I moved to Chicago in 2006 for undergrad, but went home to Kentucky during the summer my first three years here, making this my 5th Chicago summer. This is my second summer living in the Edgewater neighborhood, placing me in walking distance from the lake. Chicago’s beaches are more of an added bonus of the city than a claim to fame, though prominently featured in that season of Real World Chicago many years ago. But, they are certainly my favorite thing about summers here. Waiting to hear about interviews and constantly refreshing the CPS Careers site hoping to find new art positions listed is a stressful business. So, to de-stress or distract myself I’ve fallen to an activity I’ve enjoyed for half of my life: reading YA novels at the beach.
During grad school I found it hard to get through a novel—I had too much to read about pedagogy, and reading for pleasure got pushed to the side. I’ve been in a book club for almost three years with some ladies I know from volunteering at 826CHI. We are called the Lady Woolfs (after Virginia). There are nine of us (and 4-month-old Woolf cub, Lula, our honorary tenth member, daughter of member Kendra), but we have a six-member capacity for those actually living in Chicago. Once a Woolf, always a Woolf, but a new member is only invited when someone moves away.
Next month we’ll be reading each other’s favorite novels read during middle school. I’ll be reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Janet’s pick. Trish will be reading my pick, Stargirl. I’ve already been spending my newfound leisure reading time with YA novels, and I’m glad to add another one to the pile. After starting it last summer on the beach in Florida, I have just finished Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle, a teen adventure/friendship/love story dealing with a cult and the Rapture. I’ve moved on to pick back up on John Green’s Looking for Alaska. A great power of both novels has been that the characters are memorable enough that I’ve been able to pick back up with them a year after pausing my reading.
As a teacher of young adults, I try to keep up with what they are reading/watching/listening to, but I also like to reconnect with who I was a decade and beyond ago. My book club has also been sharing middle school pictures. Pictured below: Me after my sixth grade graduation in the year 2000. I thought that hot pink Hawaiian tube top was the coolest and of my awards was most proud of being the single recipient of the Outstanding Art Student award.
When I was growing up I went on a two-week vacation to Florida every summer, and it was during that time around the pool and at the beach that I read Harry Potter, Stargirl, and a number of books that remain important to me. When I’m looking to wind down, what I want most is to be next to a body of water with a good book, and there is nothing like getting lost in a good YA novel and its emotional peaks.The past week has finally presented ideal Chicago beach weather, with the lake finally comfortably warm. So that is where you’ll find me until I find a job.