Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Lilliam Rivera

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 Lilliam Rivera

Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of The Education Of Margot Sanchez, a contemporary young adult novel available now from Simon & Schuster. Recently named a “2017 Face to Watch” by the Los Angeles Times, Lilliam lives in Los Angeles where she’s completing her second novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

As I sit to write this, our current administration made the decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement while also submitting an appeal to the Supreme Court to reinstate the travel ban. It is another destructive moment in what has been 135 days of constant horrifying news.

It was back in 1994 when Dominican author Julia Alvarez published her novel In The Time Of The Butterflies. The award-winning book was a fictionalized account of the infamous Mirabal sisters who were brutally beaten to death in 1960 by the Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. In an interview for the Writer Magazine, Alvarez stated that it was the lack of finding books about the young Dominican sisters that drove her to write her own. “I saw that they had a lot of books about the Holocaust and about slavery, but not that much about kids growing up in a dictatorship up and down the Americas, which was the phenomenon of the last century in many of our countries,” Alvarez said. Here was the author who, when she couldn’t find a book for young readers, decided to write one herself.

In her fictionalized account, Alvarez crafted fully realized characters that have flaws, fall in love, are passionate, and in the face of an unjust government stand up. There is Patria Mirabal, the oldest and most religious. Minerva was the most radical of the sisters and the first join the movement. Maria Teresa was the youngest and was once quoted as saying, “We shall continue to fight for that which is just.” And then there was Dedé who didn’t join the movement but ended up being their most important advocate in keeping their legacy alive.

When I first read In The Time Of The Butterflies, I had just started my career in journalism as an editor for Latina magazine. The novel so deeply resonated with me in that I can see myself in the words. I imagined what life must have been like in such an oppressive island and thought of how I would have reacted. The best books are the ones in which you can easily slip in to the shoes of the character. I tried to imagine which of the sisters I would most likely be. The bold Minerva, the spiritual Patria, or the sister that decided not to join the movement but would eventually be the important historian. Each of the sisters had their own dreams and passions, cut much too short by a terrified but powerful man.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty-three years since the author published the book. What is also hard to believe is how the United States is on course to follow in Trujillo’s footsteps with an administration that would no doubt love to overturn this fragile democracy.

Fiction has the power to move generations to connect the dots. When you read the story of the Mirabal sisters you cannot help but be moved. How do we react in the face of a cruel administration that craves absolute power? I look at the Mirabal sisters, as depicted by Julia Alvarez, as an empowering reminder that you don’t have to have millions of dollars to be able to make a difference. Your voice can be enough to topple weak men.

Title The Education Of Margot Sanchez
Author Lilliam Rivera
Pages 296 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published February 21st, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Pretty In Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted — from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises — the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood — keep her from her goal.

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