Author Steve Bergsman returned to Island Trees High School on Friday night for a presentation on his e-book Growing Up Levittown.
Bergsman spent approximately two hours discussing his childhood years spent in Levittown in front of a crowd that included some of his old friends. He read passages from the book and took questions from the audience about his past and the process in writing the book.
Bergsman began the evening by revisiting his sixth grade graduation from Geneva N. Gallow Elementary School, which he was significantly looking forward to. "They weren't my greatest years," he said. "I was shy, and I was outside all of the social circles in sixth grade [and before]. I was quite ready for junior high school."
He brought his sixth grade signature book on stage and read what several of his fellow students wrote him in the book. After, he told the audience what those students ended up doing for a living. The point of the exercise? You can't tell what a person will go on to do from their sixth grade yearbook signature.
The two chapters Bergsman read from his book dealt with specific themes in his book. One, the first chapter, listed some of the complaints that many intellectuals had about Levittown and suburbia in general, including Richard Yates, the author of Revolutionary Road. Bergsman wrote his book in part because his experience in Levittown was much more positive than what intellectuals wrote about America's first suburb.
The other chapter he read dealt with the different musical acts that came out of Levittown, with a particular focus on Eddie Money, who used to perform at school dances that Bergsman attended. Many of the critics who put down suburbia claimed that it would stifle creativity, but Bergsman used the cases of Money, Billy Joel, Bill O'Reilly and two members of the Velvet Underground to show that it didn't.
Bergsman also talked about the impact that teacher Joseph Feinstein had on him at Island Trees High School. He had him for two separate classes in his junior and senior years, and it was his senior year class that made him want to become a writer.
"This was my first shot at writing something creative, and, quite frankly, I didn't create anything literary," Bergsman said. "But I realized that I enjoyed writing the things that I wrote."
Bergsman ended the night by taking questions from the audience. During the question and answer session, he revealed that he had a lot more trouble remembering his high school days than he expected. “I thought everything would come back to me immediately,” he said, but there were stories, such as a date that ended with him climbing out a window to avoid a girl’s parents that he didn’t remember. “I thought it would be easy to remember high school,” he said. “It wasn’t.”
The e-book Growing Up Levittown: In A Time of Controversy, Conformity and Cultural Crisis is available on Amazon and Smashwords. To read a two-part profile on Bergsman that Patch ran in August, go here and here.