Raise Your Voice 2016 with Ashley Herring Blake

Raise Your Voice is a special annual month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader whose purpose is to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in literature, with a particular emphasis on #OwnVoices stories. In it, authors recommend books with sensitive, positive and accurate representation that will help to create a resource of diverse books that marginalized readers can turn to when they need them most. Your voice matters. Raise it! For a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates, click here.

About Ashley Herring Blake

Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and watching Buffy over and over again on Netflix with her friends. Her young adult contemporary novel, Suffer Love, is out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her second book, How To Make A Wish, another contemporary about a bisexual girl in the throes of a toxic relationship with her mother all the while falling in love with another girl, will release in 2017.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramTumblrGoodreads

(You can add Far From You to your Goodreads shelves Here!)

She picked up the book and ran her hands over the cover. It was glossy and black, a string of white lights zigzagging through the darkness. The title was in all caps and bold, a declaration.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe.

Something fluttered in her stomach, a little hive of bees, although she wasn’t exactly sure why. She read dozens of books a year, this one should be no different. In fact, this book was a thriller, a murder mystery, which she enjoyed from time to time, but wasn’t her favorite. Still, she knew the main character in this book, Sophie, identified as bisexual, and every time she thought about it, the bees took flight again.

She was pretty new to the book community, but she’d heard rumblings and the rumblings made her delay reading the book and desperate for the words inside at the same time. In all her years of reading, she’d never even heard of a book with a bisexual main character. Hell, she never knew she would want to read a book with a bisexual main character. But something about that knowledge, that book’s mere existence, sparked something in her gut, her heart, the veins under her skin. She wanted it. What’s more, she knew she needed it.

Finally, she felt ready.

Well, ready wasn’t really the word.

It was more like a need, a pull inside her that she couldn’t name.

The story immediately sucked her in. It was about young girl’s murder, a girl Sophie loved. It was about drug addiction and chronic pain. It was about uncovering truth. It was about a girl named Mina who was scared to fully embrace her identity. It was riveting, beautifully written, and she couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

As she read, desperate for the conclusion, she noticed something. Every time Sophie was with Trev, Mina’s brother, those bees flew a little faster, a little stronger. She loved reading romance, even if it was a difficult, messy romance. Especially those kinds, in fact. She loved kissing scenes and the tension between two characters who clearly had something between them.

But there was another love in this book. A deeper one, one that pulled at that need in her gut. One that felt new, but that was also something she recognized, a long-buried secret she wouldn’t let herself know. But Sophie and Mina dug it all up. The way she felt Sophie’s affection for Trev and Sophie’s ravenous love for Mina was a shovel to her heart. How both relationships and Sophie’s potential to love them both fit into her identity, wrapping around her like her own skin.

It all felt so familiar. So real. So…her.

But she’d never used that word to describe herself before. Bisexual. She never used any word other than straight. It has been creeping on her for a long time, this suspicion that she wasn’t straight, this constant hunger to acknowledge something she’d long ignored. She thought about the girls in her past and present, those she viewed with a little bit of envy, a little bit of awe, a little bit of lust. She thought about how she always figured that’s how every woman saw other women. That’s how we were all wired. But no, she was starting to suspect that wasn’t true.

The bees rose up, tickling her blood and stealing her breath. She kept reading, desperate for more of Sophie, for her authenticity, for her mess, for her love, for the way she navigated the world.

But my heart isn’t simple or straightforward. It’s a complicated mess of wants and needs, boys and girls, soft, rough, and everything in between, an ever-shifting precipice from which to fall.

The shovel fell, its job complete. Everything in her was unearthed. This book kept digging and digging until her lifetime of thoughts and feeling about girls weren’t suspicions anymore.

They were truths.

She finished the book, a heartbreaking tale, but nonetheless liberating. Empowering. She found something in between those pages she never thought she’d find.

Herself. A word that brought years of foggy questions into bright clarity.

She knew the truth now. She was bisexual. She went on to make friends with people who shared her story. She read a lot about it, paid a lot more attention to her own thoughts and feelings. Nothing in her outward life changed. It didn’t have to. But inside, there was a light where there had formerly been only cobwebs and questions. There was freedom and excitement and relief in knowing herself, in understanding the inner-workings of her heart and mind.

It hadn’t started with the book. Her identity was much more complex and ancient than that. But her personal liberation had started with words, with that story laid out with loving care on pieces of paper.

Today, she wonders what might have happened if she’d never read that book.

She wonders where she might be if Tess Sharpe had never written that book.

She wonders what difference she might be able to make to girls or boys or anyone like her, a person without mirrors in books for too many years.

A book changed her life. Books change lives. She feels that responsibility, that power, that honor with every word she reads and with every word she crafts on her own pages, hoping she can pay it forward.

Title How To Make A Wish
Author Ashley Herring Blake
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBTQIA
To Be Published May 2nd 2017 by HMH Books For Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.

One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again.

How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.

One response to “Raise Your Voice 2016 with Ashley Herring Blake”

  1. Alexa S. says:

    What a lovely piece about an incredible book! Loved reading your experience, Ashley <3
    Alexa S. recently posted…FOF Book Club: Troubled WatersMy Profile

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