Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lauren Roedy Vaughn

Lauren Roedy Vaughn is an award-winning educator who has spent twenty years teaching English to high school students with language-based learning disabilities. Vaughn lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she is an avid yogini and Big Lebowski nut.

Her newly released, debut novel is OCD, The Dude, and Me.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Vaughn about what she was reading.  The author's reply:
As a teacher, I am always reading several books at a time in order to accommodate the needs of my students and feed my own love of books. Recently, one of my astute younger students asked me, “What do people mean when they talk about ‘real life’?” After an internal chuckle, I realized the answer to that difficult question leads down some pretty esoteric paths. I ended up telling him that right here, right now was real life. He didn’t fully buy it. Good for him. I needed to work a little harder. When he’s older, I will recommend that he read Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, which I believe will answer his question in a more satisfactory way. Marcelo in the Real World tells the story of Marcelo Sandoval, a 17-year old boy whose struggles reflect those on the autism spectrum. Over the summer, a gentle, gifted Marcelo leaves the comforts of his personal world to face the challenges of “the real world” at his father’s law firm. In this touching coming-of-age story, Marcelo grapples with romantic love, office politics, and the gut wrenching task of any hero: taking action based on a personal moral code, even if that means someone he loves may get hurt. Alas. Marcelo learns “the real world” is very complicated and requires courage to face.

Another student of mine, a third-grader, has chosen Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume for us to read together. Personally, he is learning to navigate the social landscape of school, and he loves analyzing the book through the characters’ behaviors, deciding who is being ridiculous, who is right, why the girls act as they do, and how the parents seem unfair sometimes. Today he said to me, “Let’s not do any work. Let’s just read the story.” There is not enough money or worldly glory to equal a moment like that. I love that he thinks reading is “not work.”

And, for me, the “not work” of reading has recently been found in Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I literally read it in one day. Cleared my schedule to be able to finish it. There was something so comforting about reading an older woman’s memories of a pivotal year in her life. The moments of our lives inform us; they mean something, even if, at the time of the experience, we may not have the clarity to glean the lessons or their effects upon us. Those times are ours, for us to recall, to cherish, to reflect upon later; they are not simply lost to the past. Also, I was stunned to learn the novel was written by a man. He seemed to fully understand the soul of a woman. He sure got the voice right.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that I am currently reading The Dude and the Zen Master by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman. What I am enjoying about this book is that since it is a printed conversation rather than a narrative, you can join it at any point and not feel like “…a child who wanders in the middle of the movie…” as Walter accuses Donny of in The Big Lebowski. You don’t need “a point of reference.” There are random gems throughout. I particularly connected with Jeff Bridges’s assessment of the 1994 earthquake in California. I lived through that, too, and like him, I slept outside after the event, so traumatized, I couldn’t be inside my condo. For those of us in Southern California who survived that blast, we shared a near-death experience and the realization that we couldn’t even “count on the earth staying in one place” as Mr. Bridges notes in the book. And, even so, despite the enormity of life’s unpredictability, “the Dude abides.” … “I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.”
Visit Lauren Roedy Vaughn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue