One time in college I turned in an essay and my professor underlined a sentence I’d written and told me it wasn’t the appropriate register for a university essay and I have crazy respect for her so I tailored my papers for the rest of the semester but this isn’t a university essay so I’ll start off with
Let’s start with the most glaringly obvious: the racism!
The sad thing is that half these descriptions are obviously supposed to be flattering except they’re… not…
Wow ninjas and East Asia what a novel concept wow
Wow because East Asian men aren’t emasculated in American media at all
THIS KIND OF SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.
by the way this is so very Memoirs of a Geisha-y because Park happens to be a half-Korean kid who LOOKS more Asian than his brother
But Park has green eyes!!!!! so magical!!!! So EXOTIC!!! Also “almond-flavored” please that’s not the most cliched description for Asian eyes in the book
Here have some more grossness around those oh-so-exotic “Asian” eyes
Please let that sink in for a moment. Like Ming the Merciless. Who, as you might know from the Flash Gordon comic, was originally introduced in 1934 and is a pretty clear stand-in for, uh… yellow peril. upon googling, looks like this:
But then Park has a couple of self-hating moments where he of course implies that Asian women have it easier:
“White guys think they’re exotic”. And that is flattering why, Park? “Exotic”, really? And Eleanor isn’t exactly doing a great job of not contributing to this harmful mentality when she explicitly thinks that he’s “prettier than any girl”. Again:
But then!!! Eleanor makes it all better!!! By saying this!! In the middle of a STEAMY LOVE SCENE!!!! (which by the way neither steamy nor lovely just creeped me out a lot because of the following passage):
This Othering, this fetishization, does not stop through the entire book. Finally, we get towards the end:
So no, Eleanor never gets over Othering her boyfriend.
Wait hold on Asian women don’t get a pass either, as Park’s mom is painted as the oppressive parent who doesn’t like “weird white girls”, but according to Eleanor…
“his” Dainty China person because of course Park’s mom isn’t a person, but a literal object to be moved and shifted according to the whim’s of Park’s dad, a Korean war vet.
Here have some more bad stereotyping of Asian women as “thin pretty and petite” and Eleanor’s own self-hatred and fat-shaming:
Black women aren’t exempt from being props to uphold Eleanor either. Her two “friends” at school (I say “friends” in quotes because they don’t really comment on anything except how cute Park is and they all make fun of those OTHER nasty white girls in gym class together), oh, and Rainbow Rowell writes them like this:
“It was an honor that they’d let her into their club”…the “you’re not like THOSE white people club???"
"I got a man”, REALLY???
Park’s “Asian”-ness As Other and He Could Have Been Edward Cullen, What is the Goddamn Difference
I would have felt better if Rainbow Rowell had written Park as a vampire or a werewolf or some other inhuman creature, the stuff of teen girl YA fantasy because a) vampires and werewolves don’t actually exist and therefore you can write them any way you want, albiet cliched, whatever–at least you’re not contributing to some very harmful societal stereotypes.
Park, as you can see from the previous citations, is written out to be this “edgy” indie boy who wears eyeliner and listens to the Smiths (which wow I rolled my eyes at) and is also a loner at school in and his edginess and “magic” make him stand out in much the same way a vampire or a werewolf or otherwise nonhuman creature would. These descriptions of Park really made me think of Twilight and no, not because they are things that “normal” teen girls say or think but because we’ve seen this archetype of, for lack of better word, “magical boy” that comes barging into sad-manic-pixie-dream-girl’s-but-not-like-the-other-girls’-life and sweeps her off her feet:
How artsy, edgy, and NOT PREPPY, he wears all black.
Who else had a face “like a chiseled marble statue in its perfection”? (psst, it was Edward Cullen)
who else was described as “godlike” “angelic” and all that crap? Vampire boy Edward Cullen. Louis and Lestat and Claudia, all of our favorite too-gorgeous-to-be-real fairytale creatures.
But when you use those kinds of descriptors for a character who is very visibly POC and then give them an uncommon feature like ~green eyes~, do they not become a kind of mythical creature in, the stuff of exotic fantasy? Do they then become dehumanized and not real, only the kind of boyfriend a girl can aspire to get?
