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From the Teens of Washington County, MD
Updated: 1 hour 45 min ago

Teen Artwork – “Bismuth”

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 06:50


Follow the artist on Instagram @jai_the_wizard


Thu, 11/07/2019 - 04:25

By Dahlia, Staff Writer


I can feel it every time I look in the mirror or see my reflection looking into a store window, can feel it when I’m called something I’m not

When I’m called my name, I try not to break down, try not to cry when I’m called something that doesn’t fit me

But instead I’m supposed to push through, to be perfectly fine with everything that is happening

And “I promise I’m fine, I promise it okay when you mess up my pronouns, when you mess up my name”

But it goes unsaid when you do it again and again

Cause I should be used to it, should be okay, shouldn’t feel like I’m dying inside every time

And I shouldn’t have to comfort you rather than me when you say who I am wrong


Thu, 10/31/2019 - 18:50

By Jasmine Bulle

My heart raced against time. My face covered with tears. The footsteps behind me were closing in on me. The sound echoed against the hardwood.

A rod was scratching on the floor, making its presence known. It slid closer and closer.

I ran for the nearby door. I hid under a bed, hoping the sound would go away.

Before I knew it, the door creaked slowly. I could hear loud breathing. It was pacing around like a mad dog.

I closed my eyes. And the sound was gone.

It was gone.

I slowly got up from under the bed, telling myself it was all a dream.

A loud laughter arose in the room. It was a shadowy figure that looked similar to my height. I couldn’t see its face, only the shape of its mouth. It said, “You will never run away from me!  Because I’m a part of you, FOREVER!”

The figure smiled and closed the door…

Teen Artwork – “Untitled”

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 07:21

“Untitled” – by Ornella T.

The Bridge

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 18:50

By apollosbones, Staff Writer


I guess you could say I’m a little disheveled. A little broken, a little angry.

The remembrance of my childhood terror starts with the neighbors. Their baby passed away last week, and I can’t stand their crying. Not that I don’t feel bad for them, or that I haven’t been over to check on them every now and again, but their crying has gone on for three—four days. The wife won’t stop wailing, and I wonder if this is her first time living in an apartment building, because she doesn’t seem to know that I can hear everything.

Now, you’re probably thinking, Collin! How dare you say such a thing! Well, I’ll tell you how. I was like them once, mourning the death of a toddler. I was around sixteen at the time, and it was summer in Kingsville, Maryland. My family and I had just moved near Jericho.

Like any teen boy, I wasn’t thrilled. Moving in was just another chore on my list, and I had to babysit my little sister at the same time. Lily hated being bossed around, but she would comply if I made it into a game for her–or didn’t tell her it was a chore.

Our house was pretty big, or average for you owning-house-people. Since Dad left, we had to live in someone’s basement for awhile, renting it out, so this was a major upgrade. I chose whatever room didn’t smell like mold, hauled four boxes up to it, and gotten Lily to settle down for her nap, all by lunch time.

“Why don’t you go explore some, see what you can find outside?” Mom asked. She and I were just finishing our sandwiches. I gave it some thought, and remembered the little path I saw when we drove past the garden. “It’ll give you a break from watching Lily, Col.”

I told her that I would as I left through the front door. I wracked my brain for the last memory of the drive, to try and remember where exactly I saw the opening to the path. Near the garden.

Maybe it’ll be like a pretty meadow, I thought, or maybe it will be some kind of river. Close, but not exactly. I finally found the little opening and climbed through, there were lots of thorns and branches in the way as I followed the dirt path for at least half a mile before I saw it.

This odd bridge looked too unstable to stand on. The railing was red on either side, and it was covered in what I thought was chipped paint—or rust. By the gate to get onto the bridge, there sat a podium with little words whittled into it. It had the title “Jericho Bridge.” I thought I learned about it in History, but those memories were so supressed at the time that I didn’t think too much about it.

But the bridge started to pull me towards it, and the air thickened. It felt like a rope was tied around my neck, and was gradually drawing me into the bridge. I could jump any moment. It felt like that, just heavy.

