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Eleanor & Park
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Book Discussions > February 2015 Book of the Month: Eleanor & Park

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message 1: by Elizabeth (last edited Feb 01, 2015 09:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (persephone17) Hello, everyone! Once again, it's time for new books to read. This month's theme was romance/chick lit, in the Valentine's Day spirit. After lots of book suggestions(yay!), and some very close voting, Eleanor & Park won for this month's pick. If you haven't read any Rainbow Rowell, you're in for a treat! However, if you're somewhat in the loop, Eleanor & Park is considered racist to some people. If you read this(from Korean American author Ellen Oh, check her books out!), I think it will explain it better then I could: http://elloellenoh.tumblr.com/post/83...

So, basically, go into this book with a grain of salt. I enjoyed it when I read it in December 2013, but it definitely isn't the best book at portraying POC. As Oh, the author of the post states: "I actually believe that you can be a fan of problematic things and I do understand why people love this book." I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on the bigger issues at play here. Now, finally, here's the book description:

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.

Happy reading! As always, post your thoughts/comments/questions below after reading the novel.

Jennifer I don't know how I ended up reading this, but I read it a year or so ago, and I very much enjoyed it.

Personally I didn't notice any racist tones to it really. I would be interested to hear peoples opinions. The link to the blog doesn't work :(

message 3: by Fay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Fay Roberts I really don't think this book is racist, if anything I think it portrays the hypocrisy of the racial attitudes at the time. I read the blog post and can see her point. She herself had issues with her racial identity (probably growing up in this era) and didn't want her daughter to read it and have the same feelings (her daughter is growing up now in a more tolerant - but not perfect - society). This is a good parental choice for her as all parents want to protect their children. But that's a parental choice. What about the parents who don't want to their children to read Harry Potter or Twilight or Enid Blyton? Does that make the books morally and ethically wrong for all?

Katie Kempski (darthphasma) | 120 comments I never noticed anything racist either, but then again, I'm not Korean. I agree with Fay; I think it's just because if someone had to dislike their own heritage, she would rather it weren't the same she had because it would give her daughter (or other people that read it) negative views, if that makes sense.

I think it's a wonderful book, and I can't wait to read it again!

message 5: by Fay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Fay Roberts On Rainbow's author page there's an option to send a message. I've seen a lot of comments about in this group about her books (nearly all favourable) and wondered if we might want to send a message from the group asking her questions about her work and maybe asking for her to "defend" the racism issues in Eleanor and Park? It's just idea but wondered what others thought about it........

message 6: by Elizabeth (last edited Feb 01, 2015 01:39PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (persephone17) Jennifer wrote: "I don't know how I ended up reading this, but I read it a year or so ago, and I very much enjoyed it.

Personally I didn't notice any racist tones to it really. I would be interested to hear peopl..."

I think the link doesn't work on mobile for some reason? Which is odd.

Whenever I first read it, I didn't notice anything racist either....but then once I read her blog post, it kind've hit me. Obviously, the book is set in the 80s.....but as we know that's not really a valid excuse anymore. I still really like the book, and I'm not saying anyone who loves it is racist(not in the least!), I just want everyone to be more aware of this issue going into the book, if that makes sense. Rainbow Rowell is white, and she probably didn't mean anything by some of the stuff she put in the book- and some of it is sadly true for the era. However, it's still there and it still has these implications. I mean, thinking that someone can't see as well because they are Asian, and their eyes are smaller...it's racism. Here's a slightly more critical review of the book, with passages from the book to show the racism: http://angrygirlcomics.tumblr.com/pos...

Overall, I tend to agree with those discussing this that are Asian since Park is Korean, and this is supposed to be representing Asian people. Most people I've talked to or have read their thoughts on the matter that are Asian believe the book is problematic. So, basically, grain of salt. Rowell isn't Asian, so I don't want you guys to take away that that's how Asian characters should be written. In short: Eleanor & Park is a well written love story, but one that has Eleanor exoticizing and fetishizing Park a LOT. It's good to be aware of these issues when reading books. :) Also, I'm white too, so I'm obviously not the authoritative voice on this! That's why I would like you guys to read the links, if you can.

Mariel (marielmohns) I'm excited to read this! I just finished Fangirl (my first book by Rowell) and definitely plan on reading the rest of her novels.

I'm curious to read this as an Asian-American person. I always roll my eyes at cries of "racism" accusations because there is a difference between stereotyping (not saying that stereotyping is good) and derogatory prejudice/discrimination. I've had people stereotype me ("You are a piano major and pre-med? That's so Asian!") but that doesn't mean I was being discriminated against. Sure, remarks like that have no positive value (or you learn to take it for what it is as humor), but it's far from "racism." And stereotypes exist because there are people that fit the bill. I'm a case in point. Anyway, I'm interested to see what the controversy is really all about in this book. I'm sure there's a Korean-American out there who probably read this book and related to it.

Christa (lessthn3) | 90 comments I finished this book, so I'm off to check out the articles! I know it's early days yet, so I think I'll wait to throw in my two cents until more people have a chance to read the book. Overall though, I definitely enjoyed it!

Natalie (threadsandbobbins) | 6 comments Finished! Loved it :-)

Tessa Sainz | 13 comments I really liked it. I liked the realness of it, the pain, the bad stuff, the bullying and the first-love all-consuming feelings. It was kind of like the sad sort of beautiful.