The answer, of course, is yes. But dreaming about dating a vampire or a werewolf is so very different and again does not carry the same weight as being hellbent on dating a ~perfect Asian boy~. Because at this point it is not about Park. This is not Park’s story, even though he shares half the title. This is Eleanor’s story, the manic pixie “not like the other girls” girl, with her crazy red hair and her weird clothes and her desire to get away from it all.
Eleanor’s entire story is painted on a canvas of abuse and neglect and sadness, so of course she needs some magical boy to literally swoop in and save her– at the end, Park takes her to Minnesota where her uncle lives, away from the safety of her stepfather who is out for her blood. Eleanor is the most precious person in the world to Park, so much that he doesn’t care about his family anymore and the only person he cares about is her. How the hell is that any kind of healthy way to have a relationship?
Park’s Asian-ness is only brought up in the context that it is different to what Eleanor is used to, that it is EXOTIC and MAGICAL and because of that she likes him. No, but it’s in the text, where Eleanor openly admits to fetishizing:
I didn’t end up CARING about Eleanor’s family situation at all. Her relationship with her mother was completely one-dimensional, as was the relationship with her siblings and her stepfather. It was almost as though the backstory was there to make Eleanor more sympathetic to the reader, which as a reader I didn’t end up buying because there was literally no depth to any of it.
Similarly, Park’s relationship with his parents is weird and disturbing and also one-sided. His mom speaks broken English and is demure but madly in love with his dad, who, need I remind you, “liberated” her from her oppressive country. Miss Saigon, anyone? Park’s dad is typical American machismo, a simple kinda guy, but at heart a good one. I feel like the PARENTS’ relationship was something I was more interested in than Eleanor or Park, had it not been written like a weird yellow-fever wet dream, where the white dude comes home and just makes out with the Asian woman all the time and she stays home and tends to their perfect house and their perfect family.
Rainbow Rowell has explicitly stated in an interview that one of her inspirations for writing Eleanor and Park and for making Park Korean was that her father had been in the Korean War:
1. My father served in Korea, in the Army.
This is probably the most obvious explanation.
My parents separated when I was in the second grade, and I never knew my dad that well. I didn’t grow up with him around. But I remember being fascinated by the fact that he was in the military – and stationed in a place where there had been an actual war, even though he was there decades after the worst of it.
There was this photo of him, in uniform, hanging over my grandmother’s coffee table – an unrecognizable teenager with short hair and tiny wire-rimmed glasses.
Every once in a while, if he’d had a few drinks, my dad would talk about the Army. How he signed up at 17 to avoid getting drafted and sent to Vietnam. The Army wouldn’t send a 17-year-old to Vietnam, he said. (I have no idea if this, or much else my dad told me, is true.)
He was especially proud of having protested the Vietnam War while he was in Korea. There was a clipping from a military newspaper with photos of the protest. I was 12 or 13 when he showed me this, and I definitely didn’t get it.
Over the years, I’ve had people tell me I must be confused about my dad, that there weren’t Americans soldiers left in Korea in the ‘70s. But there are still American soldiers in South Korea. We never left.
Anyway, the other thing my dad would talk about, every once in a while, was a girl he’d known in Korea. My mom says he carried this Korean girl’s photo in his wallet for years after he came home. He’d been in love with her; my mom thought he still was.
I used to wonder about that girl. About how he met her. Whether she spoke English. Whether she was his age. Whether it was some secret love affair, or something her friends and family knew about … What if she was his soulmate?
What if fate and circumstance and the U.S. government had come together to deliver my father across the continents to his soulmate – and he just left her there.
He could have stayed, I thought. He could have brought her back. Omaha is a military town; people bring wives and husbands back from all over.
I remember being so angry with him. First for leaving the person he was meant to be with; then for leaving my mom, the person he wasn’t meant to be with; and then for leaving all my brothers and sisters and me in his wake.
So … in Eleanor & Park, Park’s dad gets sent to Korea because his brother has died in combat in Vietnam. He meets his soulmate there. And he brings her home.
He “liberates” her. And puts her in his pocket like a China Doll, right?
