Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Ashley Woodfolk

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Ashley Woodfolk

Ashley Woodfolk has loved reading and writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and works in children’s book publishing. She writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment, where she lives with her cute husband and her cuter dog. The Beauty That Remains is her debut novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramTumblrGoodreads

As a black woman, I’m often afraid to speak when I’m angry.

For one, I’m prone to cry when I’m pissed, and that in turn makes me more angry – that tears are clouding my voice; that I might be seen as overly emotional or irrational. But I also don’t want to be seen as scary or violent. I don’t want the words I say to be misinterpreted because of the energy behind them. I don’t want people on the receiving end to feel “attacked”.

I don’t want to be seen as a stereotype: The angry black woman. I don’t want to be dismissed or belittled. So, I often force myself to stay quiet when I’m livid.

I write when I cannot or will not speak.

If you’ve only read The Color Purple by Alice Walker once, Celie might seem an odd choice when prompted to recall a character who embodies strength, inspiration, wisdom, and independence. For so much of the novel, Celie is a victim with hardly any agency at all. But if you think about black women and how often our trauma, emotions (especially our anger), and experiences are trivialized, it will start to make sense.

Throughout this novel, Celie’s often silent, and I mean that in the literal and metaphorical sense – the book is epistolary explicitly because she’s surrounded by so much abuse, and her abusers demand that she not speak of their violence. But over the course of the novel Celie’s silence moves from a command she follows that demonstrates her resignation to a kind of retaliation; a kind of revenge.

The book starts with the line, “You better not never tell nobody but God,” and this is both a threat of what will happen if she speaks up and a foreshadowing of what follows. For the next hundred pages, Celie writes dozens of letters to God staying ‘silent’ as she’s been told to remain, but telling her story nonetheless – through writing.

Later on her letters are addressed to her sister Nettie, and as she begins to tell her story ‘out loud’, her silence becomes something she uses to her advantage. She punishes the people around her with her quietness – she makes them afraid of what she’s thinking and of what she might do next.

There are lots of ‘quiet’ women in literature, but Celie was the first female character I ever read who used silence as power – who actively chose not to speak when she was most overcome with emotion and who processed her thoughts on paper.

I find immense inspiration in her restraint; in her ability again and again to think before she speaks. Celie is black and queer and experiences at times unrelenting brutality and heartbreak. But what is so inspiring about her is that over the course of the novel she reclaims not only her voice, but also her dignity. She demands apologies from her abusers and gains respect from her lovers; she sets up healthy boundaries and remakes her whole life with a family of her choosing.

She harnesses her anger, her trauma, and her voice in a way I one day hope to. Finding strength in her vulnerability, in her forgiveness, and in her resilience is what makes her an inspiration for me in a world where I am so often angry, and when I so often find myself at a loss for words.

Title The Beauty That Remains
Author Ashley Woodfolk
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date March 6th 2018 by Delacorte Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Told from three diverse points of view, this story of life and love after loss is one Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, calls a “stunning, heart-wrenching look at grief that will stay with you long after you put it down.”

We’ve lost everything…and found ourselves.

Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death might pull them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was: a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan has always turned to writing love songs when his real love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan is a guy who can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger who’s struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Laura Pohl

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Laura Pohl

Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature. She is the author of The Last 8 (Sourcebooks, 2019). When not writing, she likes reading science fiction and fantasy, and enjoys deep discussions about conspiracy theories and alien life.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookTumblrGoodreads

I was born a girl who loved monsters.

It’s an odd thing, to love a monster. They are cruel, terrible things which have no reason and no regret, but I loved them all the same. When reading stories, I liked the monsters best. They were the opposite of heroes — flawed and broken and afraid, and for me, it was easy to understand why they were the way they were.

I grew up reading stories about men who were flawed.

They were allowed to make mistakes, to fail and rise yet again. When they were heroes, they triumphed. When they were villains, they had another chance. They were allowed to navigate a grey world that I never got to see. And more often than not, they defeated the monsters.

When I got older, I understood why I loved the monsters.

Monsters are inadequate. They are not like heroes and villains, they were something else. They do not get classified, they do not fit, they do not belong. Monsters are fear and madness, they are horror all in itself. They don’t always have teeth and claws, but they will always be feared. They take what is not given to them, and they do not apologize for it.

When I looked in the mirror, I used to see a monster.

Monsters are opposite to perfection. They’re warnings of what you should never become. The world taught me that being a woman was being kind and loving and comprehensive. It meant understanding and it meant forgiving. The women I saw in the pages were not like the heroes — they were perfect, living in a world of black and white.

I was not like the women in my pages.

