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 twenty-six 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 Kip Wilson
Kip Wilson is the author of White Rose, a YA novel-in-verse about anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl. Kip holds a Ph.D. in German Literature, is the poetry editor at YARN (Young Adult Review Network), and wrote her doctoral dissertation about the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. She’s lived in Germany, Austria, and Spain, and currently calls Boston home.
My life changed when I met Liesel Meminger.
I was a fully-fledged adulting adult when The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was published. Even though I held a Ph.D. in German Literature and had spent 10 years focused on reading books — a whole lot of books, many of them set in the first half of the 20th century, most of them in Germany — I’d never read anything quite like this gorgeous, haunting novel, never felt Death breathing down the back of my neck quite like this, never met anyone quite like Liesel.
The lyrical prose, macabre narrator, and gut-punching World War II setting of The Book Thief without a doubt inspired me to become a better writer. But it was Liesel Meminger — the book thief herself — who showed me the way, who took my hand in hers, whispering in my ear, remember what matters.
When we meet nine-year-old Liesel, what matters most to her is family, but when her brother dies and her communist mother is forced to leave her behind with a foster family, Liesel focuses on something more tangible — words. This was something that I, an aspiring author, could certainly relate to. Though Liesel can barely read, she slips The Grave Digger’s Handbook into her pocket at her brother’s burial, pulls a charred book from a banned book burning before the pages turn to ashes, and treasures above all else the homemade book drawn over the pages of a whitewashed copy of Mein Kampf by Max, a Jewish man her foster family hides in their basement.
To Liesel, words are powerful, magical things — again, something I as a writer could completely understand, something I could strive for. Our words must have meaning. Children need the magic they bring, especially during troubling times. Demonstrating this with wisdom beyond her years, Liesel willingly shares her own words, her own magic. When Max asks her for a weather report, she doesn’t tell him it’s sunny out; she lends him her eyes, matter-of-factly informing him, “The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it’s stretched out, like a rope.”
Remember what matters, Liesel whispers once more, and her words stretch to the sky like that big long cloud, sending the magic of words beyond the pages she holds in her hands and toward the people around her who work their way into her heart: her compassionate foster father Hans, who helps her learn to read, her fierce foster mother Rosa who cares more than she’d ever admit, and of course Max, whose very survival depends on Liesel’s new family, and whose steadfast courage inspires them (and subsequently, readers) each day he escapes discovery.
What matters to Liesel isn’t simply the books she steals or the words in them. What matters is the power of sharing them with those she’s come to love, because stories — even terribly tragic ones — create a sense of home, a sense of hope. For me, as a writer of tragic stories, clinging to this glimmer of hope changed my life. Danke, Liesel, for sharing your obsession with words, for sharing your heart, and most of all, for showing me what truly matters.
Title White Rose
Author Kip Wilson
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Historical Fiction, Novel-In-Verse
To Be Published Spring 2019 by HMH Versify
Find It On Goodreads
Under the Nazi dictatorship, speaking out was treason, punishable by death. Yet in spite of the danger, someone had to make a start. Winner of the 2017 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, White Rose is a YA novel-in-verse about anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl, one of the founders of the White Rose nonviolent resistance group.