Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Julie C. Dao

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 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 Julie C. Dao

Julie Dao is a proud Vietnamese American who was born in Upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. She is the author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Song of the Crimson Flower. Julie lives in New England.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

As a voracious reader growing up, I encountered dozens upon dozens of brilliant literary heroines. But as a voracious Asian-American reader, I can count on the fingers of one hand (and maybe not even use up all the fingers!) the Asian literary heroines I found. I always longed to see a great female character who looked like me and who was also plucky like Elizabeth Bennet, determined like Jo March, a big dreamer like Anne Shirley, and full of strength like Jane Eyre.

Finally, as an adult, I found her. Finally, as an adult, I can use both hands to count the number of Asian-American heroines who are everything I want to see in a great story.

Back in 2017, when I was on tour for my debut, a bookseller said to me: “We are undergoing a Renaissance in children’s literature right now.” And I couldn’t agree more. There is so much more work that needs to be done, but the voices we are hearing from, the mythologies we are seeing, and the cultural experiences we are reading were all only just a dream to me years and years ago, as a young reader.

One of the voices I’ve discovered and fallen in love with in recent years is that of Stacey Lee, who has become one of my favorite authors since her debut, Under A Painted Sky, came out. Stacey has a wondrous gift for drawing in the reader and immersing them in the world of her story, and not only is she a brilliant writer, but she centers Asian-American girls as her heroines.

Under A Painted Sky brings us back to Missouri in the mid 1800s, to the treacherous, uncharted, beautiful lands of a still-new country. Sammy is a Chinese-American girl with big dreams who finds herself fleeing for the new frontier after a tragic accident, accompanied by a young runaway slave named Annamae. The girls embark on a great adventure as they navigate the Oregon Trail disguised as boys, and they get swept up in the action and excitement of the California gold rush. I remember being so emotional as I read this book, and in fact, my eyes are tearing up right now as I write this. I just kept thinking of all the young readers who would get to see themselves in Sammy, a girl of immense courage, strength, and integrity, and feeling so happy that they would count her as a literary Asian heroine to look up to.

So the minute Stacey announced that Outrun The Moon, her second novel, was available for pre-order, I was online buying it. I already knew that I would read anything she wrote, and I was not disappointed! This time, we readers get to experience San Francisco in 1906, the year of the infamous earthquake that ripped the city apart and devastated the families who were most vulnerable, including those who were immigrants. Mercy Wong, our heroine, is quick, mouthy, and intelligent, and she’s desperate to break away from the poverty of Chinatown to attend an all-white girls’ private school. When the earthquake hits and she’s separated from her family, Mercy has to use all of her wit and brains to help those suffering. I cheered so hard for this bold, whip-smart, and feisty heroine!

And then there’s The Secret Of A Heart Note, which honestly I think Netflix should have picked up yesterday. It’s a sweet romantic comedy with a different feel than Stacey’s previous books, but I loved it just as much. There’s a touch of magic in this story about a loving, hardworking girl named Mimosa who has a powerful sense of smell that enables her to mix love potions for other people…even though she can never, ever fall in love herself, because doing so would take away her unique gift. It’s funny, hopeful, and achingly romantic, and Mimosa is every inch the bright, worthy heroine that both Sammy and Mercy are.

I’m so happy to have found these wonderful female literary rolemodels, and to know that young readers out there are discovering and seeing themselves in characters like Stacey’s. It’s comforting to realize that today’s literature and emerging voices are giving kids and teens characters who represent the world as it really is, and who show that all experiences are valued and important. I wish I could better convey how much Stacey’s wonderful books and heroines have meant to me, but this post is my best shot! Please check these stories out and give them to a young bookworm in your life – you won’t regret it!

Title Song of the Crimson Flower
Author Julie C. Dao
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Fantasy
Publication Date November 5th 2019 by Philomel Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

One response to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Julie C. Dao”

  1. I love these posts so much, Jen! I am always so inspired after I read them. Thank you for sharing!
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