The first time I read about Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, I was expecting to see the other women. There was nothing wrong with them, but they were not my reflections. They were not my mirrors. They were something other, a perfection that wasn’t attainable. A pedestal only achieved through hard penance which I do not possess. I cannot be counted among their numbers because I could not be like them. I am not perfect.

Amy Dunne was a monster.

She was petty, and bitter, and vengeful. She was intelligent and smart and ambitious. She didn’t back down from what she wanted, and she was never afraid. She was wrong, yes, but she was also right, and you could admire her but also fear her. Amy paid her dues, and she got what she came for. She was what every other woman in the pages was not, and she was not reprimanded for it. She was what she was. An unapologetic monster.

Amy reminded me of why I loved monsters.

They were not perfect, and they were not right. They were only what nature made them — a force to be reckoned with. Amy was flawed and strong and weak, she was something I’d never seen before. She was tired of everyone imposing on what she should become. Amy saw the women in the pages and she refused them. She reminded me that women could be terrible and that they could be monsters. And if they could be monsters, they could be anything at all. Just like my heroes. Just like my villains.

Amy Dunne is a monster, a hero, a mirror. A woman.

I feared her for what she meant for me. Reflecting yourself in a monster means that you become monstrous. But Amy allowed me to learn — what we fear is a part of who we are. Amy let me know that there is something great about monsters, and that they do not need to fit inside the cages designed for them. Amy saw the cages, and she refused to fit in them. She taught me that flawed means human, and that is fine. She gave me freedom to be the worst version of myself, only so that I could achieve the best. Women are not limited to only a few emotions. We are forces of nature, too.

I’m not afraid of monsters because they freed me.

I have learned to look at them and see the flaws and love them for it. I can see their difference and otherness, and I embrace it. I began loving them again, not as something to be vanquished by heroes, but as a part of myself. That it wasn’t always about good or bad, and that I too, was allowed in a world full of grey that often demanded my teeth and my claws, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to use them. The monsters did not care what others had to say. They simply were.

Amy taught me about being a monster so I would be a woman, and I love her for it.

Title The Last 8
Author Laura Pohl
Pages 384 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Science Fiction
Publication Date March 5th, 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack, perfect for fans of The 5th Wave.

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors — and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Laura E. Weymouth

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Laura E. Weymouth

Laura Weymouth is a Canadian writer currently exiled to the strange and foreign wilds of Western New York. When not reading or writing, you can find her tending things that grow – kids, cats, poultry, plants, and ideas. The Light Between Worlds is her debut novel and will be followed by a second, untitled project in 2019.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

All my life, I’ve been haunted by a sense of rootlessness. For two centuries my family has moved from place to place. I’m the sixth consecutive generation of immigrants, and maybe there are more — I lost track of us back in Europe, somewhere around Switzerland and Germany and the Netherlands, so who knows?

My mother’s side of the family, especially, left me with a peculiar legacy. My great-grandparents fled Russia — where their predecessors moved after being offered farmland and religious protection by Catherine the Great — in the wake of the Russian civil war. I grew up hearing stories of what had happened to our people, the Mennonites, during that time. Stories of abductions, of forced marches, of murders, of villages burning and people vanishing, taken off to Siberian work camps where they would never be seen again. I heard, too, stories of poverty after arriving in Canada, of my great-grandmother’s non-consensual sterilization, of how she never recovered from that surgery, eventually dying from it when she wasn’t much older than I am now. And I heard how, when she was unable to look after her children or afford outside help, she’d leave the care of her three year old son to my five year old grandmother day after day.

“I watched Waldemar walk through the gate,” Oma Bergmann would tell us, in the same cheerful, matter of fact voice she used for every story. “I remember waving goodbye, because he wanted to go away to play. The next day they found him, lying drowned in a ditch a few miles from home.”

So many stories, all of them fit to break your heart, but they taught me two things: that the world is unkind to the rootless, and that when people suffer, it is my duty to bear witness, and not to look away.

I honestly never knew I was hungry for a book that reflected my family history until the day I finally read one. I remember devouring it and immediately starting over again. Finnikin of the Rock is the story of a people exiled from their country by a curse — a rootless people, to whom the world is often bitterly cruel. And the central characters of the story, including Finnikin himself and a young novice named Evanjalin, bear unflinching witness to their people’s suffering.

“Do not cry,” she said fiercely, but her own tears flowed. “Do not cry, Finnikin. For if we begin, our tears will never end.”
He held her face in his hands, her tears catching in his fingers, his forehead against hers. Cursed land, Sir Topher had said. Cursed people.