After that, I knew I shouldn’t have gone back. But no, I wanted to explore more into the bridge and the river under it. One day, I threw a rock into the nearly stilled stream. The water looked clear from where I stood, but when the splash came up, the water was red. And, one day, I sat close enough to the bridge that I heard a voice.

“Jump in, Collin…” it would whisper, “come join us…” 

I didn’t go back to the bridge until the curiosity started to kill me. I couldn’t figure out how it knew my name, or if I was just hearing things. But just remember, I never went onto the bridge itself. I felt like it was just calling my name, and it only got louder as I lay in bed every night until I went back.

“Honey, take Lily with you, please?” Mom asked me one day. She was at her desk, working on something for the divorce court case. I was about to head out to the bridge, to get some footage of the water and the things around it when she asked me. I groaned and went to get my little sister’s shoes.

“Come on, Lil.” I snapped. My little sister wore pink overalls and a heart themed shirt. When she sat down on the bottom stair of our house, I helped her get the shoes on. We headed out to the bridge.

“Col… I don’t wanna go in there.” She gripped my shirt when we got to the viney opening in the woods. I carried her through, even though she kept protesting against it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You made a three year old go into the woods? To a haunted bridge? And the answer is simple: yes. But, for the record, I did say she had to stand behind my backpack when we got there.

“Stay here. I mean it,” I told her, making sure she heard me clearly. Lily nodded.

I already felt the neck-breaking pull of that invisible rope. It was like the loop of the noose was closing in tighter… and tighter…

I grabbed my camera out of my bag and went to the left side of the bridge, where I knew I could get the best photos of the water. The air was so thick, like blood, pooling up in my nose and mouth. I couldn’t stop myself from getting as close as possible, the freedom from that rope, from the air, felt more than good. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I jumped in right then, I could fly.

I hit the ‘record’ button, and that’s when I heard it.


I shot out of my trance and looked to the bag, where it sat alone and emptied all over the dirt path.

“Lily?” I called. “Lily Marie!” As if using her middle name would help, I called that, too. There was no response until I shut off my camera, and that’s when the bridge spoke up again;

“Come on! Jump, Collin… jump in with Lily, Collin…It was a malicious hiss. I backed up and stumbled over everything in sight.

Mom didn’t stop crying for three months.

So yeah, I’m a little annoyed with the neighbors. A little angry, a little torn up.

I know, I know that I shouldn’t have taken her that day. I know I messed up, and I know that I would still have Lily with me today if I wasn’t so obsessed with that damned bridge. It should have been me.

I hope you’re thinking, yes, it should have been you.

And yeah, I’m tired of the neighbor’s crying. I’m tired of crying. With every sob and wail the banshee next door makes, it pulls another one from me. So yes, you could say I’m a little sad, and a little disliked by everyone in the apartment building.

The difference between the banshee next door and I, though? When I cry, I’m aware that I have neighbors.

Teen Artwork – “Ian”

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 16:50


Follow the artist on Instagram @meektweek

“Whatever After Seeing Red” by Sarah Mlynowski

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 07:47

Book review by Michelle Yang

Imagine that you and your friends are going to have a sleepover and that it’s going to be a blast. Your nana, who hasn’t seen you for a long time, came to stay at your house while your parent is at work all week. Your nana stops you from going to the party because she wanted to have family time with you and your brother.

According to the events that happen in this book, Abby, the main character and Jonah, Abby’s younger brother, go into a magic mirror in the middle of the night. Abby hopes that the fairy who lives inside the magic mirror will transport her to her friend’s house. Instead of doing what she asked for, she ends up in the story of Red Riding Hood.

What I like about this book is how the author made it more interesting by changing some of the events that would normally happen in the Red Riding Hood story. For example, instead of Red Riding Hood figuring out that her grandma wasn’t actually her grandma, Abby and Jonah told her beforehand, changing the traditional climax of the story.

