthusiast.  [00:00:30] Welcome Carol.

Carol Reddan:  Thank you.

Lauren Martino:  So I must admit this is not an area I'm well versed in.  I'm a children’s librarian and there is only so much children’s true crime out there, but Carol, well, how do you define the true crime genre?

Carol Reddan:  Probably best to keep it super, super simple and literal, a book that talks about, investigates, delves into a true crime.  So obviously a lot of the time that’s going to be murder [00:01:00] or something violent like that, but also I am really into white-collar crime too.  A fabulous book I read fairly recently was “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis that they made the motion picture out of with Steve Carell.  It’s fabulous.  It went into the whole before the 2008 real estate crash what was going on in real estate in Florida, just as interesting, just as drawing you in, so…

Lauren Martino:  So it’s fascinating because, yeah, you think about [00:01:30] brutal murders and serial killers and…

Carol Reddan:  Nope the broad definition delving into a crime that has – I like the fact that what draws me in is this really happened.  I have a young niece who – when you give her toys or whatnot or books or whatever and she is like five and she is like, “Did this really happen?  Did this really happen?” And that’s the thing about nonfiction.  It adds so much to it.  It really happened.  That’s – it’s nobody made it up.  [00:02:00] It really happened.  That adds…

Lauren Martino:  It’s crazier than anything…

Carol Reddan:  It adds that it gives it this extra, hmm, it happened.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  What gets you excited about true crime books.  What makes you pick them up over, say, a mystery or horror books or something?

Carol Reddan:  I'm just drawn to them and part of it I think is I particularly like unsolved.

Lauren Martino:  Unsolved?

Carol Reddan:  That, yeah, unsolved like the zodiac.  It’s just – [00:02:30] it’s a puzzle.  It’s a puzzle to solve, even once that – the outcome is known.  It's fascinating to watch the piecing together of it, the investigators, something happened in exact certain way and we either won’t know about it or maybe we’ll be able to go back.  Investigators will be able to piece it together.  But something happened in exact way.  One act followed another and it’s a challenge of puzzle to piece that altogether and [00:03:00] find out how it happened the layout, exactly how it happened.  It’s basically the thrill of solving a puzzle. 

Lauren Martino:  Because nobody else has solved.

Carol Reddan:  It’s a big question mark.  But a lot of the famous ones are things that have teased and tantalize people for decades and forever.  And Lizzie Borden is technically, we would say, unsolved.  Someone did this.  It happened a certain way.  Someone killed her parents [00:03:30] on this hot summer afternoon and she was found not guilty and people have speculated so many different theories.  It could happen this way.  It could happen that way.  But really on that afternoon it happened one way and we just don’t know what it is and that just drives you crazy.

Lauren Martino:  I guess it’s like the John F. Kennedy assassination where people have speculated and speculated for the decades.

Carol Reddan:  Quadrillions of words written about that and the speculation and the different scenarios and yet on that afternoon there was [00:04:00] one set of events that happened in a certain way and it’s become so convoluted.  We probably never know what that precise sequence of events was, but, yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Do you find that most authors of these unsolved crime books try to come up with their own theory of what they think happened or do they really leave it up to you?

Carol Reddan:  A lot of them tem really do.  I think they do and sometimes I think they feel artificially compelled to do so and it ends up not so great.  I’ve read some things Lizzie Borden [00:04:30] like they come up with that.  Her sister was 20 miles away in another town visiting relatives, but one author took the tact that she came back and she actually did it, not Lizzie Borden.  So sometimes I think they are going out of their way to come up with something novel, something new

Some people, some authors I think are just contrarians.  A really famous case I’ve always followed is the Jeffrey MacDonald case with the Fort Bragg military [00:05:00] physician who killed his wife and two children.  And it is like the most litigated case in history.  He keeps appealing and he is going back and forth.  But initially he had a military trial, which they let him go.  But his wife’s father stayed on it so much that he was brought to a criminal trial and found guilty.

And, yeah, I followed that a lot and a lot of authors like Joe McGinniss wrote one of the first landmark true crime books [00:05:30] Fatal Vision which was also like a miniseries and I remember watching that.  It was just fascinating.  But a lot of authors I think feel compelled to come back and say, “No, he didn’t.”  They will look and they’ll argue for evidence the other way, but I guess it keeps it interesting.

Lauren Martino:  What first got you into true crime?  Is there a book that really sort of lit the flame for you or–?

Carol Reddan:  Well, in third grade, well, this sort of I guess was the start of it for my birthday, my mother gave me my first Nancy Drew book. [00:06:00] Does it sound, well – but she gave me that.  It was the Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion and then just from there out, mystery was like – I love the camaraderie of Nancy and Bess and George going to the mansion everyday trying to figure out what was going on. And I thought it was terribly scary and moaning and screeching coming from the mansion, but that set me on the mystery course.

So then – and I do like mystery also, but mysteries, but then I think it was actually [00:06:30] roughly around the same time Helter Skelter and Fatal Vision came out.  They are both like true crime giants or whatnot and they were just so engrossing and Vincent Bugliosi is the prosecutor who prosecuted Charles Manson and Helter Skelter, I mean, it was just a phenomenal miniseries and book and it was great. 

But Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss I thought was just so wonderful.  He stayed [00:07:00] with Jeffrey MacDonald while he was being tried for the murder and he just like got to know him in such a way in Fatal Vision he just offers such psychological background and input into his personality and what was going behind the cold blue eyes.

Lauren Martino:  The cold blue eyes.

Carol Reddan:  Yeah, yeah.  It’s scary.  And true crime just gives you a window into like you just see people here and there on the street and you never really know [00:07:30] people, what’s behind people.  It’s just fascinating what goes on behind people’s mind sometime. 

Lauren Martino:  What’s the most interesting or unusual crime you’ve ever read about?

Carol Reddan:  One of my favorites and because it stays with you because it’s still one of the unsolved ones and we actually did a book club at Only Library on it a few weeks ago is the murder of William Desmond Taylor.  So this takes place in the roaring 20s and Hollywood [00:08:00] and he is a very respected famous film director and he is shot one night in his bungalow and they have…

Over the years they’ve had so many suspects, so many theories but it’s never been solved and that one has just always fascinated me because it’s just a part of Hollywood history and there are so many different theories and other actresses, famous silent screen actresses were suspected of the crime.  [00:08:30] One actresses mother was suspected of the crime because they were worried – she worried that her daughter was in love with this famous director that she just wanted to quit her career and marry him and have children and that would have stopped the cash flow.  So she has always been a big suspect.  It’s just so quintessential classic silent screen Hollywood with all the different suspects and that one has always fascinated me. 

Lauren Martino:  Do you ever find that some true crime books are just [00:09:00] too scary in light of the fact that the events actually took place that just stopped you from reading it?

Carol Reddan:  No.

Lauren Martino:  No?

Carol Reddan:  No.  I can always read them, but afterwards it does give you the chills a little bit, but, no, I’ll just always keep on reading through.  The one that scares me the most, so one that I think is particularly scary is, it gets me is the Zodiac.

Lauren Martino:  Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Carol Reddan:  Okay.  So the Zodiac was in the mid to late ’60’s in [00:09:30] Northern California or around the San Francisco area and that just terrified that whole area.  He basically stalked couples who were parking kind of in lovers lane situations and he was active from like 1966 through 1969 and he would write letters to the San Francisco examiner like taunting them and you can’t catch me [00:10:00] and all that kind of thing. 

He just sounded absolutely very, very scary.  That one scares me, but they never caught him, but always every couple of years you will hear something like he used to mail letters to the San Francisco examiner.  So now they took the stamps off the back of the letters and they put them through DNA analysis and they got a partial profile.  So the San Francisco police say like every now and again they run it [00:10:30] through the databases to see if they get a hit, but nothing so far.

Lauren Martino:  So far.

Carol Reddan:  And every couple of years for sure someone will write a book saying that my father was the Zodiac or something like that.  But that’s a real tantalizing one that never caught.  But I like the fact that the one I wanted to mention was a new one ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara who was married to Patton Oswalt [00:11:00] and she monikered the Golden State Killer.  There was a lot of rapes and killings going on in California in the ’70’s and it just didn’t for some reason get the attention of the Zodiac.

So her feeling was it’s because there is no great moniker for this.  So she gave him a moniker and she wrote this book and it came out earlier this year and she passed away shortly after she wrote the book.  So detectives [00:11:30] kept running, well, they had some suspects.  And through DNA they have caught.  The killer has now been arrested and he is going to stay on trial through DNA.  So they had their suspects.  So they waited for him to go to a restaurant and then they grabbed his utensils and they put it through DNA testing.

So it gives you hope that a lot of these really like unsolved cases with DNA there is hope that they will be solved and I think they did it through a public [00:12:00] generic database because Ancestry and 23andMe, their information is private.  But a lot of people have uploaded their DNA to more public databases and if can just get a match on one of their distant relatives which I think happened in this case, they can trace it back.  They traced it back to the Golden State Killer.

So it’s just it gives you a lot of hope that a lot of these cold cases that you think, no, they are just never, never, never going to know but maybe [00:12:30] they’ve even tried DNA analysis on a lot of things having to do with Jack the Ripper.  Yeah, but time, the chain of evidence and time makes your evidence that you are getting very suspect.  But someone bought a saw from an auction that was purported to be from one of the Ripper victims and it had blood on it and so they put it through DNA testing.  So who know – if anything will ever come up from that or not.

Lauren Martino:  And it’s just able to do more and more.  [00:13:00] It's more and more chances…

Carol Reddan:  Yeah, if a serial killer in 1969 is licking stamps and sending taunting letters to the newspaper, it’s never on their radar the mere act of me licking the stamp will be my demise in decades from now.  Of course they might be long gone, but the Golden State Killer was really surprised when some cop showed up at his door.

Lauren Martino:  I bet.  Like the serial killers, please use – just a wet wipe or something.

Carol Reddan:  I mean, no, you are going to leave something of yourself, you just are. [00:13:30].

Lauren Martino:  Do you find yourself watching true crime documentaries or movies based on true crime or podcasts based on true crime?  Do you have anything that you’d like to recommend to us?

Carol Reddan:  Oh, yeah.  I watch – I’ll definitely watch true crime.  I love they used to do the miniseries like Fatal Vision and Helter Skelter were great miniseries that were really well done, well-acted and stay true to the books.  Those were great.  Now it’s the podcasts and I [00:14:00] was just like three years ago serial was just like I was obsessed.  I went up to the library.  It was – that was fascinating.  I love the serial podcast.

Lauren Martino:  You went up to the library?

Carol Reddan:  The library that figures into the story, so – Adnan, it’s a group of high school students up in Baltimore County and they go to Woodlawn High School which is – the campus is right across the street from the library.  So after school the high school kids, tons would just like [00:14:30] funnel over to the library. So – and that was just their routine, their habit.

So years after the murder when they are relooking into this and Adnan is accused of killing his girlfriend Hae Lee, a young lady who was at the library said, “No, you couldn’t have done it, because I saw you at the library at that time.”  So they went back and they were trying to go to the library.  Do you have any records of paper being on the computer?  Now take, this was in 1999 and they were asking this in 2015.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, gosh!

