Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Catherine Lo

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 Catherine Lo

Catherine Lo writes contemporary young adult fiction. Her debut novel, How It Ends, is now available, and was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Catherine lives and works in Ontario, Canada, where she teaches high school.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

I have a few startlingly clear memories of elementary school. Moments that defined me for years to come. One of those memories is from fourth grade Language Arts class.

I don’t remember the story we’d been assigned, but I remember the way I felt when I read it for homework: fired up, excited, smart. I had ideas and I couldn’t wait to share them. I came to school the next day armed with a notebook full of thoughts, and as soon as the teacher started asking questions, I had my hand as far up in the air as I could stretch it. I remember coming right up off the chair in my efforts to be noticed and called upon.

And then it happened.

I heard a groan and a bark of laughter. “What a loser,” a boy whisper-shouted from the back of the classroom. “She never knows when to shut up.”

I can still remember the jolt as I dropped back into my seat. Our teacher stopped to chastise the boy for being unkind and then called on me to share my thoughts, but I shook my head and stayed silent.

I was ashamed. I felt like everyone in the class secretly felt the way that boy did. That they were all rolling their eyes at me and judging me. In an instant, I went from feeling smart to feeling like a nuisance. I was that annoying girl, I thought. And I hadn’t even realized it.

So I stopped raising my hand in class. And I stopped letting my enthusiasm show.

When I think back on that, I’m disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed that I let myself filter my thoughts and feelings through the lens of other people’s eyes. I’m disappointed that I hid all the best and brightest bits of myself all because of the rudeness of a boy whose name I don’t even remember.

It took me many years to get past that fear of being judged and embrace the parts of myself I’d learned to keep hidden – years, and the help of a character named Hermione Granger.

My relationship with Hermione Granger was not always an easy one. When I first encountered her in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I had a visceral reaction to her character. She was a show-off. She was a teacher’s pet. She was all those things I had been, and I wanted to shrink away from her. My old insecurities blazed forward. She was too much, I decided, and I felt embarrassed for her.

But as I read on in the series, a powerful thing happened. That “bossy,” “opinionated,” “teacher’s pet” was actually an intelligent, strong heroine. Even when other people laughed at her, she stayed true to herself. She was unafraid of showing her intelligence and didn’t dumb herself down to make others feel less threatened. She saved the day time and time again with her intellect and perseverance. She was someone worth knowing. Someone worth listening to.

Hermione Granger taught me about courage. She taught me about loyalty and grit and determination. And as I read, I wished I could go back in time and share her with 10-year old me. I wished that I’d had her as a role model to show me how to stay true to myself even in the face of ridicule and judgement.

And though time travel is sadly not possible, I’ve done the next best thing. For her 10th birthday, I bought my daughter, Mackenzie, the complete set of Harry Potter books. Mackenzie is so much like me at that age – excited, passionate, smart and opinionated. And as I send her off to school each day, I hope with all that I am that she will retain those qualities and remain unafraid of being herself.

“I am Hermione,” Mackenzie tells me. She writes Harry Potter fanfiction and role-plays scenes from the book with her friends. And my heart swells with pride at every turn, because she is Hermione. She’s strong and fearless, and she will not be silenced.

Title How It Ends
Author Catherine Lo
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published June 7th, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

There are two sides to every story.

It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs…until suddenly they’re not. Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is the story of a friendship from first meeting to breakup, set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys, and backstabbing.

Catherine Lo makes her debut with an honest, nuanced tale about the intricacies of female friendship.

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