On My Bookshelf: Lecturer Ola Ozernov-Palchik
This summer, just before the fall semester kicked off, Ola Ozernov-Palchik, faculty director for the Mind, Brain, and Education Program since 2019, talked about reading in multiple languages, Pippi, and picnic blankets in Boston’s museum of trees.
What are you currently reading? I am reading a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov.
What drew you to this collection? Chekhov’s empathetic and poignant — and humorous! — portrayal of humanity in a manner devoid of melodrama.
What kind of reader were you as a kid, and what book most stuck with you? I was an avid reader as a child. When my family immigrated from Russia to Israel, I had to transition into reading in another language, and being constrained by my own language skills was very difficult for me. One of the books I read in both languages multiple times and loved was King Matt the First. It is a book about a child who becomes a king at a young age and has to deal with the adult world’s irrational social and political complexities. The book was written by Janusz Korczak, a Jewish educator and director of an orphanage in Poland who, during WWII, refused to abandon his students and marched alongside them to the gas chambers. When I learned the historical context of this book in adulthood, it gave it a whole new meaning for me.
What book do you most like reading to your son? One of his favorite books, and the book I loved reading to him the most, is Pippi Longstocking. Pippi is a fierce, brave, creative, and funny little girl, and she is one of our favorite characters.
What’s the last interesting or useful thing you read in a book recently? I recently read In the Land of Invented Languages. The book describes human attempts to create a perfectly logical universal language. But these attempts failed because we need our language to be imperfect and ambiguous, I guess to accommodate our imperfect and fuzzy minds.
Is there a book you’ll assign to your students this year that you think all educators should read? This is a hard choice. I would assign two books. One book, The Proust and the Squid, is by my wonderful Ph.D. adviser Maryanne Wolf, Ed.D.’79. The book is about the cognitive neuroscience of reading and is beautifully written. Another book I would assign, especially to students considering doctoral studies, is The Writing Workshop by Barbara Sarnecka. I give this book as a gift to my mentees who go to doctoral programs. It is an engaging, practical resource for how to write well.
Favorite place to read? My favorite place to read is under a tree at the [Arnold] Arboretum [of Harvard University], sprawled on a picnic blanket with my son.
What books, in addition to the one you’re currently reading, are on your nightstand? I recently finished (and loved) Uneducated, The Henna Artist, and The Vanishing Half.