These were only a few selections out of the many, many in the novel. Over and over again we’re slammed in the face with the fact that Park is Asian, he’s half-Korean, but only in the way he looks and almost always in the context of his relationship with Eleanor, never by himself. Half the book is supposedly written from Park’s perspective but he never really introspects on his identity except during that scene when he’s with Eleanor, bitter that there aren’t any “hot Asian guys.” Not even Asian AMERICAN, just “Asian”. As though the author were not aware of the hybrid culture that exists in the country–maybe because Park’s “the only Korean in Omaha?”
What first love story is there to tell? They start off hating each other and he makes her a mixtape and asks if she listens to the Smiths, and given that this book came out after Five Hundred Days of Summer…
I’m not sure what the point of the book was. To make people want hot Asian boyfriends?
This read like bad Tamora Pierce Circle of Magic Trisana Chandler/Briar Moss AU fic.
i don’t think i’ve ever read something so true and real and god, it hurts to read some paragraphs from how factual it is. this book is the epitome of the silly, witty, scared and awkward teen inside all of us. every touch that Rowell writes and every emotion that she tries to convey is timid and shy, so when the bold moments do occur they’re quick and thrown off to side easily. the little things that every teen is terrified of, like the first phone call and the first greeting, seem so much more important and magnified.
eleanor is smart. she’s gritty and expects the worst because she usually gets handed the worst. so park’s softness is exciting and alien to her. his reluctant kindness is the best thing she’s ever come across. and for park, eleanor’s unfortunate circumstances and timid bravery forces him to walk out of his safe zone. both extract such drastic changes in each other’s lives and it’s beautiful to see their violent first ripples slowly smooth down into calm waters.
eleanor & park portrays the insecurities that every teen faces and the breakthroughs that can happen once you find something or someone worth fighting for.
What a sweet, raw novel. Yes, you read right, if you are looking for a cheesy romance this is NOT it.
I LOVED this book. First of all it’s very well written, but the thing I liked best is that the characters are real, original, with their own effed up lives and issues. I liked that Park is a nerd superhero who’s very much afraid of peer judgement, like all of us, and fighting his own demons. And Eleanor, Eleanor is fat and gorgeous, a goddess in disguise. What is so special about them?
That they don’t know how special they are till the other one shows them, in their very unique, awkward way.
A Few Love Lessons Brought by Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell:
1. Being in love is being too familiar with details.
~That morning, in English, Park noticed that Eleanor’s hair came to a soft red point on the back of her neck.
That afternoon, in history, Eleanor noticed that Park chewed on his pencil when he was thinking.~
Being able to ride within the POVs of both of these lovers, I’ve discovered more about the “how” part of falling romantically in love. If the heart’s so sincere in carrying that emotion, a person just can’t help to study every characteristic and feature and every ambiguous detail affixed to the love interest. It was as if a guy wanted to complete this certain puzzle so much that he solved it a countless times, even if at first it’s like it didn’t want to be solved. But he tried so much that he accomplished it, finally. He was so in love with it that he memorized every complex puzzle piece.
2. Love can intensify if mixed with music.
~Best of all, she had Park’s songs in her head– and in her chest, somehow.~
One of my favorite things about the book is the clear attachment of music– another connection the two head-over-heels-in-love misfits shared, without doubt. I felt that can’t-be-stopped giddiness every time I read these lines narrating on how they admired and awed for different songs in various eras and genres. I admit, I am not familiar with most of the songs mentioned (therefore a research must be accomplished soon), but just knowing the fact that every beat they heard in a three-minute rock song made their bus ride chinwags a whole lot better, I felt the strong musical bond, as well.
3. Love brings out the idea of emotional incompleteness.
~“I don’t even think I even breathe when we’re not together. Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath.”~
A funny part about this paramount feeling is that you just feel anxious and lacking whenever the person you’re in love with is heaps of miles away from you. And then sometimes you realize that you had never really experienced this kind of incompleteness when you still hadn’t met the person, and now that this person’s a part of your world, everything just gets really strange. Sometimes you feel as if you’re searching for something you’ve been desperately needing, even if the first place, in the first parts of your living, you never even yearned.
4. We become a factory of beautiful words and metaphors when we are in love.
~Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.~
Playful indeed is love, that even a person so cold and reserved and quiet and seemingly socially dull can have the ability to produce so much profound musings. Park’s thoughts were somewhat tear-jerkers for me– I mean, man, how amazing it is when you dive inside the in-love-guy’s mind, and you discover so much beauty in his words? Boys who get to create metaphors are just so gush-worthy.
