It started with “The Lion King.” Rebecca Caprara had taken her daughter to see the show in 2019, and Julie Taymor’s Broadway billing inspired Caprara to take a deep dive into the illustrious director’s life.
Caprara, already an accomplished children’s author based in Boxborough, had planned to write a Taymor-inspired picture book. Instead, she became deeply engrossed in the tale of Arachne, the mythological weaver-turned-spider who challenged the goddess Athena to a duel of the looms, and whose fate was a point of contention in another Taymor-helmed musical, the famously ill-fated “Spider-Man.”
“After rereading [Arachne’s] story, I remember getting chills, because we were in the context of the #MeToo movement, and the political landscape [at the time],” explained Caprara.
“I felt like this young woman and her story were really timely.”
The result of her research was “Spin,” Caprara’s debut Young Adult novel-in-verse that plucks Arachne from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and places her at the center of a feminist retelling and sapphic love story written with young activists in mind. In Caprara’s version, readers follow Arachne into her teenage years, and her questioning of the gods is reframed as a championing of the oppressed.
“A large part of my character studies arose from thinking about her backstory [and] what would make a young woman brazen enough, bold enough, to stand up to a god,” she said. “I wanted it to be satisfying to root for [Arachne], even though she’s normally framed as a villain. … I wanted to hear her version of her own story.”
“Spin” is grounded in ancient Greece, its verse format a nod to the epic poems it was inspired by. In keeping with the textile theme, its structure follows the woven pattern of a tapestry, broken into warps (sections), wefts (intersecting scenes), and knots (the Greek myths and legends that serve as context for the story as a whole). As she neared a final draft, Caprara printed out each poem and spread the papers from her office to her kitchen in order to find a weave that worked.
“Not to make another textile pun, but it’s almost like a patchwork quilt.”
Caprara will read from “Spin” and sign books at the Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton on Tuesday, March 28, at 7 p.m.
Rachel Kim Raczka is a writer and editor based in Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.