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.

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