Thursday, July 26, 2018

Inspired by Reading: Eleanor & Park...

Can you believe that Allegory Gallery's Inspired by Reading Book Club is still going on after five and a half years?  It seems like several lifetimes ago that we started.  And maybe, because in a way, it has been.  We've read stacks and stacks of books, each one containing generations of people and countless far off places.  We've lived so many lives vicariously.  While I would like to think that I would have read all these books on my own, truthfully, without the book club, I probably wouldn't have.  I pretty much stay in my lane, but the book club has introduced so many new and different voices that were a joy to discover.  If you aren't familiar with our group, it's like most book clubs, but with a twist!  We read a book each month, but then we create something inspired by what we read.  It can be anything!  Most of us make jewelry, so a lot of projects tend to lean that direction.  At the end of the month, we share our creations in our Facebook group and have an in-person get together.

Summer is a busy time for most of the members of the Inspired by Reading Book Club and as such, our regulars haven't had a chance to get together for the past few months.  Luckily we were able to meet up and catch up this month!  I almost forgot how nice it was just to talk with other people.  When I'm on a serious work bender, it can sometimes be weeks where the only person I talk to in person is William.

For July, we read "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell.  I must admit that I have a weak spot for young adult fiction; I can put an audiobook on and get to work.  I'm smitten with Rainbow Rowell's work.  She has a wonderful way of weaving together quirky pop culture references and peppering her writing with her own characters from her other books.  If you're looking for something light and fluffy though, keep moving.  Rowell tackles the complexity of facing challenges while growing up.

"Eleanor & Park" struck really close to home and I found myself reliving past adolescent experiences through the different characters.  The premise of the story is a coming of age story focusing on Eleanor, the new girl in school who has a troubled home-life, and Park, the seemingly average kid who is secretly conflicted over his mixed parentage and rebelling against the ideas of what it means to be masculine.  The unlikely duo get to know each other through riding the school bus together, eventually bonding over comic books and mixed tapes.
One of the images that really stuck out to me were the mixed tapes.  My best friend and I used to trade tapes. It wasn't just about sharing music, but it was about sharing emotions.  We used to try and tell a story with the songs we'd pick.  They also were special, because it took time to put them together.  If you were recording something off the radio, sometimes you'd have to listen all day, just so that you could catch it and record it.  Ideally you wouldn't miss too much of the beginning of the song and not unintentionally add too much of the next song.

So, I made these earrings.  I drew a picture of a mixed tape and used our laser to create these etched acrylic components.  I then dangled them off earwires with jump rings.  They're simple and a little bit kitschy, but I like them.  They've got a great throwback feel and reminds of riding the school bus with my best friend.

If you'd like to see the full list of books for this year, CLICK HERE.  (We will be voting on new selections soon.)  If you'd like to join the Facebook group, so that you can see the other creations and find out more about the group, CLICK HERE.  And if you'd like to get a copy of "Eleanor & Park", you can CLICK HERE to get your own copy.  I also recommend, "Carry On" by Rainbow Rowell; it has a different style with fantastical elements, but there's still some of that awkward-teenagers-trying-to-figure-their-stuff-out character development that she's so good at writing.

UPDATE:  After I made the earrings, I posted them on Twitter and tagged the author AND she responded!!!  Here's what Rainbow Rowell had to say about my earrings and our book club:

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