Michael’s New Novel Now on Sale!

For thirteen-year-old Del Turner, the coming summer is full of promise. It means no more teachers or bullies, no more homework or getting up early to catch the school bus.

image of book, My Back Pages by O’Brien Browne

Now starts the time of youth, of endless lazy days in the Central California hills. A carefree, glorious time.

But this is no ordinary summer. It is 1968, and although Del doesn’t realize it, it will be the last innocent summer. After ’68, nothing will ever be the same again.

At the beginning, however, Del is still just a boy. His speech crackles with the vivid slang of youth. He loves to play in the sand with his toy soldiers or run off into the hills to be a Secret Agent forRobert Kennedy, his hero. It is an exciting, portentous time. From overseas come reports of a far away war in Vietnam. Davy, Del’s friend, even has a brother fighting there. And with his little sister Mary Ellen, Del awaits the birth of puppies from the family dog. Each day brings a new wonder and Del is content to watch them unfold from his mountain home; he refuses to go into the city because doing so reminds him of school and other unpleasantries of the “real” world.Buy My Back Pages book on Amazon button

But Del’s happy isolation does not last long. The magnificent summer days cannot hide the tensions between his strong-willed, book-loving mother, and his demanding father, whose massive frame and hard drinking combine into an explosive personality the mother is always struggling to contain. In addition, Kathy, his seventeen-year-old sister, is entering the adult world of boyfriends and
responsibilities. She battles with her parents, further exasperating the troubled atmosphere at home.
And there is the hippy musician Ritchie Lane and his girlfriend Morning Star, who introduce Del to a new and wondrous world of drugs and rock music–and to Roni, Morning Star’s younger sister. But there is a complication: Roni is black, and Del’s father a racist. Thus is Del slowly pulled into the grown up world.

And the adult world is not pleasant. During one hot June’s night, as the children eagerly await the birth of the puppies, comes the shattering news of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. This tragedy is quickly followed by others–the death in Vietnam of Davy’s older brother; race riots in American cities; student uprisings in Paris and Berlin. Against this backdrop are the changes happening in Del’s family: his mother’s desire to break away from the home and Kathy’s rebellion against parents who cannot understand the needs of the Flower Children. As much as Del resists, he feels himself growing older.
He stops playing with his toys just as a few hairs sprout on his chin. His interest in Roni increases as they exchange their first furtive kiss. Toys no longer hold the old fascination for him.

The story, a mixture of poetic imagery and stark realism, moves along like a bolero, a steady beat rolling faster and faster until it rises up into a crashing crescendo in the steamy days of high summer. During his dad’s birthday party, Del’s father gets into a fist fight, which proves to be the last straw for his mom. Tired of the antics of Del’s crude father, the mother leaves home. At the time, however, this all appears hilarious to Del, because he has dropped a tab of acid that Ritchie Lane gave him, and floats blissfully on top of an elastic world of shimmering colors and strange sights.

But reality hits him full on in the coming days. Del’s mom is gone, Kathy withdrawn and moody, his father drunk. As if this is not enough, the puppies become diseased and must be destroyed.
Foaming at the mouth and mad, they are hunted down by Del and his father and shot. Burying them, it seems to Del, is like burying a part of his youth. Fleeing to Roni, he is shocked to discover that she must return back east to Detroit to care for her ailing mother. And besides, she tearfully tells Del, school will be starting soon, and the summer is ending.

Summer is ending. It was a time of transformation and questioning for all–Kathy on the threshold of adulthood, the mom rejecting the noose of a housewife’s existence, and Del’s dad, lost in a new world dawning in which the old values no longer apply.

The summer of 1968. Del, indeed America, had put such hopes into it, and had seen these hopes destroyed. The birth and death of the puppies and the murder of RFK: this was the promise and betrayal of ’68. The novel concludes with the rapid peeling away of the hot August days, leaving Del stunned and wishing for something he had never in his life wished before: that the summer would end.

This is the untold story of the late ’60’s–not the glossy, cliché-filled media version, but a glimpse into the turmoil of private American lives, the inner confusions, the sense of things spinning out of control. To many this was a time of cruelty, a final reckoning, for the early ’60’s had risen hopes impossibly high, and 1968 crushed them under the terrible weight of reality. John Lennon sang “come together,” but many–like Ritchie Lane and Morning Star–chose escapism by drifting away from the world’s convulsions on a glimmering cloud of drugs, alcohol or “do your own thing” mysticism. 1968 was the year of youth’s triumph but also of its defeat. For Del Turner it is a tumultuous time in which he learns some hard, cynical lessons that leave him forever changed. The Dream was dead before he had gotten a chance to participate in it.

Women at Work: On Conflict

business women arm wrestling

by O’Brien Browne       Become a fan
Award-Winning Author, Personal Coach, Intercultural Expert, Public Speaker

Few things are as inevitable and unavoidable at the workplace than misunderstandings and conflicts. As the office becomes an ever more rapid-paced, multi-tasking and globalized environment the pressure to deliver quality and reach targets on time and in-budget dramatically increases, as does the potential for conflict.

The ways in which businesswomen and businessmen deal with conflict — and our preconceived notions of how the genders approach conflict situations — differs for a variety of societal, psychological and emotional reasons. Moreover, a mixture of learned behavioral patterns and entrenched assumptions presents higher hurdles for businesswomen than for businessmen when coping with conflict.

One major hurdle, according to Audrey Nelson, PhD and Claire Damken Brown, PhD, is that many women chose conflict avoidance strategies because they do not want to be seen as aggressive or confrontational, qualities associated with men. For these reasons, some women even deny they are competitive. These researchers point out that women take conflict more personally and see it as disruptive. Additionally, both female and male coworkers expect women to display greater empathy towards the feelings of others and to be more supportive and nurturing — thus avoiding conflict rather than embracing it.

