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 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 Anna Birch
Anna Birch is the author of I Kissed Alice. She was born ‘n’ raised in a rural area on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. She traded thick forests and dirt roads for the heart of the city, where she lives now with her husband, three children, and dog. She loves knitting, brie, and hanging out with her family.
My life as a teen could not have been any different than Xiomara Batista’s: I grew up out in rural Alabama, so far from Harlem I’d never even set foot in New York City until I was a fully-grown adult. I was sheltered, broken-spirited and scrawny. I’m white. It was abundantly clear when I began to read The Poet X that Xiomara’s story was not written for me, but that didn’t matter – I saw myself in Xiomara. Or better yet, I saw a version of myself in Xiomara that I wished existed when I was facing my own issues as a seventeen-year-old.
I knew Xiomara’s relationship with her mother like the back of my hand. Yes, our circumstances were wildly different, and there were cultural differences at play that affected Xiomara’s relationship with her mother in a way that did not affect mine. But Lord, I saw myself. My own mother grew up in a deeply Catholic family, even though she ultimately defected and found her own way as a young woman. As any lifelong Catholic person will tell you: It is not simply a matter of showing up at mass on Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights, if you’re hardcore and/or like to sleep in). It’s so ingrained in you, it affects the way you view community; family; what it is to be a woman and a mother and a wife and a friend and a tiny cog in a global, ever-moving machine.
Yes, my mother had defected as a young woman, but reading this book, I began to recognize just how much of those traits in her that strained our relationship had stemmed from formative years spent within a culture I didn’t entirely understand. We know from Xiomara that her mother is strict. She expects a maturity from Xiomara that is not Xiomara’s truth – Xiomara’s maturity comes from somewhere else; a life entirely different than the one her mother lived as a young girl. Xiomara is not well-understood by her family, and we don’t really know if they try, or to what degree – only that Xiomara feels silenced and alone at home.
I saw my mother as a young woman here; I saw myself.
On the other hand, Xiomara’s mother knows what the world looks like outside the cocoon of childhood. Xiomara’s descriptions of her father suggest that their parents’ marriage is not a fulfilling one (and is perhaps continued only due to a combination of religious and financial factors), and her mother works her fingers to the bone to contribute to the family’s finances along with the heavy burden of emotional labor of running a household.
Xiomara’s mother had done what all of us as mothers do, when we stare into the faces of our beautiful children and wish the world for them: We hope their lives will be better than ours. For perhaps the first time we look back at the choices we’ve made – lost opportunities, settling down young versus taking risks and pursuing the realities we’ve imagined for ourselves, missed connections – and we arm ourselves with these things, as if controlling them will magically insulate our children’s lives from everything bad that could ever happen to them.
Again: I saw my mother. I saw myself.
The way Xiomara and I approached our relationships with our mothers was wildly different, though. Her story arc required her to find the strength to stand up to her mother and be honest about what she wanted. And reader, she did. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say this: The bravery it required for Xiomara to push through a strained, resigned co-existence into a mature, mutually invested relationship with her mother brought me to my knees.
This was not something I had the courage to do at Xiomara’s age.
My reconciliation with my mother came much later, after I was a young adult with a husband and children of my own. Ultimately, the mistakes I’d made weren’t too far off from the ones my mom made as well – but, like Xiomara and her mother, we were able to push through a strained co-existence into a mutually-invested relationship. And like Xiomara, I was ultimately able to step back and identify within myself a need for something more. With my mother by my side, I was finally able to choose differently, and finally live the life I imagined.
Title I Kissed Alice
Author Anna Birch
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date July 28th 2020 by Imprint
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
For fans of Leah On The Offbeat and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Anna Birch’s I Kissed Alice is a romantic comedy about enemies, lovers, and everything in between.
Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.
Rhodes, a gifted artist, has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts (until she’s hit with a secret bout of creator’s block), while Iliana, a transfer student, tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.
They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a webcomic. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?