Flyover Lives

February 20, 2014

Over drinks at a dinner party, a French friend was frank with essayist and novelist Diane Johnson about her opinion of “Americans” and our sense of heritage. She described us as “indifferent.” Johnson disagreed, and a few years later, we have her response in the form of her new memoir “Flyover Lives.” She has a sense of her family’s history and a lot of other Americans, specifically Midwesterners, do too.

This hour on Focus, Lisa Bralts talks with Johnson about her upbringing in Moline, Illinois, and how that’s shaped her outlook on life. We’ll hear about how she traced her family back to the 18th century and learned more about her own family’s roots in Illinois while writing the book and will delve into perceptions of Midwesterners across the country, and across the globe.

Do you have a sense of your family’s history? How did you learn about it? Have you been accused of not knowing? We’d love to hear from you today on Focus!

Pop Up Archive Item: “Flyover Lives” :
Transcript for file: focus140220a.mp3


after dinner at a house party
party a French friend was Frank with Diane Johnson about her opinion of Americans
really have is true
few years later we have Johnson’s response for new book is a memoir detailing
bringing in Moline Illinois


Midwest family history
Vocus all talk with Diane Johnson about her new MMORPG Lavalife
chipolte about her memories of Moline in the 40’s and 50’s how to trace your family history
do you have a sense of humor

coming up on focus after this news
Draya Michele I’m talking with writer Diane Johnson


finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has been nominated 3 times to the National Book Award
nes a biography and fiction novels in Clute 1997
2000 the mariage in 2003
why our lives published recently by biking Penguin
is in part of response to a French friend
that Americans have no sense of their personal history is in the book not only offers
of her childhood and adolescence in Moline Illinois but also the circumstances of her


from France to the northeast and eventually to Illinois
questions for listeners do you feel like you have a sense of your personal history
Americans generally struggle with this idea what are some of your perceptions about living in the Midwest
disagree with out stereo types at 1 800 to do tonight
29455 what you know about your family history the things you’ve learned
you can also email it will talk it Illinois Facebook and Twitter
Twitter @ focus 580 Diane Johnson thank you so much for doing yesterday


thank you for having me so I would like to start with a house party
party that you were out and that you were at in Provence France visiting friends and that store
does set the stage for everything that follows can you
can you talk a little bit and describe the situation at this party and what was said to you that made you think
is it true that should I start digging through my family history
something that a French friend that we were in the south of France visiting
sitting in a beautiful house


love in French food in Fallon NV
where a group of American General who
taking and they will retire
taking a trip to France to look up there
this is how a conversation
where the girl with the subject
okay though the topic of historical memory came up after the excellent dinner


when we gathered on the patio and the American army general wrong with telling
French ancestors is calling Billabong within us
look up his roots in Germany the bones in Los Lobos retired and have the Montreal
Dreamstime virginal Daniel optical research
Washougal Rosso
summer Catholics mean before the Revolution and the French Revolution timeline
many people don’t realize it extend of Catholic immigration into America


Maryland it was the discourse well informed and lightning
early immigrants to America visit prompted are holy
hostess saying that it was unusual for Americans to take a nap
can interest in history in any form after they mentioned
the covered wagon nothing
it’s because we don’t believe that ancestry matters is what you are yourself
it’s an axiom of America selfmade set times


delete defensive I suppose international class list
American Pacific
Civic for knowing and caring so much about a background Simone rental
is it feel because French’s pizza place on citrus mall stay
St John of the Cross
the blue dress
he has a covered wagon in his family tree


is on grandmother went to California in one in the 1880s

avg answers most American treatment had no idea about
about anything before their own grandmothers if that indifference
2 history Simone Smith that’s why Americans have so naive
as always in Vandeven countries American Mason FL
it’s winter in the foreign land in someone criticizes the United States


that you come to feel loved American most Midwestern because
California weather live for 50 years has ever felt like America
Illinois dot ok
so how so how did you feel in that moment when im on
says that
play thinking about it I started
my mother had a drawer full of maggots cramps and diarrhea


