Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Lily Anderson

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 Lily Anderson

Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

A brash girl. A tactless girl. A girl who is fumbling and mean spirited. A girl too clumsy to play coquettish. A girl who is hiding herself from the world. A girl who wonders what it would be like to have her softness seen instead of being presumed to be hard as nails.

This probably sounds familiar if you’ve read either of my novels. Try as I might, I can’t quite pull the teen me out of my book characters. They always end up a little coarse, a little snappish.

I was an angry teenager, the kind of person who got called “jaded” a lot. If you’d asked what I was rebelling against, I would have unironically asked, “What do you got?” while I chainsmoked long white cigarettes.

And while I saw girls like me on film (Veronica Sawyer in Heathers, Janis in Mean Girls, Fairuza Balk and Rose McGowan in anything), the books I read were generally about nicer, better adjusted people. Until I overheard my best friends talking about a book with a blond girl with wings on the cover, Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block.

Dangerous Angels compiles Block’s first five books in the canon of her character Weetzie Bat, a girl in Los Angeles whose wishes are granted by a genie, setting into motion the events that will give her a giant blended family and artist’s colony. Dreamy, spunky Weetzie wasn’t who drew me into Block’s fairy tales. It was the foundling child and star of the second story, Witch Baby.

At the beginning of her eponymous story, Witch Baby doesn’t truly belong anywhere. She refers to Weetzie and her husband My Secret Agent Lover Man (yes really) and uncles Duck and Dirk as her “almost family.” Because she was found on the doorstep as an infant, she is forever comparing herself to the patron saint of cultural appropriation/Weetzie’s biological child, Cherokee Bat. She chastises herself for feeling too much, repeating “witch babies don’t cry,” even though she’s the only one of her kind.

Even as a child (Block never tells us exactly how old anyone is), Witch Baby is too angry, too sad, and takes up too much space. She roller skates instead of walking. She cuts out articles about how ugly and sad the world is and papers the walls of her room in them. She takes pictures instead of participating. She bangs her drum set, finding solace in the noise. She swears at people who get too close (well, sort of, stop trying to make “clutch” happen, FLB).

While adult me is less of a raging black sheep, I remember the visceral feeling of reading Witch Baby for the first time and seeing myself reflected back. Never before had I read a book that so succinctly captured the smothering anger of being young and not believing you could truly belong with your family. Witch Baby runs away a lot in her book — following her uncles and family friends and even tracking down her own listless biological mother — and finds that she doesn’t fit perfectly anywhere. She fits imperfectly everywhere and so does everyone else. And there’s a comfort in that.

Witch Baby recurs throughout most of the Dangerous Angels stories (except for the first and last which take place before her birth). She grows from a snarling child to a thorny teen. She lets herself make new friends, fall in love, be vulnerable. She finds her softness and, despite her younger self’s admonishments, she learns to cry. She lets people call her by her birth name.

They call her Lily.

Title Not Now, Not Ever
Author Lily Anderson
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published November 21st, 2017 by Wednesday Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer.

1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mom’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her determination, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

This summer’s going to be great.

One response to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Lily Anderson”

  1. I loved The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You and I cannot wait to read the follow up!

    I totally understand not having enough angry teens in fiction. I was an angry teen too. With what my family struggled through, if that couldn’t be on the page then at LEAST I wanted someone as discontented and “moody” and, as teen-me would’ve said, “real”.

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