My favorite character is the grandma. It turns out that the grandma is grouchy – so much different from the kind of what you expected from a grandma. Readers that enjoy fantasy and are often curious will enjoy this book.

Would this experience teach Abby about what is important for being a family? If you were in her position, what would you do? Would you stay with your beloved nana or head to your best friend’s sleepover? If you really want to know what happens, go check it out in your local library.

Teen Artwork – “Aphrodite”

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 07:47


Follow the artist on Instagram @ erosumski_

The Art of Lying

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 09:45

By Jay Trovato, Young Adult Librarian

As young children, we are taught to tell the truth instead of lying. Not too far into our childhood, however, we realize that although the adults around us demand that we tell the truth, they do not always do so themselves. When a matter arises in which it would cost them something to be truthful, children sometimes – or even often – watch adults lie. Sometimes the cost of being truthful is monetary, such as when parents claim that a 13-year-old child is 12 years old in order to get a discount at a restaurant or a play. Other times, the cost of being truthful is social. If a man in church is asked if he uses pornography, being truthful by saying “yes” may carry unpleasant consequences for him, so he may lie and say “no.” What children learn is that even though lying may be wrong, it can sometimes be useful. As children become teenagers and then adults, they get plenty of practice with the art of lying.

Lies have many forms, although they might not be recognized as such right away. One is called “denial,” which means consciously or unconsciously holding an inaccurate view of something.  In the case of the churchman who uses pornography, he is in denial if he says to himself, “I’m not the kind of man who uses pornography.” He is unwilling to admit the truth to himself, trying to prop up a self-image of being morally better than he really is. Another form of lying is called “rationalization.” It means that a person makes up reasons for doing something wrong, even if these are not logical, appropriate, or relevant. Let’s bring back the example of parents who lie to the ticket clerk at the play about their child’s age. They say to themselves, “We need to save money wherever we can,” which is an attempt to take away the sting of conscience for not telling the truth. “Blame shifting” is another way to prevent the truth from hitting its mark.  In blame shifting, a person avoids taking responsibility for a wrong action and instead casts that responsibility onto someone else.  Imagine that a teenage girl is arguing with her father.  The father says, “You shouldn’t be arguing with me – I’m your father and you need to respect me!”  The girl can reply, “Well, you started it!”

This discussion between the father and daughter is now at a crossroads.  The conversation can spiral down from here into denial, rationalization, and more blame shifting if neither side is willing to give up. The problem is that each word that is spoken (or shouted) is hurting their relationship, like dropping a bowling ball over and over onto a package of ground beef – at the end, there will just be a bloody, slimy mess all over the place.

There is only one escape from the trap of lying: telling the truth. But telling the truth makes a person vulnerable. It means a person will have to step out of the distorted narrative that painted him in a favorable light and be seen for what he really is. If the voluntary vulnerability that comes from truth-telling is met with compassion, forgiveness, and goodwill, the situation will improve and the tension will lessen and dissipate. As the pattern of truth-telling continues, the relationship in question will stabilize and strengthen over time.

Even if it can be useful in the short term, lying in any form leads to weakness and picks apart the fabric of trust underlying all levels of human relationships. Truth-telling may be risky and costly, but it is the only sure path to harmony between people and peace within a person’s own conscience.

If we know that truth-telling is ultimately the best way, we need to become more attuned to all the different ways of lying human beings have invented. The diversity and creativity of human deception at times is truly astonishing – a mystery in which every one of us is involved to some degree. Lying may be the easy solution in the short term, but only the truth will set us free.