I’ve always believed
not without reason I think that the interest in front of family
geneology is at the gumline with increasing age
and at the time I guess I haven’t reached that point
quickly did because I thought I should look into those manuscripts and Irish
and so I did
what do you think she was trying to accomplish by bringing that up


it was probably the continuation of a conversation she didn’t have a
American husband over the air
probably fence historical woods way
kind of flooring in NC
I could you could just stay here
Wanderlei a conversation I did have to laugh when I read the park
the part where she said you know all Americans think they’re descended from royalty


what that’s ridiculous but then I remembered that my
my grandfather on my dads side had had told me when
geological research and he told us that we were descended from Napoleon
which you could see all of us were all like sex

after I realize that died in my family Skating what there is always a
to be related to somebody way back who was it was important


yeah I know it’s true
when I haven’t heard usually is
as it was in my family
the cafe in festival

and I would ask the audience


how many people had a tradition
condition of someone great
very high proportion
everybody listeners have have
Family Feud questions or comments for Diane Johnson
give us a call at 1 802 to 2945 email at will
talking at Facebook and Twitter at a Twitter


Twitter @ focus 580 and leave a message for a there and will get back to you
just one last question about the French
do you feel that the Europeans in particular have a better sense of their head
history of Nations as individuals or is that something that there
will talk more about this question a basic answer now that something that you think is
is actually true true I think of a number
free things in their education


little so different from all the places in Glendora
Brownsburg Zampa has a more compact history where of America
has a live in different regions are after dentist on
on educating the luck of the West what happened in Louisiana
California and outside of the side of the big picture sometime
time impressed with how
school children are made to remember all those Louis MO


do deers a little bit so
counter with somone and in France with with the general
general you decided to start pursuing
family history maybe it’s starting to work on your own story of your family so
talking bout moving in your childhood bear
is that the winter wear currently experiencing this year in central Illinois
your recently in Chicago on your book tour you might have had a little taste of exactly like your description


scription of winter in Moline that you gave in yearbook we all feel like we been wearing
wearing many layers of clothes for several months now
Chicago one day when it was I thinking
17 below on my book to a couple weeks ago
I don’t like it I like it very very much longer but it took me back
low freezing water
Logan grade school from my house


why have to say it’s actually been awhile since we’ve experienced a winter like that
here our selves how long has it been since
the wall above the winter season in the Midwest when was the last time
sixth and I had to move to California
and of course I’ve never had anything even if
address in winter even when we go skiing in the ass


it’s not that common like in the
3800 just below freezing with nothing like
below zero in fact I don’t think that people can even imagine
experiences talking to people overseas aid
crazy for living here
back in the 1930s 40’s and 50’s you know when your book sounds like it was
largely untouched by the outside world in a lot of ways


what does feel that way to me because I was
I was a child on Goodreads about far away places
and I know that we did not have
sailing ships above all
pirate Council

videos of child even even Tom Sawyer


amor eterno amor Aventura
little girl in Moline even though he wasnt that far away
do you think that insularity is more of a small town thing
or is it that you need to Midwest
it’s just a little bit a condition of being in the Midwest
when I start would I find myself thinking about it said and realize
it was true that you’re a thousand miles ocean when you’re in my way


or or more
during the war yes they were headlines yesterday
they came every morning with
details of of the war but it wasn’t
funny thing to do with the war
graphical reality I fink so in the book
book you talk a little bit about how you loved parrot stories and you love to read


can you talk a little bit about the library that you visited when you when you were growing up
ESI I was happy to see that it was still there
InMotion when I visit a couple of years ago it was the Carnegie Library
is there were in love lots of small towns in America
what is that was such a great thing that
Andrew Carnegie did to build Library
smaller communities over over the country


and they were wonderful looking if you if you’ve ever seen a Carnegie Library with the column
looking Library the Carnegie Library
is closed Anu
community library is here and I think you’re looking for something to do with the
what the building that as a couple years ago it was in the news
pencil eyebrows which is sad but at least fans turn it down
down when to when you were a kid was that what it was clearly a center for youth


you had a really have the library and I feel like libraries
even now I remain at the center of small town life
what it seems like a library still remains
place that sounds like it was really important place for Moline as well it was very
very important that I have to say when I was on my book to I
beautiful library in Libertyville
and you know it boot it really


the continuum of the library
the community center place to get books on now
media related things and it was a fairytale land
the community and that the flushing library
okay we’re going to go to the phones online for we have Steve
Eve from Urbana
my last name is Julia


