Novelist Patricia Parks read from her debut novel Re Jane last week in Kathy Cashen auditorium in the Humanities building at UWG. The novel is a retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre, retold from the point of view of a Korean-American girl named Jane Re. The reading was a good opportunity for students to not only hear from a professional, but to also learn about her creative process as well.
“The novel took me about seven years to write,” said Parks. “Jane Eyre is such an upset from these conventionally beautiful heroines. She is scrappy and she is an underdog. You can’t help but root for her. She was a character that really stuck with me, and as it developed from a prose poem into a novel, I couldn’t help but wonder how she would fit into the modern world that I knew.”
Although Re Jane is her premier novel, Parks has also published essays in The New York Times, Slice, and The Guardian. The reading at the UWG was part of her tour to promote her book and upcoming projects. Her next project features a character in her novel.
“He’s a secret favorite character of mine,” said Parks. “All he’s doing in Re Jane is wiping some WD-40 on a door in the same store Jane works at, but my next novel is all about him. The character’s name is Juan Kim and he’s part of this community of Koreans in Buenos Aires, Argentina who falls in love with jazz piano. It’s all set in the backdrop of the time of the ‘Dirty War’ in Argentina and eventually moves to New York. I’m fascinated by these groups of minorities within minorities, so that’s been an interesting project to research and write.”
The reading saw a turnout of about 40 students who all engaged heavily in asking Parks questions after her reading about her process of writing this novel.
“It’s always great when the authors will actually stay and answer questions,” said Ashleigh Dennis, a student who attended the reading. “It’s great for getting insight and advice from professionals since the process of writing itself isn’t something we always think about.”
Parks originally came up with the idea of a retelling of Jane Eyre when she used a writing exercise to lean on a classic. After writing scenes of her novel multiple times, using the story as an opportunity for a retelling was a success.
“No one teaches you how to write a novel,” said Parks. “Everyone writes differently. I thought as an exercise to lean on a classic, and that was Jane Eyre. I just never removed that scaffolding of the original text.”
A reception at Underground Books on the square followed the reading, allowing students even more valuable time with the author. Refreshments at the reception and students were happy and grateful that Parks was able to come share her work and her insight with them.
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