Carol Reddan:  [00:15:00] So the answer was, “No, we don’t have any records left of the computer usage for that day.”  But I went to the library, it gives you a weird feeling to be in a place where you know certain things happened.  It’s a ‘ooh’ feeling, yeah. 

Lauren Martino:  So probably let our listeners know that in most cases any kind of library record is very confidential and…

Carol Reddan:  Yeah, they didn’t have anything anyways.

Lauren Martino:  Do you have any special way that you look for these books?  Do you take recommendations [00:15:30] from friends or the library’s resources you use to find them?

Carol Reddan:  Sure.  Yeah, I'm always going through our readers’ café new nonfiction and I’ll be seeing it advertised or on TV or whatnot.  I heard Patton Oswalt was really doing a lot of interviews because he is a widower and his wife who had died while writing her big true crime book which we are carrying now.

Lauren Martino:  Which book is that?

Carol Reddan:  ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara.  [00:16:00] It’s really, really popular hot right now.  So I heard about Patton Oswalt going on a lot of shows promoting the book.  So I knew that was coming.  Also I got on the odd list early for that and it’s a fascination.  It was really well researched, a great book.  It’s just a shame that she had to die before she saw that it’s a lot of her intensive effort which put attention back on the case, which probably prompted investigators to look at this again and then solve it.

Lauren Martino:  Have you ever had a [00:16:30] situation where a family member or a friend has seen what you are reading and said, “Oh my goodness, we need to get you some help,” because that’s really disturbing.  Why are you reading that?

Carol Reddan:  A little bit.  What that comes down to is like the frequency like you are a consistent true crime reader and they are like ‘What’s with you?  Why?  What is with you?  Why do you find that?’  So you keep consistently going there. ‘I'm like–’ but a lot of [00:17:00] the case is that I'm drawn to if you go online, you will see that there are so many websites devoted to these cases and many, many people are intrigued and obsessed with these same very cases too or there just wouldn’t be that many websites devoted to them.  I mean there are so many websites devoted to finding the Zodiac.

There is Jeffrey MacDonald websites, William Desmond Taylor, when I did the book club for the Tinseltown by William Mann which [00:17:30] takes a fresh look at the William Desmond Taylor murder.  And so apparently somehow there are a lot of fanatics about that particular murder and somehow it got to an author who wrote a book about the William Desmond Taylor case in 1979.

And he called me and he wanted to take part in the book club, but the only problem was he was one of the people who he had a – [00:18:00] he has a very steadfast idea of who did it, which greatly disagreed with the new book Tinseltown and their theory and their conclusion.  And so – and we sort of wanted people to sort of have their own opinion and idea and he was just very biased in favor of one suspect, one person doing it.  So it didn’t work out.

Lauren Martino:  So you have a true crime book club at ‘Ole’?

Carol Reddan:  [00:18:30] We do.  So it’s temporary.  It’s a four-session special book club.  So it is – if it’s Monday, it must be murder.  So our first session was on the William Desmond Taylor murder and we went all into that, which was really good and people we have a display up and people are just always coming by it and reading because we give them a little overview of what we are going to be doing [00:19:00] that time.

People are just really drawn into it.  So we did William Desmond Taylor, Tinseltown first and looked at that unsolved murder.  Secondly we did a teen book.  Actually there is a fairly new teen nonfiction book by Sarah Miller on Lizzie Borden.  It’s called the Borden murders by Sarah Miller.  So that was our book that sort of took us into the whole Lizzie Borden trial and murder and whatnot. And that’s a famous [00:19:30] one that people are just always drawn into really, really famous.

And I had a lot to add to that one because I’ve been Fall River.  This is where my family was drawing the line.  We went to Massachusetts.  We went to Boston.  We went to Cape Cod and I was like we are stopping in Fall River.  This is where she lived and we went to her house.  Her house is now a bed and breakfast.  You can go all through her house and see the exact rooms they’ve tried to replicate them exactly as they were.

Lauren Martino:  Oh my goodness!

Carol Reddan:  In [00:20:00] 1892 when the Lizzie Borden murders of her parents were committed.

Lauren Martino:  Did you stay there?

Carol Reddan:  No.  I did not stay there.  Walked around the town though.  It’s a really interesting town.  Fall River, Massachusetts is a very old factory textile town.  So now I guess we call it working class, but you walk around and it’s like they all know whereabouts this murder.  This is a big part of our history or culture and this is why we are famous.  And so if you [00:20:30] walk around and you will ask someone close to the Lizzie Borden house, they’ll start talking to you and I loved it.  It just really gave me chills.

We were talking to this older gentleman and he said, “You know what, if you just go a couple of blocks down there, they built these apartments over here in the ‘60’s and there are a few old people living in those apartments who were children who remember Lizzie Borden when she was an old lady and they used to go by her house at Halloween.”  So it gave me chills to know [00:21:00] I'm standing right here but over in those apartments are people who are now very elderly who actually saw Lizzie Borden.

Lauren Martino:  Wow!

Carol Reddan:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  So all I really know about the Lizzie Borden case is the nursery rhyme.

Carol Reddan:  Like a lot of people, right.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  Can you tell us a little bit more?

Carol Reddan:  That’s another one that there was a really famous TV movie with Elizabeth Montgomery played Lizzie Borden and just a couple of years ago I think I want to say Christina Ricci did a new [00:21:30] Lizzie Borden movie.

Lauren Martino:  But what exactly happened?  What’s the story?

Carol Reddan:  So this was in August 1892 and it’s in Fall River, Massachusetts.  And Lizzie is a – she is 32-years-old, which for the time she was considered just a spinster. And she lives with her father and her stepmother and her sister in a small house in Fall River.  And the conflict and what is going on is [00:22:00] that Lizzie is upset because she feels her father is going to leave all his fortune to her stepmother and her and her sister will be cut out of the will.

Her father is a very wealthy man, but there is a lot of tension because Lizzie likes and wants the finer things in life.  She wants to travel in nice clothes and her father is tight as a drum.  He will not – they don’t have running [00:22:30] water.  He will not go for any luxury.  So that’s generally what most people will say is at the root of a tension and she did not get along with her stepmother.

And so one morning, one hot morning, in every book you read, the morning gets hotter and hotter, but it was hot.  If you went back and look back at the actual weather records, it was like 88 degrees.  But nevertheless there were rumors that the [00:23:00] Borden family had suffered from food poisoning the night before.  The druggist said Lizzie had been to the pharmacy asking for strychnine, all kinds of little leading up things like that.

But nevertheless on the morning I think it was August 4, 1892, Lizzie calls to her maid and says to come here quick, someone’s murdered father.  And the father was in the pallet room couch and he had been [00:23:30] – his head had been axed like 40 times.  They called the police.  They called neighbors.  Everyone starts flooding to the house and someone says to her, “Where is your stepmother?” And she had a fishy suspicious story, “Oh, she got a note that a friend was sick and she needed to go visit them.”  So they go upstairs and the stepmother’s body is in the guest bedroom.

So both of them have been axed [00:24:00] and the town just went crazy.  It was like the trial of the century and the police I think just a couple of days later charged her with the murder, which was huge, because nobody thought a woman at the time could commit a murder.  And the prosecutor and everybody went after her but the – and her stories were inconsistent and nowadays – it would just be so – we would just think, of course, she did it.

And most people still to this day say, “Of course, she did it.”  But they found her not guilty and most people say because they just [00:24:30] people did not think a woman could, would do that.  A violent – it was a very, very violent crime.  So she became like a pariah in Fall River and her sister stood by her.  So she was found not guilty.  So her and her sister did inherit all the money and she finally got her wish and they moved a couple of blocks over to the nicer side of Fall River and a big house and she had servants and maids and nice cars and [00:25:00] nice clothing.

So she did get all those material things that everybody thought she was after.  But she was like a pariah and kids used to come by the house and taunt her.  Probably one of those kids who was an elderly person in that apartment complex that the gentleman was talking about. And most of Fall River society really wouldn’t talk to them or have anything to do with them.  But she lived – she was like in her late ’60’s into the 1920’s, which was a decent life span for that time.

Lauren Martino:  Do you have any [00:25:30] Pet Peeve Tropes when it comes to true crime, anything that everybody does that just drives you crazy or–?

Carol Reddan:  I guess when I think certain people are being naïve or I think that a writer is writing a book just to take a contrarian stand or a ridiculous take on the crime that everybody knows this is probably not true sort of feel like they are doing it just to get attention or whatnot, come up with a wild theory that you know probably isn’t true just to get attention.

Lauren Martino:  Are there any favorite [00:26:00] true crime tropes of yours?

Carol Reddan:  Well, my favorite is I really – ones that have not been solved, unsolved, that it’s still a question mark.  Jack the Ripper, I guess, Lizzie Borden technically falls in that because she was found not guilty and they don’t know who killed her parents technically.  And the John F. Kennedy assassination too that I read a lot of stuff on that.  It happened a certain way and there is so many different theories.  I'm not a big [00:26:30] conspiracy person on that.  But we don’t know the whole story at least and it’s still – it’s a puzzle to be solved and put together.

Lauren Martino:  Do you have any new favorites you haven’t mentioned, just anything that’s come out recently?

Carol Reddan:  Well, I do like the podcasts.  I really enjoy listening to them, ‘Making a Murderer,’ Keepers I’ve listened to – all those are fabulous.

Lauren Martino:  What are those about?  I'm not familiar with those.

Carol Reddan:  Keepers is local again.  [00:27:00] It takes place up in Baltimore.  It goes into a private school and the murder of a nun. And, yeah, it was really interesting and that is on Netflix.  Keepers is on Netflix, but – and it goes into the hierarchy of the church and whatnot and it was fascinating.

Lauren Martino:  So besides the unsolved mystery and the white-collar mystery, are there [00:27:30] any other sub genres that you feel kind of stand out?

Carol Reddan:  I do like true crime that involves things that have happened locally in this area in the Washington D.C., metro area.  In fact some of the most fascinating ones I think are, what we mention, Baltimore seems to have more than their fair share of these stories, but once they really stick out in my mind that I remember because I lived in Montgomery County very long time.  [00:28:00] An unsolved one that’s really tantalizing is the Bradford Bishop case from 1976.

Lauren Martino:  Okay.  What was that about?

Carol Reddan:  Fabulous family it is mom, dad, and their three great boys and they lived with his, the husband’s mother. And they lived in Carderock Springs in Bethesda and he works for the state department.  He is a Foreign Service officer.  He is very successful, really [00:28:30] good-looking family.  And everybody on their block loved them.  Their boys were very athletic.  They swam.  Everybody thought they are the greatest family.

The bishops are just like the greatest family in the world and they have been living in Bethesda just a couple of years and it’s March 1976 and the story goes –. And I remember I lived here at the time and just hearing this story, it was just like enveloped the news.  He – on the day [00:29:00] of the murders, he had been denied a promotion.  So the story goes that he went home.  He stopped at the Sears at Montgomery Mall and bought a hammer and he stopped at a hardware store in the little shopping center that’s still River Road and Falls Road and bought some more supplies.

And he went home and he basically killed his whole family except his dog.  And the way it came to light was [00:29:30] he didn’t show up for work the next couple of days and it had been a week and the neighbors realize we haven’t seen the Bishops.  Where are the Bishops and at first they thought they were the type of family who would just pick up and go skiing.  So they didn’t think anything about it.