HRL lyer and for my whole life my brothers
paternal grandfather
that are surname was a French Huguenot
we believe him well I look to research and it didn’t take much dick
its in fact an occupational name the originals
hial lier
workman who does that


and it is hot pseudo houses and then the other fat so I just
tourney for the Interstate Commerce will he was working on
nevermind he was bright mad at any other matter I wanna bring up
I had this friend moved to Urbana
Anna from Evanston to two and a half years ago
distressing time and close friend here


family law photo

that’s what I did she said it well if I had to I would never
when did the revelations that I have had the experience going
are you might make my father was a brilliant photographer
completely missed his call and he should have been
genius photographer


it’s like Faulkner said I don’t know if I have the exact wording
famous quotes of William the past is never pass it isn’t even
dead people
who sings it all that was in the past forget about it move on
something so Calif that that that stuff
yeah I’m so glad you didn’t


do it is another Mather and sometimes the Chevalier
things really dont spit ball
thank you Steve for your call an effect anyone else has AIDS
I want to ask our guest Diane Johnson 1 800
9455 mail it will talk at
Facebook or Twitter @ focus 580 and Diane
Diane we just received a tweet from reign Mary Queen of Scots


what is a story in her mom’s family
lily thai
Mary Queen of Scots
do the math
it’s very likely that bad
descendants of if anyone that was alive
Queen of Scots OH


truth very often they do
think there’s something in the
International psi kids don’t you about wanting some connection
European history or or the history of the old country
from which immigrants come to
keep that connection have a sensor off of the past
the past tense of the whole new country with everyone


talking about no stories to tell my ticket Delta because
because our country’s history is relatively young compared to
European countries is Histories go back millenia really
there are histories in North America that go back millenia also b***
what are current culture that immigrant culture from Europe
are becoming a nation in 1776 history is really not that old


old and so I think maybe you’re right that’s that that’s part of it
Steve who talked about his
the divisions of his name is another way of recovery
recovering history what people think of their family
family name of the place that the format
forbearance left until then some of the history
in his steps to love


probably came from France so
so that we try to hold on
we have another color online for bill is driving
riding on his way on his way to the family farm
full size my family back
2010 Minnesota Minnesota Saipan
back to 1601 Fulton Illinois


back to France and Germany
everybody’s got friends people
people as answer if you’re from Western Europe
Cleopatra related to Caesar


remember the mass murder
character only the good get remembered
member of the very very bad to write yes you have that
link to somebody who is a truly an outlaw that’s not so bad either
when we were talking at the well my great great


great grandmother was the host of 4 Jesse James

flights from the banks bill for your call
I’m sitting in virgin Meadows today we’re going to take a short break year
I’m talking this hour with Diane Johnson she’s in a clean daughter whos recent memoir fly over live
contractor upbringing in Moline Illinois
questions about how Americans see themselves in relationship history this is focus


WI AM 580
Diane Johnson screenplays
94 the break your talking again about our relationship
relationship with true or not to a famous or folks
Cecil from Saint Joseph
Joseph is on the line hi thanks for sharing stories
nice out we have a semicolon


my kind of story family and I found a whole lot of history and it was related to
infamous people and they hit them to research in
unchanged go away after my father passed to change the way we are with herself
heritage of astonishment very proud
city with a very similar meanings and after my father passed weekend
can cause a document politician 3340
at that had a chase down


and it turns out that we are in Spanish
French indeed again and back time
Mike Kemp great grandfather actually came across something called
first ship iss the Huguenots word from England
and I just found out 3 interesting
are some of the things that are princess resort but when you find out
find out so much more about you know that your real history


not here say I just furniture
best writing I’m a couple things
it turns out that I have never understood the extent to which
people of France in the Midwest there was a lot of emphasis on on Germantown
in my timeline
Louis from Scandinavia but in fact France
America from from the Alleghenies


the Rocket from the Great Lakes who booty
is there was a massive French immigration
best way to part of that so
looking up more you know
your nationality is completely different
I wonder what they have


friends at what point of the family
Spanish is there was a hole
holtel that was created around it is well my father told to stay at someone came from the
Old Republic for a bow at the end
they said that the people in New Orleans couldn’t understand
Gracian the name at the end


