Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 – In Conclusion

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-seven authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

As I sat down to re-read each of the contributions to this year’s Her Story: Ladies In Literature series and create the fourth annual ‘In Conclusion’ post, there was a single word that hummed in my head and beat in time to the rhythm of my heart: Grateful. This year, perhaps more than any other, I am so incredibly grateful for this series, its participants, the beautifully diverse perspective and wisdom the essays within it provide, and the readers who uplift and empower all the women involved with their support and kindness. Even after four years, I’m so grateful there’s enough continued interest in both participation and readership to allow me to continue to host a series that is truly near and dear to my heart and offers glimmers of positivity, optimism and hope when they are otherwise in drastically short supply.

To Claribel, Amanda, Cindy, Nafiza, Hafsah, Tiffany, Blair, Janae, Hanna, Christine, Katie, London, Roselle, Camryn, Elana, Kip, Kerry, Sabina, Emily, R.M., Rory, Laura, Laura, Ashley, Whitney, Brigit and Dana: Thank you. I am inspired by your creativity, thankful for your voices, and humbled by your participation and support. Absolutely none of this would have been possible without you and I will never be able to express the depth of my gratitude for all you’ve done. I strongly encourage readers to pick up the work of these twenty-seven brilliant women. After all, you never know where you just might find your heroine!

Missed an opportunity to read any (or all) of the Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 essays this year? No problem! Below, please find a list of all twenty-seven posts to explore at your leisure. Happy reading!

Claribel Ortega

“Lisbeth took justice into her own hands and although the methods were extreme the message is the same: You will not abuse me, you will not silence me, and if you try? You will not get away with it.”

Read the rest of Claribel’s post here!



Amanda Joy

“I re-read Fire every year. I need the reminder to trust myself and to choose kindness, and the confirmation that black girls are beautiful and much more than that. We can be tender and hurt easily. We can be the center of the story. We can have magic and be magic.”

Read the rest of Amanda’s post here!



Cindy Baldwin

“Even if I, like Vicky, didn’t have all the answers to the big questions my heart was asking — life, and death, and God, and grief, and love — in that moment, I felt as though I could move forward with joy into the unknown landscape of my future, buoyed by the knowledge that I was not alone in the questioning.”

Read the rest of Cindy’s post here!



Nafiza Azad

“It is difficult to find literary heroines when you are never presented with anyone who reflects you. I read Fear Street and Dolly Fiction and countless romance novels because they were the books most easily available but I read them at a remove. The experiences were more voyeuristic than immersive.”

Read the rest of Nafiza’s post here!



Hafsah Faizal

“My literary heroine is rarely the one who fights back. Rarely the one who talks loud and mouths off. The ones I find myself rooting for, fighting for, crying for are the ones who persevere. Who are burdened with responsibilities they never should have borne. Robbed of the freedom to dream, to wish, to paint an unblemished future with whatever they’d like. Who are frowned upon by so many for the mere act of existing. Who carry the weight of so many, yet continue with a weary smile, knowing they’ll likely never receive the same in return. The quiet heroines. The resilient ones. The ones who grit their teeth and steel their feet and carry on.

Because they remind me I can, too.”

Read the rest of Hafsah’s post here!



Tiffany Brownlee

“We only live once, and for a long time, I used to think that that meant life was too precious a gift to risk by stepping out of my comfort zone, and that I should exercise caution with every decision I made when it came to my own; to stop and think before I leap, if you will. (…) I lived inside of a comfortable bubble, where I could control every aspect of my life without running the risk of failure, pain, or discomfort of any kind. That was fine and all, but I knew it wasn’t really living. And then I was introduced to Madeline Whittier in Nicola Yoon’s debut novel, Everything, Everything, and everything changed. “

Read the rest of Tiffany’s post here!



Blair Thornburgh

“When I started writing YA, it wasn’t exactly a surprise when I found I couldn’t write fantasy assassins or steamy romances or unreliable narrators or, honestly, anything involving worldbuilding more complex than an imagining up an ersatz Victorian house. But I could write offbeat girls with friendly, imperfect parents and lives filled with embarrassing incidents, inside jokes, and lots and lots of reading. I hoped that my books would show a young adulthood full of all the embarrassing hilarity (and hilarious embarrassment) of the kind of life that Anastasia and I shared.”

Read the rest of Blair’s post here!



Janae Marks

“What I love about Gladys Gatsby is that she’s too stubborn to let go of her dreams. She’s determined. She knows what she wants, and she’s going to work her butt off to get it. She’s not going to let anyone — not even her parents — stand in her way.”

Read the rest of Janae’s post here!



Hanna Alkaf

“Here I am, in a world where books like Saints and Misfits and Starfish and The Hate U Give and Children of Blood and Bone and so many more exist and thrive, in a world where kids get to see themselves, ALL of themselves, reflected in the books they read, in a world where I get to be one of the people creating those mirrors, solid and whole and perfect, for someone just like me. And I have Petrova Fossil to thank for that.”