Teen Artwork – “Untitled”

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 09:36


Follow the artist on Instagram @ loser_lux


Thu, 10/03/2019 - 06:06

By Dahlia, Staff Writer

It’s eleven o’clock and all I hear is the faint voices coming from down the hall and the flipping of pages in a book and the small whimpers coming from someone’s nightmares and it’s only eleven but I’m still awake

It’s twelve o’clock and all I hear is the sobbing coming from my own mouth and the sighs and the shuffling of feet as people move around their room and it’s only midnight but I’m still awake

It’s one o’clock and all I hear is the heavy breathing and the whirring of the fans and the snores from across the hall and creaks as someone moves in their bed and it’s only one but I’m still awake

It’s two o’clock and all I hear is my own tears hitting the pillow and the loud breathing from those asleep and the clacking of paws on the hardwood floor and it’s only two but I’m still awake

It’s three o’clock and I can’t hear anything but the ringing in my ears and the voice in my head telling me I’m not okay and that I’m better off dead and it’s only three and I wish I was asleep but instead I’m crying, I’m not holding back and who even knew being awake for so long would cause this?

Written For Youth

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 06:20

By apollosbones, Staff Writer


I pour more than just thought into them,

the lyrics I write, to inspire, to include

your generation; the youth of a new age.

The world will grab you by the hair, will

drag you down to the depths of your own

personal hell. But I want to leave you

love notes, voice mails, spoken words.

I want to give you songs that will hold you

closer than your friends, that will sink deep

into your minds — linger on them a little longer.


You, fledglings, are the little birds I want to

help raise. You, my fledglings, are the ones

who deserve happiness. I want to give you that

feeling of jubilation, of hope, of having something

to look forward to, when there is nothing else that

waits for your arrival home. I’m leaving you these

lyrics, these rhythms, these blankets to wrap

yourself in when you can’t even begin to

think about life anymore.


Your generation is a newborn baby,

a book just starting to be drafted,

oh, so impressionable. The world,

society, seems to dig all of its nails

right into your spines, your hearts, your

fragile minds. I want to press my palms

into your shoulders, to wipe away

the claw marks of the world.


I’m leaving you with the world,

but also with this written kiss.


Thu, 09/19/2019 - 06:33

By Joseph Gumedzoe

The sky zooms past me but the ground seems to pass at a crawl. The only thing protecting me from the harsh, low-oxygen air and 9Gs of pull is two sheets of polycarbonate, sandwiched between two layers of optical glass, fusion-bonded in an autoclave and drape-formed over a canopy blank. It is ridiculously thin, yet ridiculously strong, but I can’t help but feel some unease. After all, I am cruising at eight hundred miles an hour.

Not to mention, I just happen to be deep in enemy territory. This jet, the F-22 Raptor, is the epitome of stealth technology. In theory, I’m a ghost to the majority of radar detection systems. Nobody should be able to see me. Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to make me and this plane invisible. Why is it, then, that I feel more exposed than I ever have been in my life?

I continue flying deeper into restricted airspace. Slight yaw, slight roll. A specific target must be hit and it’s up to me to make sure that target is hit, with pinpoint accuracy from thousands of feet in the sky. Hundreds of hours of training went into this mission, but I’m still unsure of my own ability. What if I miss? What if the targeting system fails? Would it still be my fault? I handle performance anxiety relatively well, but it’s hard to knock the feeling when the stakes are this high.

Thirty more miles. About two minutes left before I engage and launch the missiles. How many people will die or get injured? Do they deserve it? It’s not my job to contemplate moral dilemmas. I am doing more good than bad, otherwise I wouldn’t be the good guy. Right?

Fifteen miles to go. I flip a switch, grip the joystick, and prepare to take aim. Then I feel a massive jolt and I’m suddenly sideways, spinning out of control.  Oh!..


Thu, 09/12/2019 - 07:07

By Bossman Owusu

Sunday evening, late fall.

A girl on a bike was making her way under a blanket of trees, her trek kept hidden by the shade given by the leaves above her. It was quiet here, though not silent – the chatter of the animals of the forest made it so. The chirps and coos of the woodland creatures sang by her ears. It was quiet enough for her, however, and she enjoyed coming here, as often as she could.

The chill of the breeze made her tighten her teeth. Even her rather thick sweatshirt she had on couldn’t prevent her from experiencing the biting feeling of the wind slithering past her. Regardless, though, she rode on, her legs pushing her bike forward, carrying her body onwards down the trail.