and then eventually the W was dropped in thats my name
Italian or Spanish name an exactly exactly
Cecil thank you so much
how much for your call
Alva who says American history of young many immigrants in captivity wanted to forget the past


the past and begin anew think that’s an interesting point over here
I do think that’s true
specially people
my family have come early in alphabet
most of the memories of anything that happened in the Old West
long fence
no recollection of the old country anything but


for somebody who had the Advent wreath
Mikasa solar oil level on the Holocaust
cost any of those things
and so I think at a certain point
work from the 1880s
1920 that was very much
program UK you dropped your own language


encourage your children to learn that
embrace American but of course not
it’s really sad when people could have learned another language
this idea was mistaken a lot of way
is that we should have


not going out the family paper right right sided love reading about
about your great great great grandmother and I think that’s great
so she’s a little further
into your history shes born in 1779 if I’m not mistaken
so your family had had come over for a while and had their names
maybe not exactly changed but certainly change something
is something a little more American like in your family


call France Way
what was pretty funny but really I really like dreaming about
she actually seems like a teenage girl from any era
you always feeling like she’s doing all the work and no one really understand her
more about her about her life was like before she married
is this he was born as his hand 1779 and so that was doing
American Revolution her father or some kind of joke


who is a in the Santa professional family
family things are really cry primitive in 1779
so so that would have been open fire
lots and lots of laundry to do in the probably would have had a hired girl
leg b***
had to do a lot of work and so as a girl
how many 96 girls


principle of occupation
area of a circle
what was related to the church
Church going to the descendants of characters
Pilgrims and a very caught up in the ology


and so
going to different meanings of different denominations
I’m also that she was a teenager with a very
fervor in the country it was
is it was called the Great Awakening and people
with all kinds of method is a Presbyterian Rosa


azfamily would wear to a concert that point
but at that time the Church of England whetstone
the revolution was an over anyway so she
into the logical questions like
will the nation with one big subject
big word for her definition is weather
weather not your dander saved has been decided


nothing that you can do nothing that you just can’t change it
she was worried about bad to cut off Dancing
say but I suppose you
epic church
young Mr Perkins
Mary’s when she’s a tan in real life
Vegas live in very rustic circumstances


in the wilderness in a cabin
The Weeknd
primitive life for a season 4

middle middle class people note 2 or listener
if you have a question or comment about memoir personal history or the Midwest place in history
we would love to hear from you at 1 800 22 29455


will talk at Illinois .edu or you can just be a social media and Facebook
Facebook and Twitter at focus 5800 the next generation after
after an
Kathryn was quite the writer
Ann’s writing kind of drops off because she probably had all these kids to deal with b*** Catherine
Catherine Rohr quite a bit with an unusual for that time I don’t know
it’s really very hard to find out how many people have


grandmother diarrhea in their attic something it is heated
is he into the relatively unusual but um but they’re not writing is Delaware
and so I think maybe girls diarrhea
Diary like
statesman like to do a professional to do so
I think it was more than usual for women 5’3 heard


just grateful that is a generation
people have held on to do with something
importance of these women voices
are there lots of others out there
IHOP distance from somebody listening
remember only a I go to look at that girl
Ashley recently had a program edition of focus that was about the preservation of


vision of family heirlooms including people out there who are starting to dig around looking for those things
things that would be
what to do with them
but I think will need to be aware of what
archival resources are found in which library is win
accept things like this
should encourage library to a car


this kind of material which is on the way
is the meaning of deciding to throw it out
Fred from Urbana online 1
it’s a comment on place names that were adopted by our ancestors from other places
French Andhra incest records all along the rivers
in the Midwest the French were some of the first
European place name all over and from


your part of the state that Moline IL later
immigrants from New York State canal in the Great Lakes
place names I think maybe one of the closer wanted to where you grew up with
the town of Geneseo name for the Genesee tribe I think of the name
Native American names were also years and up but also other
mother TownePlace names for New York State little town of Utica
what comes to mind when you aware of any of that when you were out


come along Aaron in Moline
the local area being called the Quad Cities sure of course
when I was growing up actually I have the address to the 4th
what is the fourth and maybe he’s falling out
or Bendorf Iowa
in and out
place names of the fence