But once seven, eight days had passed, one of the neighbors called the police.  The Montgomery police went and they went inside the house and it was a bloodbath.  They found three boys, his mother, and his wife [00:30:00] slaughtered.  It was with the hammer and there is no dad, no husband.  So at the same time some cops in North Carolina are called to a remote park in North Carolina because there is a forest fire and they went and look in the forest fire, they find the Bishop family.

So the speculation is he had murdered his family, loaded them up in this car, driven to North Carolina and he was going to try to bury them and burn them [00:30:30] but no sighting of him. And so then the FBI, everybody is on it.  They have dogs and they finally found his car abandoned just over the North Carolina, Tennessee state line and he has never been seen again.

Now some people – he spoke like five languages fluently.  He worked for the state department.  He could have access to getting passport.  So the theories about him are endless.  Many people think he escaped to Europe and he is living there and [00:31:00] he is just blended in to European society fine.  Some people feel he would have committed suicide but nobody really knows.  Some people claim to have sightings of him in Europe, but it’s tantalizing because he just disappeared into thin air and he got away with it.  He would be 81 today.

And a couple of years ago the FBI added him back to the 10 most wanted list.  Nothing is ever panned out.  So that was just in Bethesda and he is [00:31:30] mentioned – there is a really excellent chapter the famous FBI agent John Douglas, he writes a lot of books on crime.  He did anatomy of a motive and it has a nice chapter on Brad Bishop and family annihilators like people who killed their family.

Lauren Martino:  Wow! Do you have any theories…?

Carol Reddan:  Well, the profile usually of someone according to John Douglas is a very insecure person or whatnot, but the reason he profiled Brad Bishop was because he fit none of the stereotypes.  He seemingly had a very successful career on the state department.  So he breaks all the – it’s just a huge mystery like why he did this.  But he took the dog with him.  Somebody – actually somebody did see him.  Other dogs picked up on the scent of the dog and him in these remote North Carolina areas, but then they lost the scent.

Lauren Martino:  Wow! I don’t suppose there are any bed and breakfast for the [00:32:30] true crime locally?

Carol Reddan:  Not that I know of.  They have kept track of the Bradford Bishop house and it’s changed hands many times and a lot of times when it changes owners, they’ll go and talk to the owners, ‘Do you know the history of this house?  Is this okay with you?’ And most people are like that was then.  It’s a lovely house.  We love our home and it doesn’t bother us.  It’d bother me.

Lauren Martino:  I think it would bother me too.  And you got to wonder if the FBI just come pocking around that house just to see if there is anything they missed?

Carol Reddan:  I doubt it now.  Another really famous – another local murder that is unsolved, technically unsolved and that’s really famous is and it ties into the Kennedys.  John Kennedy was having an affair as he was well known to do.  But this one was a little different.  This was with a woman who – she was a socialite and a painter in [00:33:30] Georgetown in the early ‘60’s and her name was Mary Pinchot Meyers and it’s significant because a lot of people said that this was like a really important relationship to John Kennedy like most of his other affairs were very superficial or whatnot. 

This was an important person in his life.  And she was married to a very high up CIA official and they were divorced and she was seeing John F.  Kennedy which he was killed in November 1963, [00:34:00] so just 10 months later in October 1964 it was just like a – it was a Monday morning in October.  She is painting in her studio in Georgetown and she set her painting up to dry and then after she would do it, it was her routine she would take a walk along the C&O Canal.

This one morning around 12:30 a car mechanic was working on a car close by and he heard a woman yelling [00:34:30] for help and when he looked over the bridge and he saw a man standing over a woman and then run away.  So he called the police.  The police enveloped the canal.  They tried to shut everything off.  They find her body.

Mary Pinchot Meyer had been shot two times in the head and they are searching around the Potomac River around the – everywhere in the woods and the trees and they find a gentleman, a young laborer Ray Crump who is then arrested [00:35:00] for the murder.  So he goes to trial and he is found not guilty.  He had a really fabulous lawyer, Dovey Roundtree who – there’s been a lot of biographies written about her too. 

She was a really famous black woman attorney and he is found not guilty.  So it’s technically unsolved.  So there is a lot of rumors that they framed him that the CIA really who has had something to do with this murder, but it just remains unsolved.  And there was a very good [00:35:30] biography of her, A Very Private Woman by Nina Burleigh which is a biography of her but it also goes into the murder a lot.

Lauren Martino:  Carol, we like to ask everybody right before we sign off, what are you reading right now?  Is it true crime or is it something else?

Carol Reddan:  I'm reading a book on organizing and decluttering.  It’s important.  That’s what I'm looking at right now.

Lauren Martino:  Which one?

Carol Reddan:  Still nonfiction.  It’s the…

Lauren Martino:  Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Carol Reddan:  Yeah and [00:36:00] that is…

Lauren Martino:  By Marie Kondo.

Carol Reddan:  Marie Kondo, yes.

Lauren Martino:  Did you know they have a graphic novel based on that?

Carol Reddan:  It's funny.

Lauren Martino:  Called the Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up.

Carol Reddan:  That would be great. 

Lauren Martino:  [Indiscernible] [00:36:11] I was like this is so amazing that’s a success.

Carol Reddan:  That’s great.  I like that.  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  But maybe after you are finished with that one, you can move into this.

Carol Reddan:  Yeah, the graphic novel. 

Lauren Martino:  Thank you so much for your time, Carol and being on our show.  [00:36:30] Listeners, feel free to check our show notes we are going to have titles, authors, any kind of information that you forgot to write down during our show.  Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcasts on the Apple podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also review and rate us on Apple podcasts.  We’d love to know what you think.  Thanks for listening to our conversation today and see your next time.  [00:37:00]

[Audio ends]

Aug 28, 2018

Summary: True crime enthusiast Carol Reddan shares her love of true crime books and recounts some of the better known national and local true crime stories. 

Recording Date: August 9, 2018

Guest: Carol Reddan, Library Associate at Olney Library

Host: Lauren Martino

What Our Guest is Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidyng Up by Marie Kondo. There's a graphic novel based on this book called The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story

Books and Other Media Mentioned During this Episode

The Anatomy of Motive by John E. Douglas

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

The Borden Murders: Lizze Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller 

Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara 

The Keepers: Who Killed Sister Cathy? (film) 

The Legend of Lizzie Borden (film)

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (film)

Making a Murderer (documentary)

The Mystery of the Moss Covered Mansion by Carolyn Keene

Serial (podcast) 

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann

A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer by Nina Burleigh

Other Items of Interested Mentioned During this Episode

MCPL's Privacy Policy

Reader's Cafe, a Virtual Place for Books and Readers

Read the transcript

Aug 15, 2018

Listen to the audio

Julie Dina:  Welcome to Library Matters.  I am your host Julie Dina.  Our topic on today’s episode is English Conversation Clubs.  Have you ever wondered about our widely acclaimed English Conversation Clubs, well today we have two special guests who will tell us all about it.  First, I would like to welcome Nancy Sillcox who is the librarian too from Quince Orchard.

Nancy Sillcox:  Hi.

Julie Dina:  Welcome Nancy.  I would also like to welcome Annie Etches who is our English Conversation Club facilitator for Quince Orchard’s Library.

Annie Etches:  Hi Julie, nice to be here this morning.

Julie:  Welcome.  So let’s just go ahead and dive in.  Can you guys tell me a little bit about yourself so our listeners can know all about you?

Nancy:  Hi I am Nancy Sillcox, I am the Adult Services librarian at Quince Orchard Library since 2008.  And I have also worked as a information specialist at the International Tsunami Information Center in Honolulu Hawaii and also at Childrens Library in San Francisco before I moved to Maryland.  And of course I enjoy hiking, drawing, and of course reading the latest best seller.

Julie:  Sounds interesting, Annie?

Annie:  Hi I am Annie Etches I am from London in England.  I have been here now from 40 years.  My husband and I came with say four children, but three really; one had to go back to England.  We have lived in this Montgomery County area for almost 40 years and he was always interested in library work of all sorts.  We both did volunteer work all our adult lives anyway and there seems to be so much interest in the libraries in this county that we both got, you know, involved.  And so he died a couple of years ago, he used to do the Tuesday morning class and then I was asked if I would like to step in and do it.  And I was very nervous at first because we both, all our lives had our own interests and I somehow felt I didn’t want to sort of step on to his shoes, but I did and I just love it.  It’s, my Tuesdays morning are absolutely fantastic, so I am so happy about that.

Julie:  We thank you for all that wonderful work and thanks to your husband too who led the way.

Annie:  Yeah he was great.

Julie:  So why don’t we just go in and tell out listeners exactly what English Conversation Clubs are and are they in fact classes?

Nancy:  Well for many English speakers or English learners I think the hardest part is speaking, I think that’s the most difficult part of learning a new language.  And so at our Conversation Clubs you know, our facilitators make them very comfortable, make them relaxed and they ask the right questions, so get them you know, talking and speaking, also it helps them with listening to the language as well.  And we depend on our facilitators to help our English learner to develop the speaking skills and I think they do a great job.

Annie:  Yes I think you’re absolutely right; they have told me quite often actually that they like listening to us talking to them as much as they like talking to us which is very good and it’s very interesting, because for me they are hearing English, English.  And they often bring that up and laugh about it that you know, because they are the facilitator that sits on my table and of course she is an American English and therefore it can sometimes be different.  But we get past that usually with laughing and joking about something and they tease me quite a lot about my English, and but that that’s fine.  Certainly, I think for them learning to speak is more important than learning to read and write and learning the grammar.  Not that grammar doesn’t come into it of course as you, you know, because we do a lot of reading, reading and it does, but it is not the focus.  And sometimes we get people who that’s what they want the focus to be is on the grammar and sometimes that’s because of the job they are doing here and they need that more in their job.  So then we can always direct them to Montgomery College and they often go there for English grammar classes as well, so that’s quite good.  But yeah I think they love it, I know they love our class and I do appreciate that every class during the week has a different approach to how they run the things and so maybe mine is a little you know, I don’t know --.

Nancy:  Yes, yeah being the coordinator I do see the difference, your Tuesday morning you guys have a lesson plan?

Annie:  Yes.

Nancy:  They have three tables and each table has a volunteer that helps about five to eight people and they have a lesson plan where everyone talks about the same topic.  And then Thursday Conversation Club each of the volunteer have their own topic that they want to talk about.  So they decide what topic that they want to talk about.  In the Saturday Conversation Club, it’s just whatever the participants want to talk about, if they want to talk about politics, you know, something is happening, they would talk about that or food or anything that was happening in current events. It’s like, it’s the mix and there is no organization to their talk.  And I think they like it that way participants in a Saturday one, they just like this very loose format and then the Tuesday evening I think there is only one volunteer, oh actually I am sorry there is two volunteers and I think they just bring up a topic and then they discuss it.

Julie:  Now would you say the same participants go to the Tuesday, the Thursday, and the Saturday classes?

Annie:  Occasionally, but also I know one or two of my – say students, they also go to Germantown Library, they sometimes go to Gaithersburg Library.  I think that because some of them walk a long way, some of them come on two buses Tuesday morning, they don’t want to drive a car and come like that.  And sometimes they go to another library because I don’t know maybe something was advertised or may be their kids have gone there for some reason or something.  So but I do know I think next week when they are closed Tuesday morning a couple of them did say to me, “Can I go to one of the other classes,” and I said, “Of course you can anytime you want,” so yeah.

