Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Gwen C. Katz

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 Gwen C. Katz

Gwen C. Katz is a writer, artist, game designer, and retired mad scientist easily identified by her crew cut and ability to cause trouble. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Altadena, CA with her husband and a revolving door of transient mammals. She is represented by Thao Le of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Among The Red Stars is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

For a pint-sized youngest child who never thought she was being taken seriously and felt like she couldn’t grow up fast enough, I don’t need to explain the appeal of a character who leapt fully grown out of her father’s forehead with a war cry, wearing full armor and brandishing a sword.

Athena is one of the twelve Olympians, and even as a small child I noticed that, while so many of my books were dominated by male characters, there were an equal number of Olympian gods and goddesses. The goddesses had breadth, too. There was the mourning mother, the wild huntress, the goddess of love. Most of them didn’t have consorts, and those that did were still independent characters and were not mere extensions of their spouses. The only thing they had in common was that you did not cross them — not unless you wanted to be turned into a stag or a spider. No wonder I liked the stories of the gods better than the heroic myths, where men were the heroes and women only appeared as seductresses or as damsels chained to rocks.

True, most of the goddesses fall into one female archetype or another, from the vengeful wife to the virginal maiden. Except, of course, Athena. Male classicists tend to treat her as a sort of de facto man due to her lack of traditional feminine characteristics. Nonsense, I say. Maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe men appropriated an archetype that rightfully belonged to Athena and women like her.

Plus she’s awesome. She makes bold use of a helmet as a fashion statement. She wears a gorgon’s head on her breastplate, and if you don’t think that’s badass I don’t know what to tell you. The male gods wreaked plenty of havoc, but Athena was the best strategist and the one you actually wanted on your side during a war, and when she went head to head with other gods, she won.

She wasn’t just a martial goddess, either. Her level-headed wisdom and inventiveness showed up even more in peacetime. While the other gods showed off, Athena was always assisting heroes on quests, giving fair judgments, and inventing things to help humanity. Poseidon gave Athens a useless salt spring; Athena planted an olive tree. In another version of the story, Poseidon created the horse — also useless until Athena invented the bridle. The plow, the chariot, the ship — there was hardly an invention that the Greeks didn’t credit to Athena. Meanwhile, my history classes were busy deifying the various men who, we were taught, built American civilization.

Gray-eyed Athena (Glaukopis). Another translation is “Owl-faced Athena,” an echo of a forgotten time when our gods were much less like us — and when female deities were venerated far above men for their wisdom and power. By classical times, the owl had become her companion animal, making her resemble a Harry Potter character, but make no mistake: Athena isn’t Hogwarts-esque, Hogwarts is Athena-esque, a place where wise, not-quite-human teachers give their protégés transformative skills. Athena is a fitting mascot for many women’s schools, including my own alma mater, Scripps College, as well as the Women’s Army Corps.

How curious that the biggest city in hypermasculine Greece had a woman as its patron goddess, and that they attributed all the highest ideals of Greek masculinity — wisdom, composure, prowess in battle — to her. Maybe they remembered something. Maybe, on some level, they knew that men weren’t the real builders of civilization.

Of course, I wasn’t wondering about that as I pored over D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths as a child. I was just wishing I could be the mighty woman who was never doubted and never had to prove herself to the men, who didn’t just succeed in male fields but claimed them as her own and refuted the idea that they ever belonged to men in the first place.

Or, barring that, at least I wanted a breastplate that could turn people into stone.

Title Among The Red Stars
Author Gwen C. Katz
Pages 384 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Historical Fiction
To Be Published October 3rd, 2017 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A suspenseful historical YA debut inspired by the true story of an all-female bomber unit in Russia during World War II.

World War II has erupted in Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She’s a pilot — and a good one — so she eagerly joins an all-female bomber regiment.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German targets is something else entirely. The raids are dangerous, but as Valka watches her fellow pilots putting everything on the line in the face of treachery, she learns the true meaning of bravery.

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