because of his lesson was about 5
Father Marquette and Joliet
me cumming
the Erie Canal in Mississippi and of course the
does playing February
hot and lots and lots of friends
Detroit lots of Midwestern Center names that wave anglicized


my mother
what Sica
American tribal names what was the name of the prince
what Sica so
tradition that up thank you
thank you for your call I died and I just
I want to get back to Katherine really quick eventually got married


part of the Yankee migration moving from from what is the NE
Illinois sickness
and death or constant actually in a lot of the writing that you do talking about your ancestors
sick or dying or something terrible is happening in
there’s a part in the book written by Kathryn Kathryn involving the death
three of her daughters and I had to get up
he’s around the room for a few minutes after reading those words that story was was incredible


how how did people handle that how did Catherine handle that how
how did people even recover from something like that
2009 children in data
three little Khalsa weather like 531
something within a couple of weeks but over there should have
boy died


and then all the Left
but very little
photos from the confirmation but I’m not sure
what church going of Korra
does Akoo
little girls when she writes about it later she said something like
when I got up they will go on


she was taken sick by the same as he was in
stay right so I think maybe the
the collapse today the boy with
with great difficulty and waffles
mystery really how how brave people wear her writing about it
about it I thought was was incredibly powerful so I’m very glad that you include that in the b***
in the book we have another color online to its Ron from Decatur and he has


as he wants a comment on how he knows about his family history
first of my grandmother was a f** offa Jyoti
she had a Bible what are French Bible with a geology and she took a couple
couple of a French girl who just come over to help a mountain board of them for a week or two
crystal the Bible history of gone
set up my other, is it looks of America
are part of mixed by have German French to English


difficult to do genealogy or just one for flight before I go
willow tree for a complication over here
to do with a geology
increasing and sister .com sites in
in France and I don’t know about Gemini but I would guess probably
similar thing in Germany
more more things are digital eyes that’ll be possible to track


black people on their voyage essence of find out a bit more
about what about the people that the Gamo over
what the families were doing and where they were in the old gum tree
bentos a lot of different record themselves a very good
good and they go back back back in o2
some of the 15th century
yeah so


thank you so much for your call bring me to
do a question about writing a biography how is it going to change now that we have the Internet
information you think what I think
problem too much information
what in in the long way it’s a great blue in all of the stuff that’s been all the census records
everything that’s been on
and I just think it’s going to be up to the challenge of people not to


rise up to do something with air with air genealogical
thats that represents a little bit of
organization and so are you talking about how
because he working so many other genres house write a memoir different from working
will iphone


remind myself that these were stories of truth
true stories in this case but they were still stores that have had to be told in it
Benetton a kind of novel is not novelist
you have to make the characters Claire
Claire and the narrative sequence has to be understandable
37 kind of climax
Maxtor ending to the story that you’re telling her that says about Anna cafe


think thin
the hottest pepper in the world list talking about my own life
very self reflective person
and so when I try to
memories came rushing and then I had before
out of this stuff in my own mind make a selection
election I would give an idea life in on me and my family was like until I’m just


as examples of Midwest America I will interest was in
and in this region in the little towns in ND
lives of those those courageous people who came trekking across
crossed a root canal in wagon
Bloomington OR
how to live how long did it take you to


well I have a couple
sum of the parts of a written from time before
Publix the general
weather experience
I had written up and so that was
changes to make it fit in but it was already written
fat ass so I was a boy


is material that I put into some kind of shape
so just things up
you know we got about a minute left do you miss
living in the Midwest that you split I should tell that you split your time between San Francisco
France and you left the Midwest permanently when you are 16
and I know you’ve been back to visit is it a place you miss is there anything about it
do you have a more than that


book about your life I think so I think when I back off
hilltop of years ago 3 years ago
and then I of course have this
experience of things that I remember
forgotten about green and beautiful
foliage was American society


remember those we love to have you
what have you back for a visit sometime in Urbana Champaign but I actually have to
how many more questions for you but don’t have to do it for today Diane Johnson thank you so much
talking with me to date and lovely
sitting in this hour for gym Meadows have been talking with Diane Johnson
Johnson about her recent memoir flyover lives you can find out more about her and her book

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