Citizenship Classes – Spring 2023

Do you, or someone you know, want to prepare for the Citizenship Interview and Test?
Free 10-week classes to be offered at both Central and Oak View Library!
Open to the public, presented in English.

Central Classes:
Dates: March 18 – May 20, in-person at the Central Library
Time: Saturdays, 10:00am – 12:00pm
Register: Click to register for Citizenship Classes at Central Library

Oak View Classes:
Dates: March 6 – May 8, in-person at the Oak View Library
Time: Mondays, 11:00am – 12:30pm
Dates: March 7 – May 9, online over Zoom
Time: Tuesdays, 6:15pm – 7:30pm

Register: To register for Citizenship Classes at Oak View Library
Call Oak View Literacy, (714) 375 – 5104 or email

Writer to Writer 2023

Oak View Literacy had both a winner and runner-up in the SCLLN Writer to Writer Contest in the Emerging Category! We are so proud of all our letter writers this year.

Congratulations to:


Guadalupe Zarate, Who Was Helen Keller? By Gare Thompson

Runner- Up:

Mayra Casillas, The Citizenship Class by Jan Goethel

Attend the Writer to Writer Luncheon:
The luncheon will be held Saturday, March 11th from 11:30 – 1:30pm at the Doubletree in Buena Park. Listen to learners read their W2W letters and see them receive their awards. Enjoy a delicious lunch and meet participants from programs all over Southern California. Contact Literacy office for registration form. Deadline to register is February 28th.

Book Review: The Great Detective

By: Bob Madison (Literacy Volunteers Board Member)

The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes, by Zack Dundas (2015)

Few figures have loomed across the cultural landscape more largely – more constantly – than Sherlock Holmes, the brilliant consulting detective of 221B Baker Street. From his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet (1887) until today, his cultural currency has been remarkable.

The profile, deerstalker cap (not really part of the original canon), the curved pipe (ditto), and ever-present “elementary, my dear Watson” (ditto-ditto-ditto), are recognizable the world over. “Sherlock Holmes” has become shorthand for many things, from “detective” to “intellectual” to “smart ass.”  He is the first fictional character to inspire a slavish fandom, predating such masscult figures as Dracula, Superman and Harry Potter. Now, 129 years after his initial appearance, Sherlock Holmes is the lead character in one American television series, one (infinitely superior) UK series, and a string of (negligible) international blockbuster adventure flicks. And I have the sneaking suspicion that he’s only just starting…

Novelist-physician-adventurer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) wrote the first Holmes novel in just three weeks at the tender age of 27. The initial book was well-received in the UK and did fair business; American audiences, however, ate it up, and made the novel a great success. Doyle followed it with an even better book three years later, The Sign of Four, and literary detective fiction has never been the same since.

Many of us first find Holmes in our adolescence. For the vast majority, Holmes is a milestone passed on the way to greater, broader reading. But for many, Sherlock Holmes becomes a defining figure in the cultivation of the self, a guidepost to a life of the mind, intellectual acquisition, and moral conundrums. One of my dearest friends, the New York-based Sherlockian Susan Rice – a woman of remarkable intellectual attainments, generous instincts, expansive humanity and great good humor – credits all the many good things that have come to her in life thanks to her association with Mr. Holmes. I could think of no higher accolade for a work of art.

In The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes, Portland-based writer Zach Dundas tries to capture the immensity of the impact Conan Doyle’s creation has had upon the culture, and upon the many individuals who actively take part in the Sherlockian experience. And while he does not quite succeed in his expansive brief, he provides a journey that is engaging, amusing and informed.

For Dundas, the beginning and end of all essential knowledge about Holmes can be found in the four novels and fifty-six short stories by Doyle. But, he also believes that Holmes is a never-ending work-in-progress, a cultural and imaginative construct that is revised and refitted to meet the needs of succeeding generations. There has been no shortage of Sherlock Holmes pastiche since nearly the beginning (Doyle actually read some knock-off stories written by both fans and celebrated professionals, like J. M. Barrie), and all of this material has built the decades-long conversation we have had with Holmes.

Dundas first got the bug while a young man, starting his own Sherlock Holmes society and exchanging letters with other young fans around the world. He later returned to Holmes, attending the Baker Street Irregulars annual dinner in New York, chatting with people in the Holmes societies around the country, and even tracing the great man’s footsteps throughout London and the English countryside.

Through it all, Dundas returns to what it all means to him – the individual stories and novels, the fandom, the experience of immersion in the Sherlockian world. There are few efforts to put the Sherlockian phenomena in a larger context, but within the realm of personal experience, his anecdotes sparkle.