Julie:  So I guess depending on what they are looking for and what is convenient at that time?

Annie:  Yes at that time, yes, yes, yes.  And in fact let’s just say, we start, of the three tables okay in our group.  My table and I have tried to encourage the other two they don’t do it quite so much, but we begin with making sure everybody knows who everybody is at the table because we have had some new people in the last couple of weeks and that has been quite fun. So everybody says who they are.  And then I ask them, “Well how was your week, what did you do, anything special?”  So we start with just talking about anything and everything.  And sometimes we don’t even get to the paper work because that goes off at so many tangents as to, you know, sometimes they have a problem they want to talk about.  And because I am also an immigrant, I can align with a lot of what they are going through in their first years here and some are only here for a few years anyway.

And so we start with the talking and then we go to the paperwork and as we get, nobody has to read if they don’t want to; I always say that if you don’t feel confident with your reading that’s fine just listen you know, but everybody likes to read.  And I try to correct their pronunciation as much as my English allows, but I try not to over do that because I don’t want them to be thinking every second word they say I am going tell them how to say it better.  So we ease up on that as we go along.  Everybody else underlines words or phrases that they don’t understand so at the end of every paragraph we will say, “We go back,” and then people will say, “I didn’t understand that, what did that mean.”  So then we go over that.  Sometimes that takes us off onto a completely different tangent of what we are discussing, but that is okay too.  And usually we sort of finish up with everybody saying, “Oh, oh is it over, we got to go now.” And I say, “Yes sorry I do have to.”  So it is a big mix of the paperwork and just general talking and things like that.  I mean somebody got caught going through a red light and --.

Julie:  That’s something to talk about.

Annie:  Yeah, the police car was sitting right there, picked him up and he had a really hard time, you know, and that often happens I know that.  So things like that so I was able to tell him what he needed to do and yes he did need to go the court and all the rest of it.  So there are things like that we can help with.

Julie:  Now how do people get started with a Conversation Club also do they have to register for these classes and where can they find a Conversation Club and how often do they meet?

Nancy:  Well the Conversation Clubs are open to all adult, it’s a drop-in meet up, you don’t have to register and you can attend as many classes as you want here at Quince Orchard, we have four and they are welcome to attend all four if they have time.

Julie:  And there are also others at other branches?

Nancy:  Yes and all the other branches also have Conversation Clubs as well that they can attend.

Julie:  Now this question is for you Annie, why did you decide to become a volunteer coordinator for Quince Orchard?

Annie:  It was my nearest library.

Julie:  That’s convenient.

Annie:  But no, I mean that’s, we live close by and that’s where my husband got involved with things, I, well both of us got involved with the Saturday monthly book sale, so we were busy with that.  I was on the library board for a short while, I don’t know there just seemed to be lots of things there and we would always encourage our kids and grand kids in that to be involved in the library if possible.  I think it’s a great place especially for the teenagers to be able to go to from the high school over there in the afternoons and you know, be over there, I think it’s a good place.

I love the idea that every Tuesday morning I have people from all around the world who are sitting there enjoying each others’ company even if they don’t always understand quite what’s being said you know.  And one day we had a I think there were about 12 people at my table, this is going back to when we were at the church hall during the time we were closed. And a guy from Iran, we had all been laughing and joking about I don’t know what now may be food or something and just before we finished he just said, “Everybody I think it’s so wonderful that we can sit here; we are all different, different countries, different religions, different ideas and yet we all get along and we love meeting together.” And that to me summed up what I want life to be about and it was just great.

Julie:  Wow so you know, you get the privilege to travel around the world in one room.

Annie:  Yes, yes, absolutely, yes absolutely

Julie:  Now I know earlier Nancy mentioned that the classes are for adults and you also mentioned it is a good form for teens to come to, what about kids, can kids attend these classes as well?

Annie:  Yes in the last few years we have had two babies born, not there, I mean you know.  And the mothers don’t come every week it depends on what’s going on, you know.  And we have a young woman from Russia it’s her first baby and she is very conscious that the baby might make a noise or anything so she comes occasionally when she is pretty sure that he is going to sleep the next hour anyway, you know, but no we just love that.  In the last few months, I have had two teenagers who have been visiting this country to be with their father or their mother or whatever. And so they have come with them and their English has been you know, good anyway, but no I think that that is fine and the two little babies we have had have been absolutely fine, no problem at all.

Julie:  No conversation from them?

Annie:  No conversation, no, no.

Nancy:  Yeah as long as children are with their parents, I think we are fine with it but we don’t encourage children coming in by themselves because the conversation would be you know, adult you know, subject matter so yeah --.

Julie:  Now who would you recommend to participate in these Conversation Clubs?

Annie:  Well I would say anybody who is going to live here for more than five or six weeks may be.  There have been occasions and the last time this couple came from Italy they came, because they came to see Richard but it was too late of course and they haven’t been back since.  But I know they used to come once a year they came to visit their daughter who lived locally and they spent two months with her and they came as did a another older couple some while ago because they want to improve their English so that they communicate with their grandchildren because they were finding that you know, their grandchildren just spoke English and they just would not, with it the whole time, they just couldn’t and they wanted the communication to be better so as they came every and so they came.

Julie:  Was that helpful?

Annie:  They said it was very helpful; they loved it so you know.

Nancy:  Yeah there was one woman who was going to have a job interview and she told me that she attended the Conversation Club so she could improve her English for the job interview.  And she said the Conversation Club helped her to be more relaxed and feel more confident in her speaking skills and it helped her with her job interview.  So she mentioned that and I thought that’s good yeah.

Julie:  Those are great feedback.

Nancy:  Yes.

Annie:  Yes.

Julie:  Is there a lot of turnover among participants or do the same people come over a long period of time?

Annie:  Both I have got at the moment on a Tuesday; I would say there are at least half the people have been coming for a long time.  In fact I have two at my table who have been coming for years whereas I have another two people at the table it was his second week this week, he is going to be one more year in this country, so he is going to keep coming he says all that year.  The other person I think she will be only here may be for another few months.  So it is you know, and some people you see like particularly the Chinese people because of their culture, they go back to their own country usually to take care of parents for three, four, five, six months of the year and then they come back again.  So I have several of those that are there for a few months and then gone and then they come back again.  It’s a mix; it’s a good mix I think.

Julie:  So for those who have been coming for a long time and not the ones who go for three months and come back, is it that they are enjoying the conversations or is there a particular upper level and at some point do you say well this has really helped me?

Nancy:  I think for some of them it’s a great social outlet for them you know, I think a lot of them feel a little isolated because of the language barrier. And so when they go to the Conversation Club they get this support.  And our facilitators you know, they would help them kind of maneuver around the neighborhood and tell them where all the resources are.  I think it is a good place for them to connect with the community.

Annie:  And with people from their country too.  There is always a brightness about them when they know someone else at the table is from their country.  And sometimes I have to, when they talk to each other and I have to say English, English only and we all laugh about that later.

Julie:  Oh okay, that is very funny.

Annie:  Yes, no it definitely is a social place for them and you will hear them say something that they saw each other in Giant or the nursery or something you know.  And they were able to meet somebody that they could talk to in their own language probably, but nevertheless it was somebody that they recognized it was a neighbor and I think that is good for them too so.

Nancy:  I think that’s great.

Julie:  So while we are on the topic of them like participants knowing each other, do either of you know your participants well?

Annie:  Several I do know, yes definitely, because when we are having, its amazing how much some of them will open up about what has just happened at home a sadness or may be a very happy thing and want to share it.  I now have a lady who is just a little bit older than me and she is into gardening and she has a big green house so do I so you know.  So we have a lot in common and she brought in the most amazing tomatoes and cucumbers last week and everybody thought this was amazing.  And now she has done this many years running, so I wasn’t surprised, but of course other people were just like, “Wow.”  So on Tuesday this other lady she brings in this big bag of chocolate and spreads it over the table for everybody to have you know, and everybody is just like, “Oh it is so nice.”

Nancy:  Wow.

Julie:  That’s great like a community, yeah.

Annie:  Yes, I feel I do.

Nancy:  I am green with envy.

Annie:  You have to come visit us.

Nancy:  Now I do.

Julie:  So what would you say are the benefits of the Conversation Clubs?

Annie:  I know how I came when I first came to this country and it took me three years before I really felt that this was home. It takes a long while, it doesn’t happen quickly or easily and I think for these people it gives them some sort of backup or some feeling that there are other people out there that I could talk to.  You know, Americans are incredibly friendly, generous people, I mean they just are which is wonderful.  And these people they recognize that very, very quickly.  As we often talk about this and how it’s different in their culture in this way and that way.  So they are very aware of that and they just think that is wonderful that they are accepted.

And I think one of the things is for them is to be accepted although they don’t speak good English and they may be misunderstood.  And it’s just the simple daily things of life when you go to a store.  A lot of them are very, very nervous about traveling on a bus, going into a restaurant and that’s something Richard used to do.  He always had money to show everybody what you know, the money or the coins were and the things and that and he would take in menus and things so that people could see what food was in a certain menu and things.  And sometimes we used to take people out to eat or something so that they could order something and feel confident that they could do that, because they feel very nervous in those situations.  So I think it’s just the daily life things that we can encourage them and I think they feel more comfortable with living.

Nancy:  And the libraries you know, it’s a perfect place to have these conversations clubs, because we have you know, we know have the, we know where the resources are.  We can direct them to where they are and they feel relaxed coming up to us and asking us you know, information about personal things like you know, job hunting or like you know, the bus route you know, which bus to catch.  And we are patient enough to you know, walk them through you know, where to catch the bus, child care services you know, some of them may not know about that, the best place you know, like banking.

Annie:  Banking is a big thing, insurance is another big that they don’t understand and they want to know about and where they can go and find out things yes.

Nancy:  And services like you know, who is a good roofer or lawn service, you know, so being in the library, we have all those information for them, yeah.

Annie:  And also they, I don’t know whether they would actually say this but this is the feeling I get from them, they feel they are in a safe place.

Julie:  At the library?

Annie:  At the library.

Julie:  And no one is going to swindle them.

Annie:  No, no, absolutely.  And they, you know, it is a government building okay, I am considering where some of these people come from that would be a scary thing in their countries to be trustworthy in a government building and yet you just sense it when they come in, that there is a relaxation, they feel safe and that’s very good.

Julie:  Now as a coordinator Nancy, can you tell us what participants have told you about Conversation Clubs that have actually enhanced their lives?

Nancy:  Well earlier yeah I only have one story; it is about the lady who was going to go for her job interview.  And she was very appreciative that the Conversation Club helped her to relax and develop some speaking skills and feel confident in speaking English you know, during the job interview.

Annie:  At the moment I have one person who is going for their citizenship and so I have been there and done that, so I can be you know, I can listen, I know what their worries are and what their concerns are, help them with questions and things.  Green cards, yes same thing, a couple of people going for their green cards and so they you know, so I can help in that way, because they don’t know who else to turn to for those things.

Nancy:  Exactly, right.

