O Angelina

A Girl and Her Dog: Living, Loving, & Enjoying the Little Things


George Saunders--Be A Dog for 15 Minutes Each Day

Charlotte, Events, From My Writing Desk, Living Well, Reading, WritingAngelina OberdanComment

I know, we can all agree that George Saunders is THE MAN. In fact, his book, Lincoln in the Bardo, just won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

While I know this is an esteemed award, there are two things George Saunders has done that I count as cooler: 

  1. He read as the Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Speaker at CPCC's Sensoria (I'm obviously biased because I'm the co-chair of the committee who brought him.) 

  2. He went to Italy to Hear his own work--about Lincoln sitting in the tomb of his son--being performed in Italian while sitting in a tomb in Milan (so meta and So Italy)

What do the kids say now? #squadgoals

Because of his insistent presence on my Facebook NewsFeed, I've been thinking about Saunders and his work lately. And, thus, I turned back to my notes from his lectures and readings in Charlotte.  

Therein, I found obvious wisdom, which is the sort we already know, but of which we need someone to remind us. And we need someone like George Saunders reminding us if we're actually going to listen. 

Please know that these are not exact quotes, but scribbles from my notes, which were obviously accompanied by doodles.

1.     What are your actual habits? Accept them. 

Good God, no! I am always trying to improve my habits. But fine, Saunders, I hear you.

2.     Watch yourself without judgement.

3.     Game yourself. 

This one might need a little explaining. I think Saunders was talking about how we have this need to "win the game." We shouldn't try to play ourselves or cheat ourselves, but we--our lives, ourselves, our souls--should be the game we set out to win. Win at being you. Game yourself. 

4.     No one can guarantee that you’re going to succeed as an artist, but it’s up to you to give yourself that chance. 

5.    Obstructions are what we are. Acknowledge them. They might be your strength.

6.     Take 15 minutes a day to be like a dog. Catch one scent in your mind and follow it.

And that's what I've done. Right here. Right now. I've followed my nose for 15 minutes to share my thoughts with you. 


In Light of the Current Political Situation...

For My Students, Reading, ReviewsAngelina OberdanComment

Okay, so no matter how you feel about the crazy political events of the last few days, there are a few books you should read. 

This is  Before the Fall  which has nothing to do with our political climate, but it's a lot of wisdom in this suspense novel. 

This is Before the Fall which has nothing to do with our political climate, but it's a lot of wisdom in this suspense novel. 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - This is the best fictional discussion of the #blacklivesmatter movement. It shows all perspectives through the point of view of a young woman whose best friend is shot by a police officer in front of her. 

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue - I had little to no idea about the struggles that Africans face when the immigrate to the United States. This book not only addresses that, but it also looks at the effects of 2008 financial crash, the difference in socioeconomic levels, and the idea of success. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - I also recommend watching the revision of this on Hulu. The point Elisabth Moss made about the book and about its TV series revision is that this could happen. The society presented by Atwood could happen today. 

If you're interested in seeing what else I'm reading, click here. 


That's right! I finally updated what I read in 2016!

From My Writing Desk, Living Well, Reading, ReviewsAngelina OberdanComment

BAM! Now that my reading list for 2016 is finally complete and annotated, I think 2016 is completely behind me. (Taxes are filed, too, so ya know, I can really forget about it now.) 

The gist is that I read 52 books in a year. I guess that means I need to read 52 more in 2017, and I'm well on my way. 

When Everything You're Reading Aligns

Living Well, Reading, ThankfulAngelina OberdanComment

It's like a spotting a shooting star when you have a really important wish to make; sometimes all the books you're reading just start speaking to each other. 

Most recently I read and/or am reading

  • Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See

  • Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller  

  • Alice Hoffman's The Marriage of Opposites

I started with Alice Hoffman's The Marriage of Opposites, which is a novel that centers itself in a Jewish community in St. Thomas.

It's about forbidden love, the rigidity of "other"communities (Jewish and African), how magical life can be, and how everyone sees it differently. It's about Rachel Pissarro, mother of the great Impressionist Camille Pissarro, and about Camille Pissarro, too. What's interesting is that I knew nothing about Jewish communities in the colonies; I'm not sure I knew they existed. It gave me this whole other perspective about how Jewish communities developed in the 19th century, how they tried so desperately to preserve their faith and their culture, how characters like Rachel and Camille connected the magic of the tropics and the mysteries of their faith. (I cannot recommend it enough; I am a huge Hoffman fan now.) 

Then I read Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller. 

I think I mentioned it somewhere else, too, but I'm not that into WWII historical fiction. I took a holocaust lit class in undergrad, read Primo Levi's Se questo è un uomo (Survival in Auschwitz) in the original Italian, I visited Auschwitz when I was in Poland, and it's just hard for me to imagine that something written by a contemporary writer is going to add to that. I stuck with The Storyteller because the main character, Sage, is so loveable, and I'm glad I did. The premise is that a former Nazi befriends Sage and asks her to forgive him and help him die. It's intertwined with Sage's baking, the narrative of a lawyer who works to prosecute war criminals, Sage's grandmother's memories of Auschwitz, the story about vampires Sage's grandmother wrote in Auschwitz, and the memories of the Nazi, Josef. So The Marriage of Opposites added to my interest in the memories of the Polish-Jewish community Sage's grandmother comes from, Sage's rejection of religion, and the lawyer's love of the faith and its people. Also, the Nazi has one of Alice Hoffman's books on his desk. And then this article came out: "94-Year-Old Former Auschwitz Guard Found Guilty Of Complicity In 170,000 Murders" . Crazy, right? 

"I don't believe in God. But sitting there, in a room full of those who feel otherwise, I realize that I do believe in people. In their strength to help each other, and to thrive in spite of the odds. I believe that the extraordinary trumps the ordinary, any day. I believe that having something to hope for--even if it's just a better tomorrow--is the most powerful drug on this planet." - Sage

And now I'm in the middle of Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. 

It's less about the Jewish experience in WWII, and more about the experiences of the French and Germans. Not only are the narratives mixed like the other two books, but the characters and their voices are incredibly composed. I also really like that there is such magic in this novel, too. 

Okay, I haven't finished it yet, so I'm going to stop there. 

Anyway, when was the last time everything you were reading or doing or thinking about just aligned. Isn't it awesome, magic, all of that!?