As for the racism assertion, I'm not sure my opinion really matters, but I have less of a problem about things other people said to Park (or thought about him) because I think that's probably pretty realistic for the setting of the book and how people act and think - in fact, I think part of her point is to show the casual racism in a place like this. I mean the entry into the book is when the one kid asks Park about karate b/c he's Asian.

I think it's also realistic for Park to have issues with his own identity, even if we don't see him resolve those beyond realizing that Eleanor likes/loves him. Besides, I think it's normal for a teen to have self-doubt and lack of self-confidence in general and I can see racial identity being an aspect of those issues for any biracial teen, particularly one that grows up in a culture where he (or she) is an outsider -- in Park's case, based on appearance as he's the only Asian kid we meet (apart from his brother who apparently looks 'more white') and also b/c of the things he's interested in that other kids in his school aren't interested in. Not that he doesn't have friends, but he doesn't even talk with the friend he eats lunch with about the comics and music he likes.

I do have more of a problem with the depiction of his mother - she seems more like a caricature than a fully realized character and as a result, I do think she's stereotyped and probably a racist portrayal. She is at least more exaggerated than Eleanor's mom, who one could argue is a stereotype of a poor, white woman who'd rather be in an abusive relationship than be alone.

message 11: by Serena (last edited Feb 12, 2015 09:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Serena (serenaho) | 2 comments Okay, I haven't finished the book yet, so I'm avoiding reading other people's comment in case there's spoilers.

The reason why I'm commenting is because of this part in the book (fairly early on just after Park holds Eleanor's hand for the first time), "Jesus. Was it possible to rape somebody's hand?"

I nearly cracked up laughing out loud. At work.
Just imagining the kind of insecurities that could go through teenager's minds during this time, I can completely believe that would be the kind of phrase that Park would think.

I'm really liking the book so far.

Claire | 45 comments This book made me feel things, like a genuine ache for the characters. I found it so hard to put down when I read this.

I like the postcard ending, it made me feel hopeful for the future.

Danni N (odannigirl) | 42 comments So I read this book a few months ago and I loved it. I love their relationship caring he is for her. I also love his mother.

I was getting so anxious towards the end, thinking, "Oh my god you can't end like that!" but the last few pages totally made up for it.


Melissa (eris_discord42) | 35 comments Just finished this book.
I read Shiver before it for the challenge and they both use the back and forth narrative between the leads. Shiver was both boring and jarring with this narrative but it worked well in Eleanor and Park. Maybe since they are both introverted characters, reading the narrative from both of their points of view helped make the story complete.
I did not like the ending. I want to know what she wrote.
"I love you" "I miss you" "All things end" What?!

(It is one in the morning, I probably used the word "narrative" wrong lol)

Sarah (adventgeekgirl) | 56 comments I really loved the Lost in Translation style ending. I called my co-worker immediately and said "OMG WHAT THREE WORDS!!!!" That was fun. I really loved it as a young adult novel.

Stephanie (berryvillain) | 6 comments FInished it.. thought it was incredibly sweet!

Samantha (samanyaaron) | 146 comments I read this earlier in the month and really enjoyed it, the characters were good and I really felt like it was set in the 80's with the descriptions. I really felt for Eleanor and her home life and glad there was some resolution to it.

Katie Kempski (darthphasma) | 120 comments Finished it! This was my second time reading it, and I think I loved it even more than the first. I just like how their love seems more genuine than most YA novels. Instead of, "omg he's so hot he's never gonna notice me even though I'm totally hot too," it's more of a sweet, slow love, that started by fulfilling each other's needs rather than their wants, if that makes sense.

I think, at the end, though, it had to be "I love you," or something of the sort. Park was happy after he read it, so it couldn't have been "leave me alone" or anything. Actually, you know what I think it said? "Nothing ever ends," because that's the line Park wanted to ask Eleanor about in the new Watchmen.

I hope there's a sequel. Mostly to find out what happened to Eleanor's family.

message 19: by Mel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mel (metermouse) | 3 comments Tessa wrote: "I really liked it. I liked the realness of it, the pain, the bad stuff, the bullying and the first-love all-consuming feelings. It was kind of like the sad sort of beautiful.

As for the racism ass..."

I more or less agree with you on this. When I read this book last year I hadn't heard about the racial controversy, so I wasn't looking for it. I sort of understood Park and his feeling badly about being Korean, as me and my best friend from elementary school had similar experiences. I do wish that he would've come somewhat to terms with himself before the end of the book.

Though when I read the parts with his mom I was shocked. She seemed like a complete stereotype! I wasn't sure what to think... then Eleanor's two black friends also seemed like stereotypes... I really didn't like any of those parts.

I loved the rest of the book, though. The romance was sweet and I could totally relate with Eleanor's struggle with her body, though I'd prefer she come to terms with her body herself rather than thinking maybe she was ok because a boy liked her body.

All in all I still liked the book as it tugs me in all the feels, but there are definitely problems with it.

Elizabeth (persephone17) Mel wrote: "Tessa wrote: "I really liked it. I liked the realness of it, the pain, the bad stuff, the bullying and the first-love all-consuming feelings. It was kind of like the sad sort of beautiful.

As for ..."

You basically summed up how I feel about it - I definitely think we're on the same terms. I also thought there was something especially off about the mom and her two black friends....they're really just stock characters that fit stereotypes, which is disappointing! She could have put so much emotion and character development behind them. Like you I still like the story, just very problematic.

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