Annie:  And one of the things I have found which amazed me at first time, I am used it now, but most of these people have got children in school.  All the children speak perfect English or as perfect just as it is these days and yet will they speak English at home with their mother or their father, no.  And everybody tells me the same thing that oh they can’t be bothered, we are too slow, they don’t want to do it.  And I say look you know, for one hour every evening at the dinner table wherever say I need your help to your kids.  I have been telling you what to do all these years now I need you to help me, tell me how to say these words, just for an hour at dinner or something, you know, speak English it will help you so much, but they always come back and say no they say I am not you know.  There was one lady I remember she was with Richard before me but thirteen years, she had been in this country, her kids had gone through school okay her English was almost non-existent because she said no English is ever spoken with her apart from when she came to the class.

Julie:  Wow that’s amazing.

Annie:  And I was astounded at that.

Julie:  So did she come to that class for thirteen years?

Annie:  I don’t know that, no I don’t know that, but she had come for many years certainly.  But and it was almost as if she wasn’t improving in her English and I think that was partly because I mean I don’t know her home situation but may be speaking English was not allowed perhaps who knows I don’t know, but I was surprised that the children will not be more involved with helping their parents speak English.

Julie:  So having these Conversation Clubs actually are vital?

Annie:  I think so, I think so, yes.

Julie:  Nancy this question is for you, what would you say are Montgomery County Public Library systems top English has a second language resources and services that we provide to our customers?

Nancy:  Oh Montgomery County has a lot of resources, we have this whole collection of literacy resources that anyone that wants to learn English can borrow and some of these include audio books and DVDs.  And a lot of the audio books have instructions in their mother tongue like English for Spanish speakers, English for Farsi speakers or Chinese speakers, so they can understand the English by listening to the instruction in their own language.  And we also have lots of books that talk about you know, English grammar, word usage; we have lots of dictionaries, books on American idioms.  And of course we also have lots of resources in the community like Montgomery College has a lot of English courses that they can take and most of them are free if it is for beginners, they also offer classes for advance learners, but there is a little fee for advance courses.  And of course the Literacy Council has a lot of classes as well as tutors that can meet with English learners one-on-one and MCAEL which stands for the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy also puts out a directory of providers that provide English instruction throughout the community throughout Montgomery County.  And you can get this brochure at the library or you can just go to their website.  And Charles Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center also have lots of classes, they are located at Gaithersburg Library, in Germantown, also in Silver Spring and they have the courses listed on their website.  And if they come to library we can print out the flyers for them.  And Montgomery County College also has the Workforce Development & Continuing Education and they also can take English classes as well as there.

Julie:  So they have a wider ray of resources.

Nancy:  Yes there is a lot.

Julie:  Now do we have Conversation Clubs for other languages and if we do what are there?

Nancy:  Yes we also have Spanish Conversation Club at Quince Orchard, they meet Monday nights every Monday at 6 o’clock.  And the same facilitator also runs a Thursday night at Rockville.  And there is also a French Conversation Club in Germantown that meets at 6:30 every Tuesday night.  And Gaithersburg Library has an advanced level English class on idioms it’s called Easy Does It American Idioms.

Julie:  Now what have you learned from your experiences with the Conversation Clubs and this is to both of you?

Annie:  I think so many things but I think just overall what that man said that day about us all sitting around that table and you know, just being one laughing together.  I think about that when today that seems to be so much downside to our life, sadness to our world and I think about that that comes back to me all the time and it gives me more hope that we are going to get through bad times and we can really do this, we can really do this together, because we are all human beings and we all need each other and we can all give something to each other, it doesn’t matter what it is, but we can all share something and make this world a better place and I just feel that that we do that on Tuesdays.

Julie:  Yeah it seems as though we are more similar than we are different.

Annie:  Absolutely, absolutely without question.

Nancy:  We share a lot of common values.

Annie:  Yes, absolutely.

Nancy:  Friendship, caring for family, education I think and no mater where you are from, we share these values.

Annie:  Yes we do.

Julie:  Well we are talking about wonderful stuff.  Do you have any fun or interesting stories to share from a Conversation Club meeting?

Annie:  Well we do laugh a lot that is for sure about all sorts of things. This last Tuesday a guy, he doesn’t sit at my table he said, “Bobby,” he called me over to that table.  And he said, “Come, come see this” and he had his phone out and he is just well – we were teasing him because he has only just told us, but he has a first grand child and he was so excited about it. But the baby is already five months old and he hasn’t told us before.  So we were really going, “What you think you are doing you know, we need to know this,” you know.  And so again everybody is laughing and the photograph get handed around and everybody was so thrilled for him and things so, you know, it’s just nice, it is good sharing, it is so good.

Julie:  Right more than just conversation.

Annie:  Yes, oh definitely, definitely, but at the same time, I guess what I have done in the past in the court and that, I am very aware that there is a line that I do not cross in giving advice or you know, some things I wouldn’t say to somebody even if I thought I knew the answer or knew where I should guide them.  But there is a line that I shouldn’t get totally involved with issues.

Julie:  Right, but you could stir them in the right direction.

Annie:  Absolutely yes.

Julie:  Now to the really fun stuff, it is customary on this program that we ask our guests what they are currently reading, who would like to go first?

Annie:  My brother is an author and I just received last week, the last thing he had written which won him a prize in England.  And it’s a short story it is the most amazing piece of writing that I think I have ever read in my life.  I just couldn’t believe and it was just so absolutely beautiful and my brother had written it with just outstanding so, yes so.

Nancy:  That’s great.

Annie:  The name of the story is Unforgettable and his name is David Wiseman but I don’t know the prize.

Julie:  We will be sure to mention the name of the prize in the show notes.  Over to you Nancy.

Nancy:  Okay, personally I am reading a mystery by Martha Grimes title Vertigo 42.  So it is a story about a friend of a friend who is convinced his wife was murdered 17 years ago and not by an accidental fall off the tower called Vertigo 42.  So it was gripping, I have enjoyed it a lot.

Julie:  Thank you so much for letting us in into the world of English Conversation Clubs, I want to thank Nancy and Annie for being with us today.  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 Podcast.  Also please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we will love to know what you think.  Thank you once again for listening to our conversations today, see you next time.

[Audio ends]

Aug 14, 2018

Summary: MCPL's English Conversations Clubs offer those wishing to practice speaking English a friendly, welcoming environment in which to do so. In this episode, Quince Orchard Librarian Nancy Chiu-Sillcox and Quince Orchard English Conversation Club volunteer coordinator Annie Etches describe the program and share stories from MCPL's English Conversation Club at Quince Orchard Library

Recording Date: July 25, 2018

Guests: Nancy Chiu-Sillcox is the Head of Adult Services at Quince Orchard Library. Annie Etches is a volunteer at Quince Orchard Library who coordinates the English Conversation Club meetings at the branch. 

Host: Julie Dina

What Our Guests Are Reading

Nancy Chiu-Sillcox: Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

Annie Etches: The flash fiction short story "Unforgettable" by David Wiseman, who recently won the Themed Flash Competition

Other Items of Interest Mentioned During the Episode:

Charles W. Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center: The Gilchrist Center offers a variety of programs, including English classes, citizenship preparation, free legal clinics, technological literacy classes, and more. 

Easy Does It! American Idioms: An advanced level drop-in English language class focused on American idioms. Offered at Gaithersburg Library

English Conversation Clubs: Regularly scheduled volunteer-led gatherings at MCPL branches throughout the county that offer people the opportunity to practice speaking and listening to English in an informal, friendly, and welcoming environment.

English for Arabic (Chinese, Farsi, etc.) Speakers: A series of English language learning resources designed for beginners with instructions in the beginner's first language. 

English Language Learners Guide: Links to and descriptions of local resources for English language learners. 

Friends of the Library, Montgomery County: A nonprofit that supports MCPL through supplemental funding, programs, and materials. 

French Conversation Clubs: Those wishing to practice speaking and listening to French can do so at the French Conversations Clubs at Germantown and Long Branch libraries. 

Literacy Council of Montgomery County: A local nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the English language proficiency and literacy skills of adults in our community. The Literacy Council offers a variety of English language and literacy tutoring services and classes. 

Montgomery College English as a Second Language (ESL): Montgomery College offers ESL classes for beginners and advanced English language learners. Some classes are offered for college credit, others are non-credit courses. 

Montgomery County Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL): A comprehensive listing of free and fee-based English language and literacy classes provided by a variety of organizations in Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Library Board: The Library Board makes recommendations to the County Executive on matters affecting the public library system, such as the location of new facilities, the adequacy of book collections, services to outlying districts, and the personnel needs of MCPL. 

Spanish Conversation Clubs: Numerous MCPL branches offer opportunities to practice speaking and listening to Spanish. 

 Read the transcript

Aug 1, 2018

Listen to the audio

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

 

Julie Dina:  And I'm Julie Dina.

 

David:  And today we're going to be talking about historical fiction.  We're going back in time and visiting distant lands and times, and joining us today, I'm very pleased to welcome two very special guests, Anita Vassallo, our Acting Director of MCPL.  Welcome Anita.

 

Anita Vassallo:  Thank you David, I'm very pleased to be here.

 

David:  Or shall I say welcome back.  Our listeners may remember Anita from a very lively recording we made on the Game of Thrones.

 

Anita:  Oh yes, Game of Thrones.

 

David:  And joining us as well, we welcome Sarah Mecklenburg, a Library Associate from our Outreach Department.  So welcome Sarah.

 

Sarah Mecklenburg:  Thank you.

 

David:  And both Anita and Sarah are very avid historical fiction readers.

 

Anita:  Yes indeed.

 

David:  And we're looking forward to hearing all about your favorite books and authors.

 

Anita:  All right.

 

David:  So let's start with a bit about yourselves.  If you would just tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do, where do you work and what brought you here.  So let's start with Sarah.

 

Sarah:  Okay.  So, I’m Sarah Mecklenburg.  I've been in MCPL for three and a half years.  I started in December of 2014, and before that, I actually worked in museums and actually even interned at the American History Museum.  I was a history major, so I am very passionate about history.  So that has kind of led to a lot of people coming at me going, “Sarah, you should come to the podcast.  You read a lot about it and you should come in and talk about the fun you have reading historical fiction.”

 

David:  Glad you joined us.

 

Anita:  So I'm, as David said, the Acting Director of Montgomery County Public Libraries, to – a great honor for me.  And I’ve worked for the library system for more years than I would like to admit.  So I was always an avid reader as a child, I spent a lot of time in the library, loved just about anything.  And Historical Fiction is one of the genres that I do search out and enjoy in a lot of ways and I think that maybe if I had turned into a librarian, I would have liked to been a historian.  So, it sounds really fun that Sarah worked at the Museum of American history which I didn't know.

 

David:  So Anita, I have to ask you, you've been Acting Director since what, September or so?

 

Anita:  It's almost been a year now.

 

David:  Oh, almost a year.  That’s right.

 

Anita:  Yeah.  It will be a year at the beginning of August.

 

David:  Have you found – you've been able to find sometime in your busy schedule to read or has that affected you?

 

Anita:  Fortunately, I have a long commute.  So, as you know, I commute here usually about an hour and a half, sometimes longer.  So I definitely rely on audio books to keep me going with my reading.

 

David:  Right.  There are some benefits to being stuck on 270.

 

Anita:  Yes.

 

Julie:  So, what exactly is historical fiction and can either of you tell us examples of well-known historical fiction?

