Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Candice Montgomery

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 thirty-three 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 Candice Montgomery

Cam Montgomery is an LA transplant now residing in Seattle. By night, she writes YA lit about Black teens across all their intersections. By day, she teaches ballet to teen boys and works in the land of sobriety and rehab. It is the goal of her stories to interrogate the spaces of race, love, the body, and sexuality, all while being a witness of life. She is represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitter

Once upon a time, there was a little Black girl who grew up hating her skin. Skin wasn’t the only part of herself she hated. She hated her lips, her too-large eyes, and the 4C kink and coil of her thick hair.

Once upon a time, that same Black girl made excuses for why she felt that way. For the people who shot microaggressions at her like shrapnel. For the way her family acted and spoke just a little too loud in public. For the way she was just a little bit broken when it came to being yourself.

Once upon a time, that same Black girl dreamed of being a writer, but knew she would never ever write a character like herself. A Black girl.

Then, she got her hands on a book that would change not only her art, but her world.

That Black girl is me.

That book is Brandy Colbert’s Pointe.

Pointe was a book that I read on a rec from a really good friend (Hi, Dahlia, I love you, Bae!) and I devoured it in the span of maybe a day. That book introduced me to pretty Theo, the main character of the story.

Theo is…a wreck. She’s imperfect and struggling and combative and just really going through so much for the entirety of the story. Every nuance of being stuck and unsure and self-destructive and just…young is presented so honestly in Theo’s story. She struggles so much with wanting to be desired and loved in the way that most of us do experience as teens and, yes, even adults.

Theo is not a perfect person, but I think it’s because she was given the space to be flawed that I fell in love with her and, consequently, myself. She showed me that my flaws didn’t have to be put on display, nor did my “perfection.” Theo showed me I didn’t have to be that. Theo showed me I could be “cracked” and still be deserving of happiness.

I don’t know if I would have appreciated this lesson had it not come from a Black girl written by a Black woman.

One of the keys of this novel for me was the intrinsic Blackness of it. You don’t just get a little of Theo and read her as a ballerina or just a teenage girl or someone with an ED — you are reminded constantly that she is Black. That her family is Black (like when you see her mother presented with her hair wrapped for the night). That there are a lack of Black ballerinas in the world. That no Black kid wants to be the spokesperson for an entire Black community when in a predominantly non-Black institution.

Another key — There’s a lot of brokenness in this story and for Theo. She’s got broken flesh on her toes from her dedication to dancing ballet, which I know all too well; she’s got this horrifically broken self-image and it throws her headlong into a broken relationship with food and disordered eating, which, again, I know all too well; she’s trapped in this unromantic ouroboros which leads her to some pretty awful (but also revelatory) heartbreak. Theo was ME on the page.

I appreciate Brandy so much for letting readers — for letting me — experience this journey with Theo. For letting us feel the confusion and devastation and lack of surety and then finally, a small taste of clarity that is, essentially, just a couple really solid messages:

It’s okay to be a little bit broken.

You’re going to be okay.

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