Her eyes traced down to her fingers where they grasped her bike handles. They were growing terribly numb as the wind berated her thin digits. Should have brought gloves, she noted. She had this same realization on the last ride she was on, and had experienced the same pain as the wind pressed against them, and had even made the same mental promise to remember gloves for next time. This was the third time she had forgotten.

And yet, she carried on. She had to push extra hard as she neared the beginning of a hill, the gradient of the road increasing. Her breath grew sharp and quick, her calves burned. She pressed on anyway. If she gave up now and lost her momentum, there was no way she would be able to start again. Then she would have to walk her bicycle up the hill – a cruel way of facing defeat, especially since she would have still been physically drained from attempting the climb. She had done that every time she had attempted this hill…but this time would be different.

At the top, she was finally able to come to a stop. Her lungs felt like they were on fire, and now each breath grew hoarser than the last. She didn’t care, however, as a sense of pride was trickling up her body. It brought a smile to her lips, and filled her with a warmth that negated the cold of the wind. She’d done it. And not even the fatigue that plagued her poor legs could take away from that accomplishment.

She allowed her breathing to calm and admired the view. Up here, the trees grew away from the road, and the leaves spread out to allow her to see the sky up above. As it drew closer to night, the sun continued to sink into the horizon. The soft blue of the sky was riddled with wisps of fluffy white clouds which were highlighted shades of orange and yellow from the sun’s glow. It was undoubtedly beautiful, and she was more than glad she had timed her bike trip just in time to catch it.

Her eyes caught something in the faded blue sky – something white and bright, radiating off the background of dying blue. Surely enough, it was moving.  From where she stood, it looked like it was gently gliding across the sky, although from the object’s position it must have been racing fast.  Light streaks of purple and blue tailed by the white sphere, which the girl realized was because it was burning up as it flew.  There was no doubt: it was a meteor, descending quickly upon the earth.

Her face softened as she watched it. She had never seen anything like it, at least not this close. It was bigger than most comets or meteors that flew in the sky, and a part of her felt as if it was growing in size as it continued. She would have dismissed that part of her altogether, but what happened next did not allow her to do so.

For a moment, the forest went silent. The silence sent a chill down her spine, and her momentary solitude cast an uneasy feeling upon her. Something wasn’t right. Before her thoughts could come together, the trees shook as the flapping of wings filled the air. The sight of the sky was now clouded by flocks of birds driving through the air heading west in a flurry. In front of her, the road was briefly filled with a small parade of tiny animals – rabbits, squirrels, foxes, all hurrying across to the other side. Even a few deer pranced by before disappearing into the woods again.

They were fleeing.

When the birds passed, she looked back up towards the sky. The meteor was definitely larger than since she had last looked. She could make out much more detail on it – the flames that devoured the entire thing, licking off the sides; the bronze metallic hull that encompassed the entire thing, holes emitting jets of white smoke. By now, she wasn’t entirely sure if it was a meteor, though she did know it was coming in fast and hard.

She had to leave – she knew that much. The size and speed of the mass was enough to plunge her into fear, especially when she realized it was rocketing right towards her!  The sheer force of its trajectory made the trees near her sway, the strength of the winds increasing. She held tighter onto her bike handles, still watching it as it drew even closer. The light of the sun around her seemed to be blotted out, now replaced by the reflection of the meteor’s blues and purples painting everything around her. She knew she had to leave…but here she stood, frozen, entranced by the view.

CAROOOM! The meteor sliced through the air right above her as it passed, shaking everything around her with a deafening boom. She was knocked right off her feet, collapsing to the ground. She held her hands to her ears, her eyes held shut as she flew down. In the next moment it was gone, disappearing out of sight. She ripped her eyes open as the warmth from the meteor hit her, showering her entire body. Her heart was beating loudly in her chest, which seemed to almost drown out everything else…almost everything.

The ground was shaken by an unbearable force. At first, the girl had thought it was an earthquake, but she knew better. The meteor had landed, hitting the ground with thunderous might. Then, everything was quiet again as it had been, and the forest returned to its slumber.