 

Anita:  Well, I looked up what is historical fiction.  Googled it, of course. And there is a British prize the Walter Scott prize for the best historical fiction, and their definition is, a novel that is set at least 60 years prior to its publication, which really seems like a random number.  Sarah, how would you define historical fiction?

 

Sarah:  I would say fiction that’s set within a historical time period or sometimes I would – I personally have a passion for alternate history or historical fiction that is blended with science fiction.  So, time travel, things like that.

 

Anita:  Connie Willis.

 

Sarah:  Yeah.  So, kind of – or historical mysteries as well.  So stories that are set within a past time period.  Often they cover major historical events.  Although there are some that are nice and cover a quiet historical event, or not even an event at all, but just a period or follow a family through various groups of time periods.

 

Anita:  Yeah, I agree with that.  I think some of the most interesting ones are the ones that are not centered around a major historical event but something a time period that maybe followed a historical event, because there are couple I want to mention like that, that I really liked.  I think there's some really well known historical fiction books from the past that I would mention are Michael Shaara’s book Killer Angels, which is kind of the quintessential book about the civil war.

 

Another much older book that was very popular and, of course, was made into a really popular PBS series was I, Claudius by Robert Graves which delves way down into those Romans and all their goings on.  So, those are two ones that I would consider well known.

 

Sarah:  I'm having trouble coming up with some of the more well-known ones off of the top of my head. But a librarian actually, Quince Orchard Library, growing up, gave me a local author’s Civil War books and they were historical fiction with time travel element.  That started me off in this path.  But actually, I did think of one series that – well, a series of series, that is often associated with historical fiction for younger readers and that's the American Girl series.  Also the Dear America series is another series that's really known.  That's what got me into a lot of these as well.

 

I read through all of those and then basically went to the librarian and said, “I need more historical fiction.”  And she was like, “Sure.”

 

Anita:  She got hooked in the series.  And those – the ‘Dear America’ books are usually centered around a historical event, but it's portrayed in the books which aren’t really very long through the eyes of a young person.  Usually, it’s like a tween, I think who would have been involved in sort of the periphery of the event.  So those are really interesting and I agree with you a great way to get kids hooked on historical fiction.

 

David:  But what actually makes a book historical fiction versus history? Is it a very clear distinction?

 

Anita:  I think it’s in a way – it's a little bit blurred because certainly, I have read books that are catalogued as nonfiction or biography that are written in a style that's very accessible and almost fictionalized.  But I think historical fiction can take liberties with the thoughts and motivations of the characters, which in a straight work of historical biography or nonfiction, the author does not inhabit the central character or other characters in the same way.  They are drawing from perhaps diaries, or letters, or research and they're laying that information out there.  They're not generally putting words in the mouths of the character unless they're part of documented fact.

 

Historical fiction often will have as its main character, someone who's kind of on the periphery of the action.  And so while you have the dates and the historical figures, you are really looking at it through the eyes of someone who was not directly involved in what was going on.  I think some authors who do a great job with that and one of my favorites would be Philippa Gregory, who's written that wide ranging series focusing on the tutor and the women around Henry VIII and Elizabeth and earlier on.

 

But there're characters that we don't really know that much about him, Henry Tudor’s mother.  Not a main character, but she has plenty to say in these books on the stage.  I mean, I could read historical fiction about the Tudor’s.

 

David Payne: Write about that yeah.

 

Anita:  It never stops and there's always more and different ways of approaching.

 

David:  You’ve got a whole Soap Opera there.

 

Anita:  You’re not kidding.  And Philippa Gregory does not like Henry VIII and she makes no bones about it.

 

David:  No, she doesn’t hide that fact.

 

Julie:  So, those are really, really interesting also sort of the minor character approaches, Ken Follett with his trilogy that began with the ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and he's focusing on stone masons and nuns and nurses and various people.  But it creates this whole picture of the society during that time period and the major events that impacted these kind of minor players on the stage.

 

David:  So, when you finish the book, do you find yourselves delving into researching what actually happens that peak your curiosity.

 

Sarah:  That's why I majored in history.

 

Julie:  So, historical fiction got you to major in history?

 

Sarah:  Oh yeah.

 

Julie:  Oh that's so cool.

 

Sarah:  Yeah.  I sat in my classes and I started – actually I was taking a number of classes on colonial America and that's my favorite time period that has been since I was a little kid when I was reading picture books that were done by the Plimoth Plantation and it actually were photographs, but it was following a actually historical child.  It's kind of where the history and historical fiction line blurs.  Because it's a fictional story about a real person and that’s how Plimoth Plantation presents everything in the museum – is everyone is the historical character, but it's a little bit blurry about is that the real presentation.

 

So I got really into that as a kid and I ended up taking a bunch of classes in that time period and other topics in history, I was an Art History major too.  Surprise.  And I just really had always loved reading about these different time periods especially historical fiction and I was like, I want to know more, I want to know everything.  I have always been someone who just wants to know more about everything.

 

Julie:  Yeah.  I think something I usually wind up doing during reading the book or immediately after is getting the family tree and figuring out who –

 

David:  Who was who.

 

Julie:  –Belongs to who and how they’re related, that's always interesting.  Also, just going back and fact checking everything.  I love the series by Patrick O'Brian, the Aubrey/Maturin books and I've read all of them more than once.  And that's really informed all the knowledge that I have about the Napoleonic wars at sea, and then if you read Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe series, that's the Napoleonic wars on land.

 

So together, they really form a great picture of what went on during that time period.  I'm trying to branch out more and kind of get away from the Brits, no offense, but there has got to be a whole body of work say about French, the French history.  I've read much more nonfiction about French history than I have fiction.  So kind of I'm looking for some good writers who would probably translate it in the English from the French.  That would have that for us.

 

One of the other questions that we had here was do you have favorite time periods or countries for your historical fiction?  And I like I really love stuff about The Tudors but I love ancient Rome, Steven Saylor.  And that's when Sarah when you get into those historical mysteries, you probably have read those ones by Ruth Downie, the Medicus books.

 

Sarah:  I don’t think so.  No.

 

Anita:  Those are great  There's about four or five and they’re centered on a character who is- well a doctor, a Medicus. But he's found himself kind of shipped off to ancient Britain where there we are again back to the Brits.  And he’s slogging through this kind of total backwater and he gets involved with some of the local tribal people who were living there.  But they're funny and they do have a good mystery aspect to them and they also have that whole history.  So, she's got a new one in – that's about ready to come out.  I can't wait for that.

 

Medieval Europe also even going back to the Brother Cadfael mysteries and on all of those.  So wonderful and there’re quite a few that have nuns, I guess, or other religious central characters.  I think because they were able to move around more, they worked with people from both the upper echelons of society and then down to the lower, so you get that whole flow of people.  It's the people that really make the historical mysteries interesting, but I love those.

 

And then, you've probably read these books by Margaret Lawrence.  These are mysteries also.  I believe the first one, I’m not 100% sure, was called Blood in Ashes or Blood in the Snow, anyway, they're set immediately after the end of the Revolutionary War.

 

Sarah:  Oh, and now I have to find them.

 

Julie:  And they're really good because it was a horrible time.

 

Sarah:  Yeah, it really was.

 

Julie:  When people were trying to recover from what had happened and you still had people who had supported Britain and were Tories and they’re trying to make a life with these people who had won the Revolutionary War.  And so, that whole thing is just fascinating.  Not so much the war itself but what happened afterwards and I hope that – the author is definitely Martin Lawrence, L-A-W-R-E-N-C-E, but I can't quite remember the titles.  What are some of your favorite time periods?

 

Sarah:  I’ve done – obviously done a lot of Colonial American Revolution, but I recently have gotten into World War I, World War II, but also the 1920.  I started watching the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries yes, but those are actually based on a fiction series.  And I've read all of the books and they're really great series of books, very different from the television series which in itself is a historical mystery, but they're set in the 1920s.

 

The author doesn't actually want to go beyond 1929 with the stories, so she doesn't really want to go into the Great Depression.  And so, she basically follows this young socialite, the character is younger in the books as she solves some really interesting mysteries.

 

Anita:  Who’s the author on this?

 

Sarah:  Kerry Greenwood.

 

Anita:  Kerry Greenwood.  Okay.

 

Sarah:  And she also does write contemporary stories as well.  And so she's writing in Australia.  I've also really enjoyed Laurie R. King also set in the same time period. Her Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes of books are really interesting.  It's a different portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.  I haven't read the whole series yet, but I'm working my way through them.  The audio books are amazing.  That was actually – I started them years ago because of the audio book, it was a summer reading for school and we turned on the audio book all the way to Minnesota.  And then I also have been enjoying Jacqueline Winspear’s books on the series-

 

Anita:  It’s Maisie Dobbs.

 

Sarah:  Maisie Dobbs, yes.  And it’s a Maisie Dobbs series and so she is a really interesting character, she's a detective.  It starts off in the aftermath of World War I and now the series is actually progressed to the middle of World War II.  And so it's kind of following how war has impacted people, how war continues to impact people.  It goes into a in-depth discussion of PTSD and how that effects people, not just the soldiers, but those who are caring for the soldiers, the nurses on the battlefield, that's also something that Kerry Greenwood goes into.

 

I also personally really enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is historical fiction set on Guernsey Island, which is a really unique part of the British Isles because it – it’s own government and was actually- I did not realize was actually invaded during-

 

David:  It was occupied during-

 

Sarah:  Yeah.  It was occupied during World War II and the book is about that basically about the aftermath of that.  And Netflix is coming out with it, a movie of it – it was released in England recently and then they're going to be releasing it here.  So I'm excited about that.

 

Anita:  That sounds cool.  So you were – when you were speaking there you mentioned the Laurie R. King books which are about Mary King and Sherlock Holmes or Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, so that's kind of what you would call I guess historical fantasy because, I mean, Sherlock Holmes, not real.  So, but I think they do mesh the historical events that would be happening during his life time well in those mysteries.

 

I think another kind of historical genre, there are historical romances, there's that whole Diana Gabaldon series, Outlander which was historical fantasy, romance [crosstalk] [00:17:46].  But boy, those are- they’re definitely page turners if you like those sagas.  I don't think that the giant sagas are quite as popular as they were when books like the R L Delderfield series about the – I can’t remember the name of the family, but those were so incredibly popular at one time period.

 

David:  They were classics, they were classics.

 

Anita:  There was another really long series about a family, it was set in Canada prior to World War I and they were by the author Mazo de la Roche, it's called the Jalna Series.  And those probably spanned 30 or 40 years in the life of this one family.  I don’t even think they’re in print anymore.  You can really just pick up a whole lot.  It’s like painless learning when you're reading or listening to even better historical fiction.

 

Another genre that I think is popular right now and I don't know where you would put it because it's not really- it's more like fantasy, but the novels that are based on mythology, Greek mythology or on the writings of Homer.  I just, just finished yesterday listening to a book called Circe by a really good author Madeline Miller and a wonderful reader her name was Perdita Weeks.  This book just drew in the stories of the gods, the story of Odysseus and Daedalus. It was a great, I guess, historical fantasy, whatever you want to call it.

 

David Payne:  So it was like an adult version of Rick Riordan.

 

Anita:  Yeah, it kind of was like that and that's a real trend.  People are loving these.  This woman also wrote another novel called The Song of Achilles, which is about Patroclus and Achilles in the Trojan War.  So not really real but history, kind of.

