I had to make some difficult decisions for this project. Should I pretend I typically organize my books in any way other than “there’s room here”? Should I remove the objects that probably don’t count as literature, such as the packets of instant noodles? Should I move my potted plants into the frame so it looks like I at least have my aesthetic together? In the end, however, I decided to keep it authentic.
Let’s start with the bookshelf. You’ll notice that, rather than being suspended in the air like any self-respecting shelf, it simply rests on the surface of my desk. By the time my university saw fit to grant me a bookshelf (three maintenance requests into the year), the supports on which I could hang the shelf were already occupied by other important things like my ridiculously large scarf collection.
Next: the contents. This is, as the ramen suggests, a dorm room bookshelf. Many of the books I grew up with are a hundred miles away. I still have a pretty solid, eclectic collection here in Knoxville. They’re all mixed together: writing manuals and government directories and best-selling mysteries. There’s a copy of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God found in a used bookstore’s free bin and annotated by three different owners. There are two gigantic literary bibles, one of Shakespeare and one of theoretical approaches, both of which are on their third renewals from the university library because no way am I paying for that kind of paper. Also pictured: my university’s literary arts magazine, an account of my hometown’s strike history that I’ll definitely get around to reading someday, and a copy of The Great Gatsby fairly studded with sticky notes as a result of a paper on classism and sexuality that nearly killed me from exhaustion.
A couple of these books and authors are the reason for my English major. I was a bookish kid but from eighth grade through tenth grade I was deeply ashamed to be caught reading for fun. But in the summer before eleventh grade, I picked up an anthology of Toni Morrison novels (the one slightly to the right of the ramen) and read the entirety in a week. Since then, I’ve gone back to reading widely and wildly. I’m very into American literature from the latter half of the 20th century, but I’ll also always be in love with modern literature, especially if it’s a sci-fi thriller or it references Appalachian folklore. I have yet to find a book that combines both qualities, so please send me your recommendations!
Valerie Lick, the artist currently known as Val, loves those tall, weedy plants that are kind of like daisies except the blooms are really small. She can be found looking mean and studying literature at the University of Tennessee, where she is a rising junior. She thinks that there should be more intersections between science fiction, Appalachian folklore, and fashion journalism.
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