The girl brought herself to her feet, unsteady as she stood. She couldn’t believe what she had seen. The wonder of what had just happened kept the realization miles away from her mind that she easily could have died a few moments ago.

Her eyes turned to the direction that the meteor had gone. The smell of smoke filled her nose, and she could make out remnants of cinders rising into the air. From what she could see, the meteor had ripped through the trees as it made its landing, demolishing everything in its path. She could see the path it made, a trench of dirt and mud leading deeper into the forest.

Her curiosity tingled. A part of her knew that she should have left immediately, going somewhere safe and allowing the proper authorities to deal with the meteorite. However, another part of her wanted to get a closer look – she knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and would regret it if she didn’t investigate whatever had just landed.

The latter part of her won.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 10:24

Book review by Joseph Gumedzoe

The Things They Carried is a hybrid book: it is a novel, memoir, and a collection of individual stories all combined into one work. The author, Tim O’Brien, reflects on his experiences while serving in the Vietnam War, as well as before and after being drafted into the war. Certain stories also focus on other characters who represent real people. The individual stories alternate between a few different settings, and many of the stories are from different points of view; for example, one story is told from Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’ perspective, but in third person. Another story is told from the author’s point of view, and one of the stories is a soldier’s account of an event that happened a few months prior.

The dialogue and descriptions are very engaging as a result of Tim O’Brien’s stellar writing. The author is able to “inject” emotion into his writing by putting his exact feelings on paper and being remarkably descriptive, which helps keep the narrative from falling flat or becoming uninteresting. On top of that, the vast changes in environment and perspective as one progresses through each story makes the book compelling and hard to put down, despite all of the stories being centered around the same event, the same platoon of soldiers, and mostly the same time period.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys works related to war or real events, as well as anyone who appreciates good writing and genuine storytelling.


Thu, 08/22/2019 - 15:48

By Joshua Kebe

I’m at the library.

I constantly push myself to do good, yet while doing that I tell myself, “Don’t be like your parents.” The voices constantly ring in my head every day, like a hammer pounding on a floor. They keep telling me to do bad things and hurt people.

I then get a text message from my mom saying, “Meet me at the park at 3:30pm so we can talk.” I talk to a friend of mine and she tells me, “I bet you your dad is there.” I say back to her, “I hope to God he isn’t there.” My dad gave me PTSD cause he constantly beat me growing up, so every time I see him, I have a panic attack. He’s hurt me so much growing up that I can’t feel pain anymore. It’s beginning to get harder and harder to cry…all I want to do is crawl into a little ball and cry.

So I walk halfway to the park with my friend and she guides me where I need to be to walk the rest of the way. I get to the park and I text my mom, “Where are you?” “I’m at the park,” she texts back. “I’m at the concession stand,” she says. I then see my dad getting out of his car with my sister and walks to the concession stand. My heart drops and I start sobbing. I then run away and call my friend and say, “My mom lied to me – my dad was there!” She tells me, “It’s okay. I’m going to get the boys and we will be on our way.” So I go running and finally get to them. After I get to them, we get to her house safely.

Now I’m 18. My mom took everything from me and left with my dad and siblings. Now I’m trying to gather all my stuff and start studying for my GED.

Overheard between two detectives in a freezer

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 11:11

A collaborative story by I’Kareem Buchanan and Cyndi Powell, edited by Jay Trovato

“So apparently, my partner Cyndi and I have a very cold case – and boy, I feel a slight chill about this. Or is it because we’re inside a freezer?”

“Oh no, I’Kareem!” exclaimed Cyndi, teeth chattering. “How on earth are we going to catch the guy who did this? All the evidence is frozen.”

“I guess I can’t let it go. After all, it’s not the right temperature to harvest corny puns,” I said, while trying not to let the cold air distract me. However, I did wonder why the chief said our suspect was a wee little mantis.