 

Sarah:  Elizabeth Peters, she’s a really interesting author, not only because she wrote the Amelia Peabody series which is set in an archaeological dig, but she sets it at this particular time in that history I – that was another period of time I studied in college, where archeology was just becoming what it was.  And so it's also kind of this – it's another one that's not based around historical event, but it's kind of set in that world of historical movement which is also kind of a slightly different thing.

 

Anita:  Yeah, as that series progresses, you definitely bring in more of the political impact of the British imperialism in Egypt and the movement of the Egyptian and Arabic peoples to recover their own independence.  And the characters in the book interact with both sides of the conflict in that and particularly as the character’s – you know, her son Ramsey's ages and he’s more involved in that. So that is a whole another wonderful series of books.

 

Julie:  So now that we've heard a lot about your favorite time period, your favorite books, can you tell us about your favorite authors and why you like them.

 

Anita:  Well, I had mentioned a few of them earlier.  I think Philippa Gregory, I also very much like Geraldine Brooks who doesn't write about one time period in particular, but chooses different topics.  She wrote a book about the plague called ‘Year of Wonders’ that had some wonderful characters in it.  It was about a town that basically sealed itself off from a village, from the rest of the country in order to try and contain the plague.  She's written one called ‘The Song–’ something, it has chord in the title.  Anyway, it's about David from the Bible.

 

She just does a really good job with her characterization.  So I think you can pretty much pick up any book by her.  She wrote one if we're going to talk about that kind of historical fantasy again, March, which is centered about Mr. March, the father of the family and little women and what happened to him when he went off to war and left his wife and his girls at home. So that was really interesting so I do like Geraldine Brooks.

 

Julie:  How about you Sarah?

 

Sarah:  Right now, the author that's really speaking to me when I'm reading historical fiction is definitely Jacqueline Winspear.  There's something about her books that just draws me in and doesn't let me go.  And so she’s just one of the authors that’s really stuck with me, Kerry Greenwood.  Kevin Crossley-Holland wrote a really wonderful historical fantasy that I read a long time ago, but it has stuck with me and I'm actually- I just put a hold on it so I could reread it.  And it's about a young boy who is living in the footsteps of King Arthur in a way and is mentored by a man named Marlin and basically watches the story of Arthur through a magical stone.

 

The first book is called The Seeing Stone and Kevin Crossley-Holland is the author.  MCPL has the series as well as a follow-up that he did about one of the female characters.  I personally also have been really, really into S.E. Groves.  It's a middle grade book series that transcends being middle grade and it's a- I'm not sure if I would call it historical fantasy, but it's historical fiction with a time element where she really kind of challenges what we think of time by basically having the world rewritten as of 1791.

 

I've written actually a review for the MCPL Librarians Choice about the series and this first book is called ‘The Glass Sentence’ called the Mapmakers Trilogy but basically in 1791 the whole world is interrupted and the United States is no longer the United States. You have to pay in order to have your voice heard in Congress and you’re paying for the amount of time, it actually becomes a parliament and then other regions of the world and even what the United States was has been broken up.

 

She covers all sorts of really pertinent topics.  The whole book starts off with the Prime Minister closing the borders and ordering all of the immigrants to leave the country.  And so it is a very prescient series and doesn't have fantastic elements to it, but the author is a historian who specializes in Central American and Spanish history, focusing on middle ages and colonial periods as well.

 

And so it's a whole book on kind of talking about xenophobia and colonization and the impact of colonization.  It's a really amazing series I just I can't get enough of talking about it and I recommend it to everyone.  I read it as an audio book series.  Each book is about 11-13 hours.  So it's an [crosstalk] [00:25:40].

 

Julie:  What was the author again? Who?

 

Sarah:  S.E. Grove.

 

Julie:  S.E. Grove.  G-R-O-V-E, Grove?

 

Sarah:  Yeah, Grove.  And it is in MCPL.  We have digital copies and paper copies of the whole series.

 

David:  So let's go from books you've read to historical fiction you’d perhaps like to read about.  Is there any time period, place or event that you really want to read historical fiction about, but haven't found any?

 

Anita:  I haven't really found in any good historical fiction about pre-Columbian, Central America or the United States.  So that's my family background, from Mexico, so I would like to be able to read more about the prehistory prior to the Europeans coming over and doing what they did.  But I don't really know of an author who focuses on that time.

 

Julie:  How about you?

 

Sarah:  I just visited the Canadian Maritimes recently for my honeymoon, so I would love to read more about that region.  I would really like to read more Southern Asia I think would be a good thing to do because I haven't read enough Southern Asia.  I just – to spread my experiences.  I did read some- when I was younger but I'd like to have some more experiences of that and also just basically places that I haven't been which is most of the world.  My Canada trip was my first time out of the US, so I want to be able to expand my experiences a lot more.  And historical fiction sometimes does that because once you've got that- you start that learning about that place, you want to read more about it and then you’re like, “Maybe I want to go there.”

 

And that kind of expands kind of your interests in that.  So I would just read, yeah.  I’d also really like to read more fiction set in this area historically because-

 

Julie:  Like the Washington DC area?

 

Sarah:  Washington DC area.  I would love to find more history and not particularly focusing on Washington DC, but the areas surrounding it or – and I know we did a few set in the civil war, but I would love to read a book written about the Smithsonian, the historical fiction.  Early Smithsonian has amazing stories and there's a club that they would go out and serenade the director's daughters because they lived in the Smithsonian Castle and I’d love to read stories about those sorts of things.  Maybe that's just the truth is stranger than fiction.

 

Julie:  Maybe you just need to be writing that story.  There you go.  Now, how accurate do you want your historical fiction to be?

 

Anita:  Well, I like it to be pretty accurate, but I wouldn't really notice unless something was so far off the rails that- something that didn't belong in the time period popped up and sometimes I do think – did they really have that then.  And I might go back and check that if like a character picks up a telephone to make a call and it's 1842, that kind of thing you would probably notice.  But again because I like the ones that focus on the minor characters, I don't think it pops up that much.

 

What does kind of jar sometimes is when a character in a historical fiction novel will speak in a way that is contemporary.  And that it is kind of jarring and you do think to yourself a woman, or a child, or a servant or whomever, would probably not have spoken in that way during that time period and Sarah is nodding her head like crazy.  So that must bother her.

 

Sarah:  I have a story about that.  I once read a book that was set in American revolution in the South and I'd read a few others that were set in that time period, had read about it and what we qualify as the South nowadays is actually you really would go a bit farther north than even this book qualified it as.  The book itself, the characters started speaking in like thick Southern American drawls and then they were using language that felt so civil war that I felt very confused.  They referenced some things like clothing, the way it really wasn't accurate and I finally looked at the back of the book and I realized the author had no background in the American Revolution and spent most of his time writing about the Civil War.

 

And then I realized that that was probably why.  I really like my books to be accurate.  I once was very upset.  I was skimming a book, trying to make sure I knew if I could reference it for someone, help someone find a book that they're interested on.  And I was really upset because the author started talking about historical family, the Greene family, Nathanael’s Greene family in a way that was disconcerting and I was like I think something seems off.  What I've read and what I know of his family, this doesn't seem right.

 

And then I found in her author's note and I really appreciate author’s notes, is that she actually used a rumor and played it up in order to create more drama that wasn't necessary.  So I was quite upset about that.

 

Julie:  You won’t be recommending that one.

 

Sarah:  No, I won’t.

 

David:  Well, the whole genre of historical fiction goes back quite some way.  Can you give us some sense of how it's changed over time and has it changed let's say within the past 20 or 30 years, any recognizable changes that you've seen?

 

Sarah:  One of the things that I've noticed is there has been a larger push for greater diversity in authors and their books.  We're having a more diverse authors writing more historical fiction as well, which I think is really, really important and I think will be really good for us in the future too.  And they're writing on stories that we are not – I know we've been talking so much about books that have really been Anglo centric, they have been mostly focusing on England and the US and I was looking at the books that I read, Oh Laurie R. King, set in England, Jacqueline Winspear, set in England, Kerry Greenwood, set in Australia, oh yeah, that was an English colony and is now- you know, American Revolution.  US separating from England.

 

So, trying to kind of get away from that centralization I think is really good and will actually be really good for us for history in the future.  And I think has a lot to say hopefully for direction we could be going.

 

Anita:  Yeah, and I think you're right.  Diversity in both the characters and in the authors as well as the time periods is really important for us right now.  And I'm pretty sure that there are authors that may be available to us in translation that what we have not picked up with Montgomery County being as diverse as it is and people would enjoy reading about their cultures and where their history and ancestors came from.  That's on us to find those things that are well written and good and bring them into our collection.

 

Julie:  So, is there historical fiction for kids and teens are can you recommend any?

 

Anita:  Of course, there are So many tons of historical fiction books for kids and teens.  I do think that in some cases now, we want to think about the way that things are portrayed in some of the historical fiction that was very popular.  Of course, when I was a child, I know there's a discussion right now about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books and the portrayal of native Americans or first peoples in those.  So I think that as we move forward and we see as Sarah said, more diversity and more thought given to the role that everybody played in history moving all of humanity forward to this point, we’ll see some different things.

 

But certainly, I think historical fiction has always grabbed children as they try to imagine themselves in another time or place and what it might have been like for them to be there.  There are some great books out there that kids love.

 

Sarah:  That's something I'm passionate about historical fiction for kids because that was what got me into my love of history.  My mom grew up in near Plymouth, Massachusetts and so I grew up reading “The first Thanksgiving.”  And then, studying it in college, wrote a independent study on it and the Samuel Eaton's day and Sarah Morton's day are two that Plymouth actually did, and then I’ve continued on with that series and I have actually improved upon them, made the stories even more accurate.

 

There's a story that's even told from the perspective of a young Native American Wampanoag boy.  Done in the same process and thanks to that staff member a QO years and years ago, and she really nurtured that interest in me.  So I was able to find some really wonderful books.  And the S.E. Grove books are a different perspective on historical fiction, there's the Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood.  He's also written Alternate History as well which he did the year of the Hang Man, and so I think that giving kids and teens a new perspective on history is good.

 

I love to mention the plethora of graphic novels and webcomics that we have that are out there that you might not see as common.  There are a number of them that are webcomics only on the Internet like The Dreamer by Laura Innes in which the main character ends up kind of traveling back in time and experiencing the American Revolution.  Lackadaisy Cats was set in probation era St Louis Missouri.  So we have graphic novels too that are out there that are a different way to engage with history and can really encourage young people and older people to really engage with it in a different way.

 

Julie:  That one the The March the John Lewis book.

 

Sarah:  Yes. I want to read that so badly.

 

Julie:  So, I'm really glad you brought up the graphic novels.  I hadn't thought about those.

 

David:  Well Sarah and Anita, we usually close each recording by putting you on the spot and asking what are you reading right now? So I'll start with Anita.

 

Anita:  Well, as I said, [crosstalk] [00:36:51].  I am making my way painfully slowly through Column of Fire, even though it's a good book and I don't want to say that it's slow going.  It's totally me.  And then the Circe that I just finished by Madeline Miller was really good.  I would recommend that to anyone with an interest in that.  And I think I just finished the- is Jessica Mitford?  No, it’s Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate.  I love all those books by the Mitford sisters so go back to those from time to time.

