‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2017 with Jessica Spotswood

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of this year’s participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Jessica Spotswood

Jessica Spotswood is the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles, a historical fantasy trilogy. She grew up near the Gettysburg battlefield, in Pennsylvania, but now lives in Washington, D.C., where she works for the District of Columbia Public Library system as a children’s library associate.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookTumblrGoodreads

Christmas Eve

I’ve always loved Christmas Eve.

As a kid with divorced parents, our Christmas was a bit of a journey: we’d wake up at Mom’s, open presents, have breakfast, drive to Dad’s, open presents, drive to my grandparents’, have lunch, open presents, drive to my step-grandparents’, open presents, have dinner, head back to Dad’s. There was lots of food, lots of presents, lots of family.

But after age ten or eleven, it started to feel a little stressful. There were arguments with my then-stepmom about when and whether I said hello when I entered the house, whether I showed enough gratitude for my presents. My step-grandparents were generous, but there was a difference between how they treated us and how they treated my new baby brother, their grandchild by birth and blood. Even as a tween, I could feel my difference. They were loud, sporty people; someone was always arguing with someone else; my step-grandfather would bark at his wife and tell “off-color” jokes and I – a shy, sensitive bookworm even as a kid – shrank onto the couch with a book, feeling like an alien while everyone else watched football.

So Christmas Eve…Christmas Eve was heavenly. As an anxious child, the steadfast routine of it was enormously comforting. As a thirty-seven-year-old woman, the tradition remains really comforting. My mom hosts her side of the family. My sisters are there. My aunt and uncle and cousins come over. Mom cooks an elaborate dinner, and makes a zillion cookies (her chewy cinnamon sugar cookies are still my favorites), and creates a delicious dessert that no one can eat because we’ve all had too many cookies. After dinner, we move into the living room, with my parents’ enormous nine-foot Christmas tree, and open presents; my mom still buys gifts for my cousins, and my aunt still buys gifts for my sisters and me. We throw wrapping paper at each other and sometimes stick bows on my little sister’s head, despite the fact that she’s now almost thirty. My mom can never figure out how to work her camera.

And then we take the Pappy picture. We have taken a Pappy picture – my five cousins and I all crowded around my granddad on the sofa or, later, in front of the fireplace, as he carefully lowered himself onto an ottoman – since 1987, the year my grandmother died and my mom started to host the annual gathering. A few years ago, my little sister printed out all of the Pappy pictures, mixed them up, and attached them to posterboard, and we tried to put them all in order.

There have been some changes, of course. My hair is purple this year and not the unfortunate, curly mullet it was in the early 90s. My sisters don’t have braces anymore. My mom makes a vegetarian lasagna and and crab soup instead of a ham, because my sisters and my husband and I are all pescetarian or vegetarian. For that matter, my husband is present, and my cousins’ partners.

And this year…for the first time, my granddad, who passed away in August at the age of ninety-three, won’t be there. We won’t have a Pappy picture.

But we have thirty years of routine and thirty pictures to share. There is something so special about that to me. Being able to look at each year, to see how our hair and our smiles and our clothes change.

I suspect we’ll take a cousin picture this year. It won’t be the same without my granddad. We might all be a little sad. But it’s tradition, and the weight of that tradition, that steadfast routine, has become something powerful and lovely to me.





Title The Radical Element
Editor Jessica Spotswood
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Anthology, Historical Fiction
To Be Published March 13th 2018 by Candlewick Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.

To respect yourself, to love yourself — should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that must be faced whether you’re balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, of facing down American racism even while loving America. And it’s the only decision when you’ve weighed society’s expectations and found them wanting.

In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs — whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they’re asking you to join them.

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