5. Love can be so awkward, and it’s perfectly okay.
~“Hi,” Eleanor said.
“Hi,” he breathed.
“What?” he said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Hi.”~
The awkwardness inclined with love is just so precious because it means that love is not a pretentious thing. Being awkward is just being you, being sincere with yourself, and I think, there will always be a person who can fit with the kind of awkwardness you have. I’ve loved so many ill at ease moments in the novel– the way they got so uneasy and embarrassed with each other just brought so much flowing figurative hearts all over the place. The book was so true, it was in the real world-zone. I felt like I belonged to the book, for I have the similar bag of awkwardness myself.
6. Crazy, crazier, craziest– popular levels of love.
~When she saw Park standing at the bus stop on Monday morning, she started giggling. Seriously, giggling like a cartoon character… When their cheeks get all red.~
We all got to admit this one, alright– everything is just so “I can’t help it,”. It feels so human, period.
7. Love is about saying the right words in the right time. (if possible, perfect time.)
~He regretted saying it. Not because it wasn’t true. He loved her. Of course he did. There was nothing else to explain… everything Park felt. But he hadn’t meant to tell her like that. So soon. And over the phone.~
For me, saying those three words are not just perfect for candlelight dinners or under the moonlight and shooting stars rooftop dates– it will be perfect according to our own perception of perfect. In a lighter sense, we need not to be reckless with the words with release; we have to think thoroughly first and be prepared for the possible grand turn of events right after those three words get to escape out of the mouth.
I was (and still am) absolutely in love with this book and it’s probably so much more obvious now. How about you, guys? Any insights and reactions? I’d love to hear from you.
Two misfits. One extraordinary love. Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor. Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park. Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. - Goodreads
Oh look, is that my still beating heart on the floor? Yes, yes it is. Eleanor and Park is one of those books that once you finish it you walk around in a state of semi-consciousness. People around you are talking to you, asking you questions, but you are still too wrapped up in this amazing world that Rainbow Rowell has created that you can’t focus on what is happening around you. Warning do not go crossing streets while reading this book, you will surely die.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I found myself laughing out loud, scowling, and even shedding a tear or two. Eleanor’s life had my heart aching and the romance between her and Park had my heart breaking only to have it reassemble its self then jump out of my chest to land on the cold floor. That may seem overly dramatic and I may not feel the same way in a few weeks or month, but in the moment, while reading it that is how I felt. There is just something about this book that wraps you up; it’s like a soft warm blanket that you don’t want to leave.
There are many things I loved about this book. I loved Park and his family. His parents, especially his mom, were funny, witty, charming and wonderfully developed. I loved how unique and broken Eleanor was and I love how she was strong in many ways. I loved that Park loved Eleanor for her and not necessarily her physical appearance. I loved the music and the pop culture that influenced and structured this book. I loved the humor and the sadness. I loved the issues it touched on. I even loved the ending which wasn’t wrapped in a neat bow. I loved everything about this book.
This book will always have a soft spot in my heart, I highly recommend it.
Lately I’ve been reading up a storm. If you’re looking for a new book, here’s a review of what I’ve read so far in 2014 (listed in order of preference):
Me Before You: Loved this book so much. It’s the kind of story that makes you want to go out and live your life to the fullest. Louisa, a 28 year old who has lived a relatively sheltered life becomes a caregiver for 30-something Will who once was a successful and active man and after a terrible road accident is left a wheel-chair bound quadriplegic. The two have very little in common and come together to teach each other important life lessons. Seriously, read this immediately.
The Glass Castle: Another recent favorite, this is a memoir of a woman who grew up with an unstable and sometimes homeless family. The author is now successful and living in NYC while her parents remain homeless. Really interesting look at her life and her parent’s choices.
Fangirl: A really fun read that took me about two days to get through. Cath and her twin sister are huge fans of a Harry Potter type series and this story takes us through their lives adjusting to college (boys, friends, etc) and leaving their fan fiction world behind.
Eleanor & Park: Same author as Fangirl yet I didn’t love it quite as much, but still a good read. The story of two misfits from different walks of life falling in love on their bus rides to school.
