Originally Published: December 7, 2009 11:21 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Students at Yavapai College bared their souls and lives to write and create a beautiful, unusual collection of handmade books filled with personal stories of love and life, heartbreak and death, hope and despair.
The one-of-a-kind books are on display at the Yavapai College Library through Dec. 13.
"Some of these are what we call 'eccentric books,' which means that anything goes," Tania Baban-Natal said. Baban-Natal is a professional handmade book artist and helped inspire the students in their assignment.
The students comprise English teacher Moses Glidden's five English 101 classes. Glidden previously saw a presentation by Baban-Natal in which she demonstrated taking poems and short stories and weaving them into books of art.
He thought that would be a great idea for his students, whom he directed to take four essay assignments and put them into a handmade book. Three essays are based on personal experiences and one is based on 10 hours of community service the students completed during the semester.
"I thought it would be great to give a gift to their future families by packaging them in a creative way," Glidden said. "I was astounded at the results."
Julie Wilson, 30, made three books filled with her writings and photographs and scrapbook snippets. She dedicated two books to her two families - her personal family and her dorm family - and one to her zoo friends, which is where she did her community service.
Wilson is full of inspiration for personal growth, life and positive changes. In addition to her books, she made a four-foot-tall Christmas tree out of oatmeal. On the back of the tree is Wilson's favorite quote from Gandhi: "Be the change you want to be."
Students used wood, glass, leather, paper and just about any material that worked for the vision of their books. Some books look traditional; others are scrolls and tri-folds; and others resemble scrapbooks.
Codi Corianne Scott, 25, wrote her reflections about a trip to Africa and enclosed it in a stained-glass box.
Inside a hollowed-out dictionary rests a hand-stitched Japanese tortoiseshell book. Lonnie Cody, 41, made his "Collected Essays" book so that it would fit within one side of the dictionary. In the other side, he built a small shadowbox and enclosed mementos of family members.
Baban-Nadal visited Glidden's classes only twice before the students went to work.
"This was not a hands-on class because we didn't have enough time," she said. "I was just blown away when I saw the books. They are fantastic."
"Little Sisters" is Gloria Miller's account of a tragedy that occurred to her two sisters more than 35 years ago. Her sisters, ages two and three, nearly died after swallowing Valium. Miller saved her sister's lives, but the experience had a profound effect on her.
The cover of Zack Williams' book "The American Nightmare" is a collage of words and pictures that reflect his view that the American Dream has taken a wrong turn.
"I really want people to judge this book by its cover," he said.
The last page of Shelby Lichtenberger's book contains a mirror surrounded by smaller mirrors. Her essays relate to "masks that people hide behind" and her high school experiences, which she describes as "survival of the fittest."
"I put in the mirror for a dramatic ending," she said. "People can look at it and say, 'What mask am I wearing today?'"
The student collection is on display in the college library's first floor in Building 19, 1100 E. Sheldon St. Visitors may read the essays and examine the books, but students ask that they handle the books carefully.
"I am so proud of the students," Glidden said while surveying the collection. "They did a phenomenal job."