I read, in the pages of that book, about fever camps. About riverside settlements. About forced marches. About massacres. And it wasn’t a shock, but a relief. I know these stories, I could feel my heart saying. They’re bound up in my blood and bones, and they’ve been poured into my ears. I see them in this world, everywhere I look. We are still unkind to the rootless.

It wasn’t just the story of Finnikin of the Rock, but the character of Evanjalin herself who proved a revelation to me. Throughout her journeying, bent on securing a home for her people, Evanjalin never forgets the past. She bears witness. She remembers.

“Have you forgotten your childhood in Lumatere?” Finnikin asked quietly when the guide signaled they were close to the fort.
“No,” she said. “I remember every single moment and will until the day I die.”

At the same time, Evanjalin never allows her remembering to distract her from the task she’s set for herself—making a home for others. Bringing them to a safe haven.

“You list the dead. You tell the stories of the past. You write about the catastrophes and the massacres. What about the living, Finnikin? Who honors them?”

Everything Evanjalin does is fueled by a burning desire to bring her people together and find safe harbor for them. To get them back to the Lumatere they left, not because it will feel like the home life robbed them of, but because it’s the best chance they have at starting over. To build a new home, from the ground up. To grow new roots where the old ones were cut off.

Evanjalin’s own home is lost, but she carries on bravely into the future, leading her people. And by the time I finished her story, she’d taught me a third lesson. I already knew that the world was unkind to the rootless. I already knew that it is our duty to bear witness to suffering.

What I learned from Evanjalin is that our roots don’t have to go into the ground. Home doesn’t have to be the product of a place.

But Evanjalin’s first priority was the survival of the people. Because the people were Lumatere.

I no longer feel rootless, thanks to Evanjalin, because she taught me to put down roots of a different sort. They don’t lie in the ground outside of Buffalo, or on the Canadian prairies. They don’t lie in Russia, or Brazil, or Switzerland, or Germany, or all the many places we’ve been.

They lie in my memory, stretching back, twining around my grandparents who are always with me in spirit, and the great-grandparents I never knew but whose stories I heard so often. They lie between me and my parents, my sisters, my many cousins. They’ve grown out to enfold beloved friends — brilliant, wonderful people who are found family in the truest sense of the word.

The greatest taproots of all bind me to my children. Someday, I will sit them down and tell them our stories.

This is where we are. This is where we’ve been. Don’t sink your roots into the soil, but into the people who’ve gone before, who walk beside you, who will come after you’re gone.
Then, wherever you go, you will know who you are. You will know who we were. And you’ll never be far from home.

Title The Light Between Worlds
Author Laura E. Weymouth
Pages 351 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Historical Fantasy
To Be Published October 23rd 2018 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters ● ● The Book Depository

Six years ago, sisters Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.

Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, and Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Rory Power

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Rory Power

Rory Power grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and her debut novel, Wilder Girls, will be published by Delacorte in 2019.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterTumblrGoodreads

For you to understand, I think I have to explain who I was in the summer of 2014. Which is to say, I think I have to explain how much I wanted, at that time, to die. I don’t mean to make you worry. I didn’t die, after all. But I graduated college and I moved to New York that summer and I think if you’d asked me where I was I wouldn’t have quite been able to remember.

It wasn’t new – that hollowness, that fog. I’d had it sliced up and labeled. This part OCD, this part anxiety, this part depression. And I had medicine on my nightstand, and appointments in my calendar. It didn’t matter. I was sleeping every second I wasn’t at work and crying every second I was. There was garbage in my fridge and mascara smudged in my hairline. Again, I don’t mean to make you worry. Just to make you understand. Because that’s where I was when I read Megan Abbott’s Dare Me. That’s where I was when I met Beth.

Nihilistic cheerleaders, is how it was pitched to me. I don’t think I’d read a book in months – I don’t know why that pitch broke the dam. But I left my apartment, and I walked crosstown to a little bookstore in a neighborhood I used to live in, and I bought it. The man behind the counter said it was a good choice. I said, “You, too,” and was embarrassed the whole way home.

Beth is not the main character of Dare Me. We never see inside her head. We never get her point of view. We only see her through Addie, her best friend, and if you believe Addie, Beth is the villain. The mean girl. The cheer captain so bitter over her lieutenant’s success that she starts to tear it apart. Beth is all of these things. I love her for all of these things.

But the most important thing about Beth – the thing that made me want to claw her out of the book with my bitten-down nails – is that she wants. Beth wants power, and Beth wants Addie, and I think most of all, Beth wants to know that the things that hurt her are real.