Orange is the New Black: I loved the Netflix show so I was intrigued to hear the real story of Piper’s year in a women’s prison. Since it’s the actual story it isn’t nearly as dramatic as the tv show (I’d recommend reading the book before watching the show) so it took me a while to get into this but I found this insider look at the prison system and how it’s failing America really interesting (and upsetting).
Dark Places: From the same author as Gone Girl (a personal favorite), this is the story of a girl trying to figure out the mystery behind who killed her entire family, 20 years later. It is a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat type mystery and Flynn is an excellent author but be warned, this book is super dark so while I found it hard to put down, I wouldn’t say that I loved it.
Now it’s time for a new book, have you read anything recently that you loved?
“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
9 stars out of 10
I really thought, after a few bad experiences, I had grown out of YA Romance. I’m 25, I told myself. It’s only natural I would lose interest in High Schoolers experiencing their first loves, if I want a book where romance isn’t a subplot it’s time to stay in the adult section of the book store. Last week a reader asked me if I had read it, and the response from so many people was that I really shouldn’t miss this book so I bumped it up to the top of the list.
Oh. My. God.
I needed this story! I needed it so badly, and I didn’t even realise.
This book is told in dual POV. Our protagonists are redheaded, overweight Eleanor who has a less than ideal home life, and Park who is half Korean loves comic-books, music and passably popular.
It’s set in 1986, and has a lot of the young adult high school romance hall marks; we see bullying, struggling to fit in, sibling rivalry, poor parenting, and the all-time classic evil stepparent.
This book is so much more than that; there is an innocence to it I haven’t seen in a long time. The characters aren’t witty, amazingly well-read, wise-beyond their years, human beings with parents who give them absolute freedom. Eleanor and Park are like actual sixteen year olds; awkward, uncomfortable, and finding themselves.
The story begins when Eleanor transfers to Park’s school, and needs a seat on the bus. She ends up with the one next to Park. Over the next few weeks they don’t speak but as time goes on Parks starts to catch Eleanor reading his comic books over his shoulder, and before long he’s lending them to Eleanor, and they’re talking about music. The story grows from there; Eleanor is being bullied, even on the school bus. Park has grown up with those bullies, in fact they’re the kids he grew up playing with which leads him to some tough decisions, especially when his mother takes a dislike to her. For Eleanor though her home life is the bigger problem. The amazing thing is this story is so well written it’s not like a cliché. It’s not about a nerd winning over the cheerleader/footballer, or the innocent virgin becoming not not-so innocent. It’s about love and lifes difficulties.
The whole book is observed beautifully from both view points. I’m sure you’ve the quote “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” on tumblr. Most of the book is that beautiful. And not in a pretentious, try hard attempt to make the book quotable, in a every sentence is perfect kind of way. Honestly;
“You think that holding someone hard will bring them closer. You think that you can hold them so hard you’ll still feel them, embossed on you, when you pull away.”
“She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bed, pretending to be somewhere else.”
“If you can’t save your own life, is it even worth saving?”
This isn’t about changing yourself to find love, it’s about love helping you find yourself.
*spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t read the book*
I loved this book but the ending is so bitter. It’s like a horrible tasting medicine; you know it will improve things in some way but you still don’t like taking it. Eleanor no doubt has a happier life at her uncles and regains her Mum and her siblings. I do understand the ending though, and respect it from a story telling point of view. I also love how much hope is left, at the end. I don’t need a sequel. What I really want are prequels; I want to more about Tina’s step-father, about Steve and Park’s early years friendship, but most of all I want to know more about Mindy – Park’s mum. I want to know what makes her cut herself off, why Park doesn’t know he has six aunts and uncles on her side of the family who are never spoken of, and how she is able to relate to Eleanor’s poverty so well. I think these side characters are such strong personalities it’s a shame there isn’t more of them in the book.
Review: 'Eleanor & Park' by Rainbow Rowell | Mahalakshmi Sridharan
If you are a voracious reader, it is natural to feel surfeited. You tend to avoid the clichéd plots like the plague and have long since given up all hope on humanity to blow your mind away ever again because your bars have been raised unimaginably high.
Lo and behold! A book like Eleanor & Park happens and knocks your socks off.
Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. (source)