 

David:  Great.

 

Sarah:  I've been bouncing around a little bit.  I've been reading the third book of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and I can't actually place what the title is at the moment, but based on the main character fighting ghosts.  So kind of I enjoy fantasy and science fiction a lot, so that's what I've been doing.  I also just checked out A Wrinkle in Time for another reread.  I've already read it twice and I just, I think that having books to reread is really important.  There are a number of books that I reread regularly.

 

Julie:  I want to mention one more author because we kind of passed her at the beginning is Connie Willis who writes a wonderful series of books that are sort of set in the future and in the past at the same time about a group of researchers at Oxford. It is Oxford not Cambridge I think, who are able to travel back in time to do their own in person, first person research in the Doomsday Book where the woman is sent back to the plague year and they get it a little bit wrong is just wonderful.  And then the ones To Say Nothing of the Dog and Blackout.  So Connie Willis is a great author to pick up if you like historical fantasy.

 

David:  Yes.

 

Julie:  Well, we will like to say thank you so much to Anita and Sarah for taking us down historical lane today.  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 our Apple podcast.  We’ll love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

 

[Audio ends]

Jul 31, 2018

Summary: Acting MCPL Director Anita Vassallo and Outreach Associate Sarah Mecklenburg share their love of historical fiction and recommended books they've enjoyed.

Recording Date: July 11, 2018

Guests: Anita Vassallo is the Acting Director of MCPL. Sarah Mecklenburg is a member of MCPL's Outreach team. Both are enthusiastic readers of historical fiction.

Hosts: Julie Dina and David Payne

What Our Guests Are Reading

Anita Vassallo: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett, third book in the Kingsbridge series. The first book in the series is Pillars of the Earth, the second is World Without End. Circe by Madeline Miller. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. 

Sarah Mecklenburg: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher, third book in the Dresden File series. The first book is Storm Front, the second is Fool Moon. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. 

Books, Movies, and Authors Mentioned During This Episode:

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel 

Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters 

American Girls series by various authors

Aubrey- Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian

Blackout by Connie Willis

Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters

Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Dear America series by various authors

R.F. Delderfield

Doomsday by Connie Willis

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

Philippa Gregory

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Jalna series by Mazo De La Roche

Killer Angels by Michael Sharra

Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder 

Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear

Margaret Laurence

March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Laurie R. King

Medicus mysteries by Ruth Downie

Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. Basis for the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries television series. 

Ann Rinaldi

Rick Riordan

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell

Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Steven Saylor

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Kate Waters

The Year of the Hangman by Gary Blackwood

Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks

Other Items of Interest:

The Dreamer by Laura Innes. A webcomic about a 17 year old high school student who has intense, realistic dreams about a Revolutionary War soldier. 

"Game of Thrones Fandom Fun". An episode of the Library Matters podcast in which Game of Thrones fans Anita Vassallo Angelica Rengifo, and Susan Moritz share their love of the books and television series.  

Lackadaisy Cats by Tracy J. Butler. A webcomic about anthropomorphic cats set in St. Louis during Prohibition. 

Little House controversy. A division of the American Library Association voted to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from a major children's literature award. 

Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

Read the transcript

Jul 18, 2018

Listen to the audio

Julie Dina:  Hi, I’m Julie Dina.  In this episode of Library Matters, we are 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 NBC4.

Book Reviewer 1:  Who knew forgotten letters stuck inside a book could change someone’s life.  Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, it’s heartwarming story about a girl named Truly Lovejoy who gets tangled in a mystery of a letter inside a copy of Charlotte’s Web.  After Truly’s father gets injured by an IED overseas the Lovejoy’s move from Texas to a tiny town in New Hampshire called Pumpkin Falls.  

When Truly finds a letter in an autographed edition of Charlotte’s Web, she follows the clues and is soon roped in a treasure hunt taking her all around Pumpkin Falls.  I liked this book because it’s fun and its sweet mystery about friendship and family.  I really enjoyed this book and I hope you do too.

Book Reviewer 2:  With the Wrinkle in Time movie coming out hundreds of people were introduced to the characters of Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace but did you know that Madeleine L’Engle already wrote a sequel to it?  Wind in the door also takes a sci-fi oriented trip but instead of going to the far reaches of space they go deep into Charles Wallace’s mitochondria, which is the body’s main energy producer.

With her companions, old and new, Meg was either prevail over darkness or loss her brother.  Wind in the door gives you seven questions through the plot, such as – wait I shall not tell.  It is a fast-paced book with several scientific facts that are mind bending.  For instance, the microscopic scale from the mitochondria to you is about the same as the scale from you to out the galaxy, neat?

She also had a coming of age story about the creatures that were living in the mitochondria.  With vivid characters, strange new creatures and an imagination that trumps all, Madeleine L’Engle has created a wonderful sequel that will thrill readers, young and old, with Wind in the door.

Book Reviewer 3:  Some look like giant walking turtles, others are black with wings and look almost like armored ravens, “Shadow Titans!” Emily shouted.  I’m Manisha and the book I will be reviewing is Pegasus The End of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn.  The book I chose to discuss is about a girl named Emily and her best friend, the winged stallion Pegasus.  Emily now has less powers and a different body so she feels as if she’s being judged.  But she still has one more promise to fulfill, to rescue Agent B from the evil central research unit.

But while at the facility she finds a monster older than Olympus itself.  I would recommend this book to someone else because it is action packed, filled with adventure and busting with excitement.  Will Emily defeat the monsters?  Will Olympus make peace with the Titans?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Book Reviewer 4:  Right, let’s have fun.  “Hallo Silver I didn’t see you there.” “I, a lowly Red am about to vanquish you, and if you survive, you should read this.”  This is Red Queen.  Red Queen is about the teenage girl named Mare Barrow in a world where the people are divided by their blood; Red or Silver.  Mare is Red, [Indiscernible] [00:04:10] while Silvers are the nobles.  Their Silver blood gives them superpowers.

One day Mare is called by the king to serve him but when she crushes the party, she realizes she has powers but she is a red.  Mare latter joins the rebellion in order to give the reds their rights but the stakes are high, and when blood goes against blood, who will survive in the deadly of power.  Red Queen is an amazing book about betrayal, loyalty, love.  If you like bloodshed and epic battle scenes then you read the Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Book Reviewer 5:  One second everything is normal, the next is not.  In a blink of an eye everyone 15 years and older vanishes into thin air along with phone signals, internet, any way to get help.  Gone by Michael Grant is a young adult dystopian series of seven books.  In dystopia books somebody threatens the survival of the human race, creating a living nightmare.  After an asteroid hits a nuclear power plant in California a radioactive monster is born.

It created an energy barrier that made everyone 15 and older vanish, living the kids to fend for themselves.  Some of the kids even develop supernatural abilities, throughout the series the kids fight hunger, lies, plague, fear, and even each other.  This series is full of unexpected twists and turns with mutations and monsters that will live your jaw hanging open.

I guarantee that you will be hooked into their world.  Full of action, suspense, humor, mystery and fear, this is a series that teens will never forget.

Book Reviewer 6:  Hi there, I was just reading this really cool book called Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone by J. K. Rowling.  In the beginning of the book, we find out how Harry lives a miserable life with his aunt and uncle, and spoil cousin.  But all this is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail addressed to Harry.

He gets accepted into Hogwart’s school of witchcraft and wizardry.  Along the way Harry finds out 11 years ago his parents were killed by the dark lord Voldemort and now he’s planning on coming to kill Harry.  Will Harry survive his deadly encounter with Lord Voldemort?  Will Harry and his friends be able to protect themselves? Find out in Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone. 

I recommend this book for all ages that’s it’s a wonderful introduction to Harry Potter’s life and the wizarding world.

Book Reviewer 7:  How ever imagined walking eight hours twice, everyday just to get to the closest water source that’s not even 100% clean? Linda Sue Park describes Nya’s struggles to find water in a Long Walk to Water.  Nya has to retrieve water for her family, walking for 16 hours total every day. 

One day, Nya’s sister was extremely sick.  Her parents went to their tribe’s chief and asked for help.  He tells them that the nearest medical clinic is 90 miles away.  In Sudan the cars are a rare sight.  Nya’s sister walked with her dad for three whole days until they found a small medical clinic.  A nurse cared for Nya’s sister and said that the cause of her sickness is because of dirty water.  Will the family get clean water?  Will Nya’s sister survive?  Read a Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park to find out.

Book Reviewer 8:  “Olivia?”  A voice called out, “Olivia Grace Harrison?” It was the most amazing sight Olivia had ever seen in her life.  It was her Royal Highness Princess Amelia Mignonette of Genovia.  Until that moment, Olivia was a typical sixth grader who lived with her aunt and step uncle after her mom passed away.

But when the royal sister she never knew suddenly emerges onto the scene to pick her up from school, Olivia’s life changes dramatically.  In an instance, she is transformed from an ordinary school girl to a real-life princess.  Olivia is whisked away in a royal Genovian limousine and finally meets her dad and family.  A dream that until now was unfulfilled.

When her step uncle finds out that she was with her true family, he becomes furious and takes her back to the place where she grew up.  Olivia ponders her future.  Will she remain with the only family she knew, and live the ordinary life she was used to?  Or will she be drawn to her royal roots in Genovia to be with her dad’s family?  Will Olivia be able to live in Genovia happily ever after?

There’s only one way to find out.  Pick up and read Meg Cabot’s imaginative novel, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.

Book Reviewer 9:  Do you like mystery? Then you should read one of the Hardy Boys books.  This book by Franklin W. Dixon is called the Secret of the Caves.  The Hardy boys are trying to find a missing person called Morgan Todd, but along the way people try to hurt the Hardy boys.  One time in Honeycomb caves, very strange things happened.  People who seem to be good are just criminals.

I like this book because at first the mystery can get really confusing, but finally the mystery is really interesting.

Book Reviewer 10:  For English class, I’m writing a poem and I decided it’s going to be about sounds.  Sounds of the wrinkled, squirm creatures that live in tide pools.  The problem is my teacher thought it was terrible, she gave me an F.  Then I showed it to my dad, a professor of literature, he changed my F into a Fabulous.  My dad said not everyone can understand poetry.  This is a passage from the book Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry.

This is about a ten-year-old girl who is confident, insightful, funny and stays on top of her world.  She is a fourth grader dealing with all fourth-grade drama.  Being ten years old is in deed confusing.  Anastasia doesn’t know if she wants to be a ballerina or an ice skater.  She hasn’t decided yet.  She has an old grandmother who sometimes doesn’t remember her and makes her sad.

Anastasia has a lot to do with boys, baby brother on the way, friends, her gold fish, and school.  Anastasia loves to make a list of what she likes, and what she hates.  She is just writing to solve many problems but she will always hate eating liver.

I love this book because it motivated me to start a journal in which I can write in every day.  Writing helps me work out difficult situations.  I also try to solve my problems by looking at the pros and cons.  This way I too, come up happier and wiser.  This book will help you stay positive and help you deal with life’s drama, like it helps me.

Julie Dina:  We hope you enjoyed these engaging book talks.  We are so glad these young shared their enthusiasm for their books with us.  You can find all these books in MCPL’s catalogue.  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, Sticher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also please review and rate us on Apple podcast, we’d love to know what you think.

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