Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Claribel Ortega

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 Claribel Ortega

Claribel Ortega got her start editing student’s often times hilarious ads and ramblings on the back page of SUNY Purchase’s Independent Newspaper. From there, she became a small town reporter, where she enjoyed going to board of education meetings and texting the town mayors about the line at Starbucks. Today she’s busy turning her obsession with eighties pop culture, magic and video games into books. She lives in New York with her motorcycle-riding poet boyfriend and her suspiciously intelligent Yorkie, Pancho Villa. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. Her debut middle grade novel, Ghost Squad, is coming from Scholastic in 2019.

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Girls have rules for existing without causing trouble. Don’t be too much, or too loud, or too confident. Be sure to smile, but not too hard. If you smile too hard and too brightly it may be taken as an invitation. Wear makeup but only if you can’t tell you have it on at all. Be careful but don’t be uptight, be chaste but not a tease, be one of the guys but don’t best them. So many rules we’re told we have to follow, so many consequences if we don’t. So many consequences, even if we do. So many consequences no matter what we choose. We’re told from the moment we are born that we have to dim our light – that light that guides our path in life and our spirit, for the benefit of men. And for a very long time I did just that.

When I first read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander shocked me. I had never read about a character like her: as vicious and cunning as she was soft. Lisbeth was never what people assumed and always stayed true to her own light, even when it meant going against society’s idea of morality and justice to do it. But with that shock came a realization that I didn’t have to conform to anyone’s idea of what it means to be me. To be a woman. That definition lies in my own heart. It also affirmed that I don’t have to forgive my abusers. That it’s not my responsibility to absolve them of their wrongdoing. In fact, in Lisbeth I found the belief that I was not a bad person for wanting to make them pay.

In the past few months we’ve all watched as powerful men are just beginning to be held accountable for the abuse they’ve perpetuated for years. It’s satisfying to witness but it also hurts to know so many suffered needlessly because men are held to another standard. One where they can be as loud and abrasive and ruthless as they want and are called go-getters instead of bitches. I’m happy to see women protecting one another, to see us coming forward to speak our truth even when it means disruption and backlash.

Lisbeth, for me, was the first manifestation of this movement. She was almost a prediction, really. A ward of the state, deemed unstable, abused from a young age and betrayed by the very men entrusted with her care. Every woman I’ve ever written has a little bit of Lisbeth. I strive to write women who survive in a world dominated by misogyny. And not just survive…but bloom. Women who find clever ways around the system, who bide their time, who use the very assumption of weakness as a weapon to destroy their enemies. A woman with a smile like a knife. 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.

Title Ghost Squad
Author Claribel Ortega
Pages N/A
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Paranormal
Publication Date 2019 by Scholastic
Find It On Goodreads

Coco meets Stranger Things in Claribel Ortega’s middle grade debut, based on Dominican folklore in which 12-year-old girl Lucely Luna must save the ghosts of her lost loved ones, living as fireflies, with the help of her best friend Syd and her witch grandmother Babette, before evil spirits haunting St. Augustine destroy them and the only home she’s ever known.

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