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Interview conducted by Brittany Parziale ’17, Connections Intern
Professor Roxanne O’Connell is Professor of Communication, teaching Visual Communication and Media Ecology. She has been with Roger Williams University since 2003.
Dr. O’Connell is currently reading a collection of detective mysteries by Margery Allingham. Finding her stories similar to that of Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh, O’Connell most admires how they “read as a puzzle.” Reading them is “a great way to disconnect— transforming oneself to a different time and place. I eat these stories up like candy.”
To satisfy her thirst for nonfiction, O’Connell is also reading Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, the account of the harsh lives of tenant farmers during the Great Depression. Alternating between prose and poetry, this book is “a very moving account full of anger regarding the lack of social justice in America.”
The eldest girl in her family, O’Connell had a fantasy of what life would be like as an only child left alone with her book. For Dr. O’Connell, Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins fulfilled this fantasy. Eight Cousins is the story of Rose Campbell, a recently orphaned child living with her great aunts, and finding a place of belonging amongst her seven male cousins and numerous aunts and uncles.
Simon Garfield’s On The Map and Just My Type are O’Connell’s memorable nonfiction reads. Garfield taught her a lot about the art of storytelling by beginning his chapters with a story about a person who is “pulling you into their discovery or observations or the unbelievable mistakes they make.”
From her childhood, she recalls reading Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books. His works consist of the original telling of fairy tales such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Nightingale,” each teaching lessons on how to live in the world.
Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, is on Dr. O’Connell’s list of upcoming reads. This story of Odysseus told from Penelope’s point of view imagines what it was like to be the wife of the great warrior, now left behind during the Trojan War. O’Connell is “waiting for a sunny hammock weekend where I can curl up and read uninterrupted.” O’Connell has many other books on her nightstand waiting to be read, as she fears “it being a Sunday and there being nothing left to read.”
O’Connell believes there are two kinds of essential reads – “the timeless kind and the one that is a must read right now.” An “eternal essential” would be Par Lagerkvist’s The Sibyl as it “examines a person’s life and relationship with things they believe are predestined to provide an alternate realm of thinking.” The “right now read” would be Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. Dr. O’Connell finds that its importance is in its thesis that the present is moving so fast that there “is no time to get over the shock of the new thing before being thrown into the next new thing–which is unsettling.” O’Connell believes that one reads to discover and that both of these books allow one to do just that.
compiled by Hannah Goodall, Learning Commons Coordinator
Megan Lessard, Archives and Digital Services Specialist
The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
It’s a fantasy novel about a young man who attends a magic college in New York. It’s being made into a television series on the SyFy network so I wanted to read it before the premiere.
Liz Hanes, Acquisitions Assistant
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
“Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to ‘aging out’ out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse… As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.” –Amazon.com
Shawn Platt, Academic Technology Coordinator
Rider Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health, Newport Daily News, Florida Today
Florida Today was my most popular and entertaining daily, it gave a wonderful weather report that met my expectations–usually sunny and warm–and an inside scoop on what was happening at the beaches–Santa surfing, fishing reports, etc.
Heidi Benedict, University Archivist
Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
This book describes the people living and working in Cairo’s fictional Midaq Alley, with its two shops, a café, a bakery, an office, and two houses. Mahfouz wonderfully describes 1940s Egyptian life through the dreams and hardships of his characters.
The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black
Part of a mystery series about an Irish pathologist named Quirke. The book begins when a friend from long ago asks Quirke that he not do an autopsy on his wife who supposedly committed suicide. Benjamin Black more frequently writes under the name John Banville. One of his most well-known book is the Booker Prize winning novel The Sea.
Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarian
A Small Country About to Vanish by Victoria Avilan
Purge by Sofi Oksanen
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of literary fiction, and this winter break I read two real gems. A Small Country About to Vanish by Victoria Avilan is a beautiful novel set in Israel, depicting the very real daily struggles that define what it means to be human: broken friendships, cheating spouses, financial struggles and childrearing. In addition, the characters in this book also live under the constant threat of suicide bombers and staunch religious conflict sending their children off to protect the Israeli borders. The two main characters, Shelli and Rona, alternate sharing their points of views on how their childhood relationship with one another both destroyed and liberated their notions of self-worth and identity. Avilan’s writing is crisp and illustrative, and engaging on multiple levels. Definitely recommended!
The other book I read over winter break was Purge by Sofi Oksanen. The narration of this novel alternates between Zara, a young sex-trafficking victim who has risked her life to flee her abusive captors, and Aliide Truu, an older widow living alone in the Estonian countryside. Aliide offers Zara temporary shelter with reservation, and together the two women divulge and uncover “the culmination of a tragic family drama of rival, lust, and loss that played out during the worst years of Estonia’s Soviet occupation.” The story opened my eyes to not only the atrocities that were committed to women during the Soviet occupation of Estonia during the 1940s and 1950s, but also to the same level of shame and abuse that victims of sex trafficking endure today. While not a heart-warming book, I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates learning about historical movements through the lens of the lives of average citizens.
Hannah Goodall, Learning Commons Coordinator
Room by Emma Donoghue
“Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where she’s been held since she was nineteen—for seven long years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space.” –Amazon.com
John Fobert, Electronic Resources Librarian
The Bark Before Christmas by Laurien Berenson
I picked up an advance copy of this book at the American Library Association conference in June 2015. It was the perfect book to read over the holiday break. It was set in Connecticut so references to the area were familiar adding to the pleasure of the book. It was a “light” read and perfect for people involved with dog shows.