“Oh yeah, they call her Mani the ‘Praying Mantis.’ Manilla, the Queen Bee of the drug cartel, is a nun. For years it was a genius cover – smuggling drugs through the church and cooking meth in the basement under the altar – but we finally caught on to her scheme.”

“Sooooo…why are we in here, exactly?” I asked, before realizing that our criminal lured us in here not too long ago.

“Oh yeah. Ugh, don’t remind me! We’ve been tracking Manilla the Queen Bee and her cronies for the last 15 months. All the clues led us here to this meat freezer in Joe’s Deli on 69th Street.”

“So, are we waiting for backup?  Because I get the sudden feeling this is a major setup.  I mean, we haven’t found anything here.”

“We’re trapped, you imbecile!” Cyndi declared. “We were duped!”

…Two hours later…

Cyndi and I were finally out of the freezer with the unconscious Praying Mantis in handcuffs. I said to the officer, “Take her to the department.”

We may bumble along and make poor decisions sometimes, but in the end we always get our man…or, should I say, we always get our nun-turned-drug lord.

What the Eyes Don’t See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 19:38

by Jay Trovato, Young Adult Librarian

“What the Eyes Don’t See” is a 2018 memoir detailing the contrast between truth and falsehood during the water-quality crisis in Flint, Michigan in the mid-2010s. The author, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, was one of the scientists who worked tirelessly to prove that the children of Flint were being recklessly exposed to toxic levels of lead in their tap water. As she recounts the events that led her to break the news to the public, she talks about the people in her Iraqi-American family whose influence caused her to have the courage to do what was right in the face of strong institutional opposition.

Looking to save money in a time of financial shortfall, government officials switched Flint’s water source from Lake Huron (a large body of clean water) to the Flint River (which had been badly polluted by decades of industrial waste). Almost immediately, residents began to notice an unusual smell, appearance, and taste to their tap water. Worse than that, though, corrosive chemicals in the Flint River reacted with lead in the plumbing and released toxic levels of lead into the city’s tap water. Infants and small children are the most vulnerable to the ill effects of consuming lead, yet lead was all around them – in their infant formula bottles and the drinking fountains at their schools.

Once Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha realized that the babies and toddlers she treated every day at her clinic were being poisoned by the tap water, she felt a visceral need to fight back. Dr. Hanna-Attisha and a committed core of volunteer researchers worked tirelessly to compile data that would prove to any impartial observer that the level of lead in the water since switching to the Flint River switch was unacceptable. The governing authorities, however, were anything but impartial – they fought hard to discredit the author’s lead study through distortions, bullying, and outright lies. Eventually, journalists and public opinion turned the tide in favor of the findings, and once the truth was fully known a lot of people in power lost their jobs.

As inspiring as the story may be to any up-and-coming activist who seeks to speak the truth to power, I found myself disliking the book during most of the time I was reading it. The basic reason it was frustrating for me is that Dr. Hanna-Attisha was trying to write three books at once.  One book was her account of the Flint water crisis, another book was about her Iraqi-American family history, and a third book was her personal political manifesto. True, there were a few points of overlap between these subjects as she told her story, but her repeated grandiose rhetoric about political ideals and her long forays into her family’s past continuously flattened any dramatic momentum.

For all the pages she spent lauding the values of her forebears, it was glaring to me that her own husband and children were not well-developed characters. One reason could be the simple historical fact that she didn’t spend much time with them during the Flint water crisis. It wasn’t just her family that Dr. Hanna-Attisha neglected; she never missed an opportunity to tell us how little she was eating and sleeping because she was so worried and angry about the lead in the water.

I have no reason to doubt Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s sincerity, and she and her team of research colleagues deserve plenty of credit for the courageous stand they took against a criminally neglectful governing apparatus. It is not the story itself, but rather the way it is written, that turned me off as a reader. More careful writing and editing might have increased the dramatic tension and decreased the tone of self-righteousness evident throughout Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s account.

Walk Unalone

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 12:29

An anonymous submission


I’m not much of a singer;

I can’t really carry a tune

you just make me want to sing sweet hymnals to you.

