Bookworm is rather a personal piece to me for a number of reasons.
I am quite a bookworm myself, a moniker I have alternately embraced and refuted over the years. Growing up we didn’t have a TV until I was in junior high, so my parents would often read aloud to us 5 kids at night. In my own spare time, I enveloped myself in books, mostly novels with a memoir or two thrown in occasionally. This was pre-Amazon, and we didn’t have a library in the remote areas of Pakistan I grew up in, so I found myself re-reading many a favorite adventure, and making up my own as a passenger on long drives around the country.
Then there’s the whole “sexy librarian” phenomenon. You know, the quiet, sweet loner who suddenly finds herself wearing her hair down, removing her glasses, finding a cuter wardrobe and voilà! She’s now the attractive little thing who is suddenly eligible for a boyfriend (as long as she keeps her big brain hidden). I hate that story, in part because I’ve had similar experiences (minus the glasses). I remember in 8th grade I was the smartest girl in class, but apparently the least eligible because of it. But then when I showed up at a school dance in a mini skirt and some make-up (borrowed from my big sister), I got more attention than I could handle and was so embarrassed. And then in college, the guys in the art department would look at me differently when I showed up for critiques in my regular clothes and my hair down, rather than my usual paint splattered jeans and t-shirt, with my hair tied back in a ponytail. Of course, this made me uncomfortable and I quickly retreated back to my painting uniform.
I suppose reading had always been a safe space for me, and it continues to give me great joy. However, I’m not proud of how much other people’s reactions to my looks affected me in the past. I try not to let it get to me anymore, in fact, that’s a large reason that I’m making this series – to get away from external appearances and celebrate what’s inside. I’m happy to report that nowadays I embrace the moniker of bookworm proudly, without any apologies about how I look or choose to dress.
Writers give me both inspiration and put into words the things that I try to grapple with visually in my paintings. It’s a beautiful marriage.
Postscript: Some of the authors and books that are giving my inspiration these days are Barbara Kingsolver, Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, Banana Yoshimoto, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
In my Flawless series I strive to reshape gender norms by refusing to apologize for femininity, recognizing that pretty isn't weak.