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-nine 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 Jenn Bishop
Jenn Bishop grew up in a small town in rural Central Massachusetts. A lifelong reader, she was formerly a youth services and teen librarian. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she studied English, and Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Along with her husband and cat, Jenn lives just outside of Boston, where she roots for the Red Sox.
I remember the first time I met her. On that low shelf in the N’s at the Joshua Hyde Library there were at least a half-dozen books about a girl named Alice. That’s sort of an old lady name, I remember thinking, but if there are this many books about her, they must be good.
When I took that first book home and spent the next few days with Alice McKinley, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d still be keeping up with her nearly twenty years later.
Maybe you don’t know Alice McKinley. If you said so, I wouldn’t be surprised. That’s the thing about Alice, really, and she’d even say it about herself. She wasn’t the most beautiful — that was her friend Elizabeth. And she wasn’t the most outgoing and spunky — that was Pamela. Alice totally owned the fact that she ordinary. She was a decent student, but never amazing, never the best. She had plenty of friends, and people liked her, but she wasn’t the queen bee of her school.
There were so many books I read where the character was either a jaded loner or the cool kid, but what I loved about Alice — what made Alice so real to me — was that she was neither. She was like me. Like so many of the girls I knew, she fell somewhere in the middle. She was the girl who ended up in the men’s dressing room trying on Levi’s because her widowed father didn’t know better. She was the one who tripped down the stairs at school and wet her pants — which was both more horrifying than anything I’d ever feared happening to me, and also a relief, because somehow it didn’t end Alice’s life.
In the early nineties, I read all of the Alice books in the library’s children’s room, but as I moved into the teen room upstairs and off to college, I admittedly forgot about Alice. Somehow, though, the summer after my freshman year of college, I found myself escaping the heat of the sweltering Wyoming summer and venturing into the air-conditioned Campbell County Public Library. Like Penny Lane in a record store, I visited my old friends in the library. Maybe it was being so far away from home for the summer. Or maybe it was being burnt out from the challenging reading freshman year at University of Chicago. But that summer, I reconnected with my old friend Alice, catching up on all the titles I’d missed.
From that point forward, I kept up with the books as they released, usually once a year, until the series ended in 2013 with Now I’ll Tell You Everything, the rare YA that follows its protagonist all the way into old age. For once, Alice zoomed far ahead of me in life experience.
Over the course of more than two dozen books, I experienced all of the ups and downs alongside Alice. The awkwardness of middle school. The heartbreak of high school. What was most heartening to me, which seems almost funny to admit now, was that despite her ordinariness, Alice found love. It was important, maybe even essential for me, a total perfectionist of a kid, to see that being ordinary wasn’t the end of the world.
The truth is, I love Alice for her ordinariness, and how okay she is with it. Actually, how she embraces it. As a girl and as a woman, it is so easy to feel that you are never enough. Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not hardworking enough, not doing it all perfectly enough. Alice eschewed that false framework. She accepted herself, flaws and all, as a sixth grader, a high-schooler, a college student, and even as an adult. Sixth-grade-me needed to see that, and adult-me, well, sometimes she needs the reminder, too.
Title The Distance To Home
Author Jenn Bishop
Pages 240 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published June 28th 2016 by Random House / Knopf Children’s
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They were headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.
This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?