Veterans book club fosters camaraderie
On April 5 Jim Schelberg, relaxed his 6-footplus frame during a round table discussion in the regular meeting room of the Towson Branch Library with half a dozen veterans, most of them his senior.
Schelberg, an Iraq and Afghanistan Marine veteran, served as a facilitator, leading the discussion, teasing excerpts regarding race from chapters within Ernest Hemingway’s book entitled The Battler and Moby Dick – the classic by Herman Melville during a monthly meeting of the Veterans Book Group. Originating from the Maine Humanities Council, the Maryland Humanities Council and the Baltimore Public Library, the Veterans Book Group program conducts free reading and discussion series, lectures and poetry readings – which focus on different subject matters.
Schelberg most notably enjoys the interaction with the veteran community. While currently working on his PhD in philosophy at John Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences he explained that his Humanities major in particular loans itself well to his part-time job as a facilitator.
“We try to hit themes that are pretty common to the veteran or the military experience. However we often approach those things from text that is not directly connected to the military text,” Schelber said. “Even though they’re unrelated to military text they’re really nice lenses to take a new look at our own experiences. And we actually get better discussions out of the non-military text when civilians are engaged in our meetings. It allows the veterans to take a look at the same text with a different perspective.”
Schelberg explained sometimes individuals have to dig for the parallels between the structured military environment and everyday civilian life – saying that is part of being an “active reader” and that everyone, whether military or not, adds to the group discussions.
This isn’t first demographic-specific book group. During the winter and summer months, he spends time with inmates discussing similar issues — what he calls his true love. But, he says he also enjoys his interaction with different military veterans.
“I don’t view these sessions as any sort of therapy or cathartic experience in relation to the veterans. I think that there is just something valuable in the practice of reading and thinking,” Schelberg said. “I think the indicator is how much good discussion you’re getting, the new insights shared through interaction and the connection of their own experiences is a strong indicator that a meaningful reading experience is taking place.”
For more information on how to get involved concerning the Veteran Book Group visit: www.mdhc. org.
In addition to the monthly book group, The Maryland Humanities Council and The Maryland Humanities Council are also sponsoring a Veterans Writing Workshop at the Baltimore County Public Library, Cockeysville Branch, to further their veteran initiatives. The writing workshops will take place June 4 and 18; July 2, 16 and 30; Aug. 13 and 27. All sessions will run from 1:30 p.m. — 4:30 p.m. Dario DiBattista, an Iraq War and Marine combat veteran will lead this workshop from the Veterans Writing Project.
The series of workshops will show veterans the elements of the writing craft, including narrative structure, character motivation and crafting dialog. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose, individuals will learn how to write to remember and build community, while honing a highly marketable skill. The workshops are open to veterans as well as active duty and reserve members. All services – and eras – are welcome. Registration required and begins May 2. For more information call (410) 8877750.
From left: Jim Schelberg, Marine veteran and the veterans’ book group facilitator, outlines excerpts from The Battler, an Ernest Hemingway short book as Dave Van Wye, Army infantry veteran, center, and Dr. Woody Sherwood Lipit, a 10-year naval veteran, discuss the text during the most recent VBG session at the Towson Branch Library April 5.