Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Brigit Young

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 Brigit Young

Brigit Young was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she got through many a cold winter by reading all the books on her house’s shelves. Her first story, written at age six, told the tale of a monster who wanted a human friend. It ended on a cliffhanger. In elementary school, her mom introduced her to Shakespeare, and she fell down the rabbit hole into the addictive land of stories. Since then, she has published poetry and short fiction in dozens of literary journals, and taught creative writing to kids of all ages. Brigit lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. Her debut middle grade novel, Worth A Thousand Words, hits shelves in August.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

In junior year of high school, I handed my teacher a poem about sexual assault, and the next day she handed me Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. It would take me years to understand exactly why.

I took the book. I stared at it. The harsh Michigan winter went by, and I stared some more. I asked a friend what it was about and she told me the big reveal: Melinda Sordino’s classmates despise her for calling the cops during a party, but the secret truth is that she called them out of terror after she’d been date raped by a popular boy at school.

I’m so not reading that, I thought. I knew enough of assault on my own. I didn’t need someone else’s story.

But I put it next to my bed, beside a zebra-print jewelry box and a picture of my best friend and me at age twelve in a kitschy silver frame, and told myself I’d read it that spring.

Over the summer, I grazed over a paragraph here or there, struck by the familiarity of Melinda’s sarcasm and grim outlook, her inner monologue that roasts those around her who try to pull her out of her funk. But when Melinda’s dark night was hinted at, down the book would go, back on the bed stand.

Before I knew it, after a high school experience with some high highs and some very low lows, I grew up. At nineteen, gathering my things to move to New York City, attempting to pack sparsely for a small living space, I found myself grabbing Speak.

I’m older. I’m over it. I should read it, I told myself, placing it inside a box.

The novel sat, untouched and inhaling Jasmine incense on an East Village bookshelf, for another year.

And then one night in New York, as my then-boyfriend sat by the boombox and a stack of CDs, DJing a soundtrack to our young lives, one of my best friends called. I’d known this friend since before memories form, since before our fingers were skilled enough to twine together the clover crowns we eventually bestowed upon one another at recess. This darling friend told me that her boyfriend had raped her. She told me when. She told me how. And I thanked her for telling me. I promised her that I would be there for her. She could talk to me any time. I told her I understood. She said she’d called me because she knew I did.

For months afterward, we texted one another our support. Calling often made it too hard. “Thinking about it…” she’d write. “I know,” I’d say, before offering a nugget of advice for how to deal with and dispel such thoughts.

Shortly thereafter, I picked up Speak. I read it from midnight until dawn and into the morning, a Cheerio or two escaping from my spoon, so enraptured was I with the sorrows and triumphs of Melinda Sordino, of the reflection I saw staring back at me.

Melinda Sordino was whip-smart, sarcastic, furious and creative. She was also living in solitude. And, as I read of her solitude, my own began to crumble.

I had thought that because I’d lived through it, I didn’t need someone else’s story. But I did. I needed my friend’s story. She needed mine. I needed the words of all the stories told to me in women’s bathrooms and greenrooms at shows I was in and over drinks at the bar. I needed Melinda’s. We need each other’s words because each story chips away at our undeserved shame.

And Melinda, bless her, 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.

Title Worth A Thousand Words
Author Brigit Young
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Mystery
Publication Date August 14th 2018 by Roaring Brook Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Whether it’s earrings, homework, or love notes, Tillie “Lost and Found” Green and her camera can find any lost thing ― until a search for a missing person forces her to step out from behind the lens.

Ever since a car accident left Tillie Green with lasting painful injuries, she’s hidden behind her camera. She watches her family and classmates through the lens, tracking down misplaced items and spotting the small details that tell a much bigger story than people usually see. But she isn’t prepared for class clown Jake Hausmann’s request: to find his father.

In a matter of days, Tillie goes from silent observer to one half of a detective duo, searching for clues to the mystery of Jake’s dad’s disappearance. When the truth isn’t what Jake wants it to be, and the photographs start exposing people’s secrets, Tillie has to decide what ― and who ― is truly important to her.

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