Read the rest of Hanna’s post here!



Christine Lynn Herman

“It’s been sixteen years since I first met Addie, and I carry her story with me every day. I have words for my fear now, words like anxiety and depression, and I talk about them instead of keeping them inside – with medical professionals and friends alike. I have learned that I cannot control the world; that I will drive myself to dark places if I try. That I am stronger and braver than I thought I was.”

Read the rest of Christine’s post here!



Katie Henry

“Like Birdy, I couldn’t be anyone but myself. Like Birdy, I was born into an imperfect world. And though I sometimes fantasized about starting a one-girl/many-pets compound in the woods, I eventually realized that the hermit life wasn’t for me. Birdy helped me see that it was possible to live in an often unfair, confining world without making yourself smaller to fit it.”

Read the rest of Katie’s post here!



London Shah

“I loved Matilda then, and love her still. I connected with her and her situation unlike any other literary character or story I’d previously discovered. Here was someone who did manage to stand up for herself, who pointed out when things were unfair — all without breaking those bloody rules!”

Read the rest of London’s post here!



Roselle Lim

“This is a woman who knew what she wanted and who wasn’t afraid to go for it. Raised by an abusive aunt, she gains her freedom and travels to the imperial capital. Xifeng, at every turn, rejects the snares of others who say her destiny is not her own to make.”

Read the rest of Roselle’s post here!



Camryn Garrett

“Cameron felt like she was made just for me. She wanted to kiss girls, so she did it. She refused to be held down or molded into someone she wasn’t. And she attracted friends because of it, friends who knew who she was and loved her for it. I still didn’t think I was gay when I finished the book. But there was something quiet, secret, planted in me. I felt that I could be myself if Cameron could. I could be as strong as her. I could, I could, I could. After all, we have the same name.”

Read the rest of Camryn’s post here!



Elana K. Arnold

“I sat down to write about Miss Marple and why she is meaningful to me, and I ended up writing about my Nana. This is because they are indivisible for me. I cannot unthread one from the other. One is a fictional British spinster with an uncanny knack for solving murders; the other was a survivor, an immigrant, a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, a linguist, a storyteller, and a best friend.”

Read the rest of Elana’s post here!



Kip Wilson

“What matters to Liesel isn’t simply the books she steals or the words in them. What matters is the power of sharing them with those she’s come to love, because stories — even terribly tragic ones — create a sense of home, a sense of hope. For me, as a writer of tragic stories, clinging to this glimmer of hope changed my life.”

Read the rest of Kip’s post here!



Kerry Winfrey

“Maybe Princess Mia and I are never going invent that robotic surgical arm, but that doesn’t mean that what we’re doing isn’t useful. My writing motto, the mantra I repeat when things get tough or I start to feel like what I’m writing isn’t “serious” enough, is “remember the people in the waiting rooms.” I have Princess Mia and Meg Cabot to thank for that.”

Read the rest of Kerry’s post here!



Sabina Khan

“Despite a happy childhood, not seeing myself at all in anything I read magnified the doubts and insecurities that come with adolescence. While I loved reading about Jo March and Jane Eyre for school, as well as characters in the romance novels I devoured as a teen, I could never relate to them. I can’t be sure when exactly during my childhood this happened but at some point, I internalized the notion that I didn’t matter, that my experiences were not important.”

Read the rest of Sabina’s post here!



Emily A. Duncan

“Meeting Alina was like reading about a character that I’ve known my whole life. It was a confirmation that maybe, maybe my weird little books about girls with questionable morals and ambitious boys with no morals at all might be wanted. That maybe, maybe, there was space for girls with sharp edges who just want to take a nap.”

Read the rest of Emily’s post here!



R. M. Romero

“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.”

Read the rest of R. M.’s post here!



Rory Power

“You couldn’t call Beth a heroine. You couldn’t call her a role model. (…)

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.”

Read the rest of Rory’s post here!



Laura Weymouth

“I no longer feel rootless, thanks to Evanjalin, because she taught me to put down roots of a different sort. (…)

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.”

Read the rest of Laura’s post here!



Laura Pohl

“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.”

Read the rest of Laura’s post here!



Ashley Woodfolk

“Celie 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.”

Read the rest of Ashley’s post here!



Whitney Gardner

Read the rest of Whitney’s post here!



Brigit Young

“Melinda was the first character in literature that, for my generation and for that experience, spoke. And not just in her triumphant moments in the book in which she literally speaks out. No, her very existence speaks for untold numbers of young women – of children – who walk this earth with the wounds of abuse.

Melinda herself is a voice, and I heard her exactly when I needed to.”

Read the rest of Brigit’s post here!



Dana L. Davis

“Like Alice Walker’s Celie, I will not be defined by “good” hair and light skin, but by a perseverance that will see me through life’s trials and tribulations.

I am a strong, courageous and resilient dark-skinned woman. And I am beautiful.”

Read the rest of Dana’s post here!

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