Indeed, according to work by gender expert Dr. Deborah Kolb of the Simmons School of Management, women often are the “peacemakers” of their organizations. They become webbed in other’s conflicts out feelings of loyalty, sympathy or simply because their colleagues come to them to offload their woes — a situation many men would reject as a waste of time and energy, reasoning, “what’s in this for me?”

Continue reading

The New Global Leader, Part IX: Dian Alyan, Building Homes and Futures for Orphans around the World

Born in Takengon, Central Aceh, Indonesia, Dian Alyan has lived a richly rewarding global life as a brilliant student, world traveler and highly successful executive atProcter & Gamble. After tragically losing 40 relatives in the deadly Asia tsunami of 2004, she founded the GiveLight Foundation to create a home to and provide long term education for the orphans from this disaster. Since that time, GiveLight has expanded to many other countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Haiti, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, etc., supporting and enhancing the lives of orphans. The recipient of several awards including Woman of the Year, the Leadership Award and the Humanitarian Award, Dian is founder/CEO of GiveLight. She speaks French, Arabic, Indonesian/Malay and, of course, English.

O’Brien: Your resume is fascinating: you studied engineering at the prestigiousInstitut Pertanian Bogor, had a successful career as an executive at Procter & Gamble, studied art history at the Paris Fashion Institute, and now run a non-profit organization (NPO). How and why did you make these career moves?

Dian: My story is a fairy tale in progress. However, like all fairy tales, tragedies define it. Growing up, I found the mission of saving lives appealing and dreamed of becoming a doctor. Due to illness, I missed the entrance exam and became an engineer instead. I joined P&G as a means to explore the world. I loved traveling and managing global brands. But I started to feel that two fundamental things were missing: children and a sense of purpose. My studies in Paris were a way for me to explore life beyond the corporate world, and I experimented with a few business ideas. I soon re-discovered that success wasn’t translating into fulfillment.

I married my true love, had a family, and then suddenly I lost 40 relatives and watched with horror 40,000 children orphaned due to the tsunami. That was a defining moment and with the GiveLight team, I founded an institution that protects nearly 900 orphans worldwide. Almost 10 years later, I’m looking up at the soaring Everest of my dream, wondering how to get to the top. How to raise 1000 children to become gems of humanity? I’m in the middle of the fairy tale and I have a conviction that the whole world will be inspired to help me fulfill the promise of a happy ending.\O’Brien: In which ways does your corporate experience help you run an international NPO?

Dian: I apply the same discipline to develop a solid business plan, define our brand, and to execute a long-term vision. I build strong teams and bring out the best in them. I break down huge ideas into small achievable goals and deliver with excellence. We started small but always thought big. We test and iterate ideas. We run GiveLight as if billions of dollars are on the line with each decision.

We dreamed of building homes globally, yet had no idea how to do so in the beginning. We created success measures, key milestones and plans to manage risks. We leveraged our first model building a home in Aceh and began our second home in Pakistan two years later. To date, we have built four homes, are finishing our fifth in Bangladesh, and are a permit away from starting our sixth. This isn’t a touchy-feely operation. It’s saving lives by combining business skills with the most powerful force in the universe: love.

O’Brien: What has been your greatest challenge and greatest joy in running GiveLight?

Dian: Navigating through corruption and finding people on the ground to trust is challenging. We are aware of all the horror stories regarding children being abused, enslaved, or brutalized. We’ve been blessed to find trustworthy people in countries where we operate and the amazing growth of our children is testament to this shared passion.

The greatest joy is in giving and receiving love. I became a mother to two beautiful boys after ten years of yearnings. Through GiveLight, I’ve become a mother a hundred times over and in the grandest possible way. I’ve become the woman I always wanted to be.

O’Brien: GiveLight builds homes for orphans, and provides them with an education. This is a mighty mission. Operationally, who runs the homes and where does your funding come from?

Dian: We partner and work only with those whose character, philosophy, and work ethic are proven to be in line with ours. We build where a donor gives land and pro-bono time to oversee that our homes are well run and our children are educated and loved. Our results have yielded a ton of grassroots donations and support from major corporations in the form of employee matching grants. Google, Microsoft, Paypal, Cisco, VMWare and United Way are supporters, to name just a few.

O’Brien: You speak often of “heart,” “soul,” and “nurturing the spirit.” How vital are these things to the work and vision of GiveLight and just what does this mean to potential donors?

Dian: The heart and brain are the two most important organs in the human body. The smartest person on earth with a heart that is filled with hatred, anger or jealousy will never have inner peace. I want our children to grow and compete on the basis of their intellects, but more importantly on the basis of good character. Nurturing the soul with spirituality is a critical component to raising children who are loving and caring towards all of God’s creatures.

This isn’t just a pleasant philosophy/spirituality. Our children are graduating, getting married, obtaining college degrees, and are beginning to contribute to our growth. We are creating an exceptional model which defies the statistics of the lives of orphans and are creating a self-sustaining ecosystem based on these beautiful principles. When people see this ecosystem creating real solutions, they see something worth investing in.

O’Brien: Dian, you are a remarkable woman on an extraordinary quest. Thank you for sharing your story and your vision…

Dian: Thank you. The world is a troubled place with many misfortunes and injustices. A calamity of epic proportion led me to the intellectual and spiritual fulfillment I had been seeking all my life. Instead of waiting for the world to change or to be drowned by sorrow, I changed myself. I used to travel to make profit. Now I travel to save lives. I hope that long after my physical trace in this world is gone, the legacy of my children and my greater family of children will live on in humanity.