There’s a moment she keeps thinking about, a moment that picks at her, beats in her like a heart. But Addie doesn’t remember it. Addie won’t talk about it. And Beth spends the whole book looking for the right sore spot to press, the right angle to work – anything to prove it actually happened. Because it’s hurting her all the same, and she’s waiting for someone to notice.

Maybe you know what that’s like. I do. I spent the first twenty years of my life built around a hollow core, around a collection of moments nobody else wanted to acknowledge. And I decided it was fine and I decided that I never needed to talk about it and that hollow core grew, and grew, until it was most of me, and then Beth.


Beth, on the page, snarling and sweet. Beth, resentful and bruised. Beth, begging Addie to remember. Oh, I said. That’s me.

At the end of the book, Beth does something I won’t describe. It’s self-destructive. Or it’s selfless. Or it’s vengeful. You could argue that she gives up. You could argue that she breaks her own heart. But you couldn’t call her a heroine. You couldn’t call her a role model. Dare Me is a game and Beth’s not the winner.

She’s something better, or better for me that day as I read, crumpled in the hallway of my apartment because it was the only place left that was clean. Beth is a kind of mirror. She’s the reflection you catch in a store window; she’s the shadow you cast in a dark room. She’s you in pieces, in bits, in strange shapes you don’t recognize until you get in close.

And it’s not that she saved me. Nobody did. I only kept on, and on, and on, and I think the right thing to say next is: and on, until one day New York seemed so far behind me that maybe I’d never been there at all. But of course it isn’t like that. Some days there is still garbage in my fridge and still mascara smudged in my hairline. Some days I am still there.

No, Beth didn’t save me, but that day in the hallway of my apartment, she shook me awake. She got up off the floor and waited for me to stand on my own. Here I am, she said. Here you are, too.

Title Wilder Girls
Author Rory Power
Pages N/A
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Mystery
To Be Published 2019 by Delacorte Press
Find It On Goodreads

A feminist Lord of the Flies meets The Girl With All The Gifts. The story of three best friends living in quarantine in their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears.

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with R. M. Romero

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About R. M. Romero

R. M. Romero is a biracial Jewish author of fairy tales and children’s fiction. While afflicted with wanderlust, she currently lives in Miami Beach with her witchy black cat. Her debut novel, The Dollmake of Kraków, was named a 2018 Sydney Taylor Notable Book, won the Silver Medal for Older Children’s Literature in the Florida Book Award, and has been nominated for the Flemish Children’s and Youth Prize. She is represented by Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

As a child, I wanted to become a marine biologist, studying the sea and all the creatures in it. The walls of my bedroom were covered with posters of whales and dolphins. My cousins and I would collect seashells along Wildwood Crest during the summers. When I visited my Cuban grandmother in Miami Beach, I tried sending letters to the mermaids I believed lived just offshore. (They never answered. Mermaids are apparently terrible correspondents.)

Unfortunately, I spent my childhood landlocked in Colorado and being near the ocean was an annual rather than daily occurrence.

So when my third grade teacher started reading The Merlin Effect by T.A. Barron to my class, I was eager to return to the sea — if only in my imagination — by losing myself in the story.

The book follows Kate Gordon, a teenage girl whose father is working with a group of scientists along the coast of Baja, California. But her father isn’t there to study grey whales and nearly extinct fish like the others. He is searching for the Horn of Merlin, a powerful object that belonged to the great magician himself and went down with a Spanish galleon in the 16th century. But it is Kate who encounters the Horn…and Merlin himself. Beneath the waves, she meets merfolk and seadmons, she saves the magician, gives hope to a lost pod of whales, and helps defeat the wicked sorceress Nimue with cleverness and compassion.

In a story whose central tragedies come from the warring egos of powerful people, Kate’s quiet strength made a deep impression on me. She felt real, both ordinary and extraordinary all at once. She found magic inside of her rather trying to seek it out elsewhere. She made mistakes and had moments of weakness that she had to fight to overcome. Most of all, she was driven by kindness and her desire to do right rather than be right.

The Merlin Effect was the first time I saw a space for myself inside of myths and fairy tales. I had always loved those kinds of stories; they offered an enchanting and hopeful world in which children would be always find thier way out of the dark woods and King Arthur would return from Avalon when all seemed lost. But all the characters who even remotely resembled me were rarely at the heart of such tales. It wasn’t until Kate that realized that even if girls and women were sidelined or absent in the original versions, they could emerge from the margins and enter the story to become heroines. I could make them heroines with a wave of my pen. And that was the best and truest magic of all.

I never did have a career as a marine biologist. But I do live by the sea and write stories about girls like Kate.

Title The Dollmake of Kraków
Author R. M. Romero
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date September 12th 2017 by Delacorte Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.