He is also laugh-out-loud funny. Here is a footnote about Jude Law (the recent big screen Watson): Law makes a terrific Watson, whatever one thinks of the movies. (I enjoy them in the same I enjoy cotton candy, roller derby, and dubious pop music.)  Or, better still, the end of a longish footnote on following Sherlockian leads on YouTube: This can lead, algorithmically, to the hour-long English language cartoon version of Hound from 1983 (with an incredibly fat Watson), not to mention a funky fan-made remix of clips from the splendid 1981 Soviet film adaptation. Be careful. You can do this all day.

Writing about his early infatuation with the tales, and the worlds they opened up for him, Dundas says, I had arrived too late, doomed to be part of a generation clad in oversized Quicksilver T-shirts and sweatpants, fated to live behind a chain-link fence. A gasogene?  A tantalus?  New Coke had just come out.

Dundas is perhaps at his best detailing the explosion of Sherlockian fandom in the wake of the BBC’s popular Sherlock series. Historically, Sherlock Holmes devotees have been remarkably different from, say, science fiction buffs or Tolkien geeks or those sad people who obsess over Dark Shadows. Once a high-camp joke shared largely by New York’s literary elite, Sherlock Holmes fandom has become remarkable inclusive. It has gone from upmarket game to masscult fandom. This once all-male preserve has successfully been mined by women (starting with the organization The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, begun by Evelyn Herzog with a cadre of brilliant college-age women in the 1960s who may be ultimately responsible for keeping the movement alive at all), and now includes people who know only the films, or the various television shows … or the contemporary novels featuring an elderly, married (?) Sherlock Holmes. This seismic shift has shaken some longtime Sherlockians to the core, and Dundas makes hay with various ‘scandals’ in the Sherlockian world.

Dundas has written a book that is alternately discursive and solipsistic, as well as endlessly funny and often insightful. However, it is also ultimately a little … thin. He presents us with all the materials necessary to create a fascinating mosaic, but ultimately fails to be them into a beguiling sequence. I kept waiting for the defining moment, the passage that put it all – Holmes the man, the friendship with Watson, Doyle, the devoted fandom, the nearly unending fascination with this character – into some kind of final context, and was left wanting. Dundas has no cohesive argument; he just has stuff.

Perhaps the problem isn’t that twelve decades of Sherlock Holmes is enough Sherlock Holmes, but that the saga is really only just beginning. That it is too early in the creation of the Sherlock Holmes myth to put it into any type of perspective. There are many literary creations that were as large a presence as Holmes that have fallen by the wayside (think Tarzan or Buck Rogers or Fu Manchu and, to an extent, James Bond); but Holmes has outlasted all of them with a vengeance.

I recall thinking that, while reading the recent novel about an elderly Holmes facing dementia, A Slight Trick of the Mind, that Holmes will continue to resonate. Not only resonate, but actually be the lynchpin for champion literary novels in the future.

Perhaps the story of Sherlock cannot yet be told because it’s only just begun. Maybe … the game is afoot.

You can purchase the book here.

ESL Communication Tips!

Communication is a multifaceted tool that goes beyond listening and speaking. Here are some tips to help strengthen communication and further understanding between you and a speaker of another language.

  • Find Their Preferred Communication Style

When learning a new language, we all have different strengths; listening, speaking, reading, writing, etc. Finding someone’s communication strength in English will set them up for success. Perhaps they aren’t a strong speaker; have them write out their question. Maybe listening to English pronunciation is difficult for them; use your body to act out what you’re trying to convey. They could prefer to read, so you can write things down for them.

  • Slow Down

When we speak our native language we tend to speak quickly. Slowing down allows us to enunciate each word. It also allows the listener time to translate what we are saying.

  • Use Common Words

Switching up vocabulary may help the other person understand your meaning. Gargantuan vs. Big. Using simpler words increases the chance that the ESL speaker knows the word and its meaning.

  • Use Your Body Language

We are able to convey so many things with our bodies; emotions, directions, instructions, and more! Don’t be shy in using your body to help convey your meaning. Your facial expressions can add meaning to what you are saying where tone may not be enough.

We hope you enjoyed these tips! If you have other tips you would like to suggest, please send an email to:

Written by: Brittany Boland.

ProLiteracy Facts!

The statistics above are why it is so important that we continue the vital work we do at the Huntington Beach Public Library Literacy Offices. Thank you to all the learners, volunteers, staff, and board members who make these programs possible! Let’s continue to do the good work so we can change these numbers for the better!

Thank you for all you do for Literacy,

Literacy Staff