I’ve got this loneliness in me

that tricks me to believe

I’m alone in company.

But you asked me not to leave:

You said,

“It’s a heavy load

and a long way home,

but if we’re together it won’t be so cold.”

Before you

I went alone in hard, shameless light

without a shadow.

Now I move forward knowing you’re behind.

I always want to be okay,

but I’m not always.

You were the first to tell me that’s alright.

Promise you won’t leave when I cry?

After all,

who can really say

if we’ll always be this way?

Holding hands, a little less forsaken?

But when I go back

to walking these streets solo

at my back, I’ll always know

I have your shadow.

A tribute to Izzy and Rin

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 20:44

By Jay Trovato, Young Adult Librarian

Izzy and Rin (left and second from left, above) are pillars of the Teen Library Council and the Young Adult Department’s community of teen patrons.  I have no doubt that they will quickly become pillars in their new intellectual and social communities at their respective colleges.

Think for a moment about pillars.  Their job is simple: to stand there and hold other things off the ground.  They bear the weight of weaker parts of the building so that the whole thing stands solid against the elements.  Their job is not to move.  If they do move, the whole building is in trouble.

These two wonderful pillars (Izzy and Rin) have done their job well.  The Young Adult Department has had two new librarians come in over the past 2 years (Ann in 2017 and me, Jay, in 2018), each of us bringing our unique personality, experiences, interests, and beliefs.  Izzy and Rin have been part of the department for far longer than Ann and I have, and they have patiently and lovingly shepherded both of us as well as their fellow teens.

Now, as Izzy and Rin move out from here into their college years, the Young Adult Department will stand strong because these two have helped Ann, me, and their fellow teens learn how to become pillars.

Izzy, thank you for being willing to participate in any and every library activity, for getting along so well with everyone, and for all the delicious food you brought us.  We’ll miss your smile like crazy.

Rin, thank you for making me a better leader and a better writer.  Many others throughout your life will build upon the foundation of confidence and strength within you, just as Ann and I have.

Thank you both for your commitment to reading, scholarship, and citizenship.  You exemplify the very best of what the youth people of Washington County, Maryland have to offer.  We will miss you and we are deeply grateful for all you have done.


To end on a lighter note…at Izzy and Rin’s surprise send-off party last night, we played a game in which we worked together to create random sentences.  Here are ten of the best ones.

WARNING: Abandon all logical thought, ye who read on.


  • Jay and Ann committed arson at the Constitutional Boogie Down Hall during that hour after lunch where you feel like nothing is real anymore because they were looking for a good time.
  • Donald Trump’s dusty wig descended into hell to kick it with Satan in Gotham city on July 20, 1969 14 seconds before the moon landing because they wanted a sack of Joe.
  • Kat and Elisha fell into a vat of melted chocolate in Hoboken, NJ (USSR) on a day very much like today since I am the queen of the world and have all of the answers (thank you very much).
  • President Pete ate a McChicken outside of Denny’s in the music-filled year 1999 because you cannot really balance eggs easily on the equinox, contrary to popular belief.
  • Joseph Stalin kissed a girl and she liked it at the intersection of Eastern Blvd Highway, the largest traffic light In Hagerstown, when Trump got into a fight with God because he wanted to.
  • Shrek fell in love with Shaggy by the most intense sunset in the glove compartment of a car that smelled like chocolate and roses yesterday at 5:00 pm because…why not!
  • Jay slapped a man with a wet bag of bananas all around the world and in space during the 1800s because the Nachos Empire was in danger.
  • Britney Spears gave Izzy a giant bag of Skittles and a big kiss in the White House at the worst time in the universe, since we’re mourning the death of our supreme beast, Barney the dinosaur.
  • Mr. Snow stole bins and a candle holder in a hobbit hole in the future and my fantasy world because it was too good to deny it.
  • Elon Musk paid a bunch of superheroes to set the White House on fire in the library in the 1950’s because he killed his daddy.