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 Katherine Locke
Katherine Locke lives and writes in a very small town outside of Philadelphia where they’re ruled by their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. They write about things they cannot do: ballet, time travel, and magic. When they’re not writing, they’re probably tweeting. They not-so-secretly believe most stories are fairy tales in disguise. Their Young Adult debut The Girl With The Red Balloon arrives Fall 2017 from Albert Whitman & Company.
In another world, in a fictional one, I think my name is Alianne of Pirate’s Swoop. I think I go by Aly. And I think I’m in love with Dove, the future queen of the Copper Isles. I mean, whoops, that’s my headcanon.
When Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice came out in 2004, I was already head over heels for everything Pierce wrote. Aly’s mother, Alanna, was my comfort read and my favorite scowling heroine who didn’t look good when she cried (either did I. Queen Thayet would say I was an ugly crier too). But Aly spoke to me at a whole new level. Maybe it was because Pierce’s writing had evolved to reflect more modern feminism. But I think it was deeper than that, a connection that has me returning to Aly’s books even more than her mother’s books these days.
In the first book of Aly’s duology, Trickster’s Choice, Aly’s kidnapped and sold into slavery. And while nothing like that has ever happened to me (thank God), I recognized Aly’s predicament: she, like me, had no escape and thus had to make the best of her circumstances. She was prickly, but resourceful. She wanted to go home, but she couldn’t turn her back on the people and connections she had made in an unlikely place. She wanted to find herself, but not lose herself. And the farther she got from home, the more she relied upon the skills her parents had taught her.
Dr. Jack Zipes, a fairy tale academic, wrote once that a fairy tale is a ‘young protagonist leaving home to reconstitute home’ and in retrospect, every day as a teenager felt like a fairy tale. And not in the Disney way. In the traditional sense. Outside the walls of my parents’ house, I, like Aly, had to fight to define myself under circumstances impressed upon me by external forces. It felt like a battle every day for far too long.
So I drew strength from the heroines in my books. From Aly, her mother Alanna, her mother’s protégé Kel, her mother’s friend Daine. From Aly’s friends, Dove and Sarai, the Twice-Royal sisters whose family bought Aly-the-slave not knowing she’d become Aly-the-spymaster who orchestrated their return to the throne. Aly was full of contradictions, as I felt I was, and she made them work, as I wanted to. She was practical, but understanding. She was wicked, but compassionate. She was clever, but foolish in love. She trusted few, but once given, her trust was deeper than the oceans around the Copper Isles. She broke gender barriers in multiple countries, defied expectations, and fell short of her own ambitions on every page.
I wanted to be like Aly. I wanted to be both feminine and masculine, androgynous in ways that I didn’t think my world would allow, defiant and surprising for those who underestimated me, and competitive with only myself.
And like all Tamora Pierce heroines, Aly became a companion. Someone who told me that no matter where I felt trapped, I could rise above my circumstances. I could make my own way, crooked as that path may be, and I didn’t need to be good and honest and decent all the time. I was forgivable and lovable in all of my faults and all my ambition.
Title The Girl with the Red Balloon
Author Katherine Locke
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Historical Speculative Fiction
To Be Published 2017 by Albert Whitman
Find It On Goodreads
A YA novel about a 16-year-old girl who goes back in time to 1988 East Berlin, and lands in the middle of a Cold War conspiracy of history and magic. The only way to stop people from dying may be to destroy her only way home.