I recently went to the Nat’l Book Festival held annually here in DC. It’s a FREE event and suitable for ALL ages. I heard several authors speak, including Sherman Alexie, one of my favorite authors. He has overcome a LOT in his life to become a success: illness, alcoholism and many deaths in the family, absentee father, and poverty being some of the issues. Alexie’s desire for something better lead him to a HS (off the reservation) in a lower-middle class white town. He was the ONLY Indian student at that time. “I don’t know how it happened, but there were four PhDs teaching there.” He is a GREAT speaker and VERY funny! He also wrote the screenplays for Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing.
Being a BIG fan, I knew some of the anecdotes and jokes he told. Alexie came to my high school in 1996 (before he was well-known). I learned that the doc who performed surgery on him (when he was an infant w/ an enlarged brain) was a Greek Muslim man. “I know some people are nervous about that kind of stuff… but not me. I’m like ‘Go Allah!'” he exclaimed. I bought his most recent book of poems and short stories, War Dances, which he autographed. It was PRETTY exciting for me (even more than when I met Jhumpa Lahiri and Chitra Divakaruni)!
I also heard David McCullough speak; he got a BIG crowd. “Thank you for making history come alive,” a young grad student commented to the author. He is JUST as humble, gentlemanly, and well-spoken as you’ve seen on TV. Like Alexie, he spoke re: the importance of teachers and librarians. Much of his research was done in the Library of Congress, not Paris! After his talk, there was a live 1 hr. CSPAN 2 interview session where the famous historian took Qs from crowd, callers, and emails. McCullough’s latest book is The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. Basically, it’s about several young/ambitious/pioneering 19th century Americans (including Mark Twain) who traveled to France to further their education. I still need to make time to read his book on John Adams. (The HBO series was AWESOME, so do check that out!)