Author of novel set in Hillsboro to speak Sept. 29

Hillsboro Museums and Hillsboro Public Library are sponsoring an author talk by Carolyn Zeisset about her recently published historical novel Then the Rules Changed. The program will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29 at Parkview Mennonite Church at 610 S Main St. in Hillsboro.

The story, written from the perspective of a child, tells of the immigration to Hillsboro from South Russia (Ukraine) in the 1870s when the Czar issued an edict that German-speaking people must become Russian. Eight days after the book’s release, the Russian leader declared that Ukrainians are Russians and sent troops into the exact place where the novel begins.

Zeisset’s grandfather was a child when his Mennonite family settled a few miles south of the cluster of houses that had just been named Hillsboro. The novel’s main character is loosely based on him, but the story could be that of any of the many religious and cultural groups who were part of the 1870s immigration.

The presentation will include the background of the immigration story and connections between historical context and current events. One connection is that South Russia (Ukraine) was a major wheat-producing area in the 1870s and still is today. The immigrants brought their Turkey Red seed and farming expertise to the U.S. and made it another major wheat-growing area.

Then the Rules Changed has appeal for all ages. It is written to be accessible to middle grade readers, but also has a substantial audience among adults, who find that it opens conversations about their family’s stories.

In 1975 Zeisset printed A Mennonite Heritage, a cultural and genealogical history of her great-grandparents and their siblings: Suderman, Jost, Unruh, Dyck, Funk and Wiens families. This book is available from the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies at Tabor College. It was the impetus for the 1977 first draft of the current novel.

Zeisset has taught and written curriculum for preschool, elementary, middle school, and adult levels in public school, religious and business settings. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She and her husband Ray Zeisset live in Lincoln, NE.

She is currently in process of researching and writing a sequel novel about next-generation German-speaking Americans during World War I.

Learn more about the author and the book at

For more information about the presentation, contact the Hillsboro Public Library at 620-947-3827.

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