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 Judy I. Lin
Judy Lin was born in Taiwan and moved to Canada when she was eight years old. She grew up with her nose in a book and loved to escape to imaginary worlds. She now divides her time between working as an occupational therapist and creating imaginary worlds of her own. She lives on the Canadian prairies with her husband and daughter.
My family moved from Taiwan to Canada when I was eight years old. Even though my parents tried to prepare us with bilingual kindergarten and English tutors, I experienced a deep sense of displacement for many years after. In elementary and junior high school I existed in a state of in-between, where I was forced to navigate a new language and a new culture at school, but then had to switch on a different part of my brain at home. English felt clumsy and awkward for me to speak, so I tried not to say much at all. Instead I retreated to books, so I could leave my life for a little while and escape to another reality where I didn’t have to try so hard to sound like everyone else.
Even though I enjoyed contemporary stories like the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, the life of the suburban American teenager was as foreign to me as the world of faerie in the fantastical stories by O.R. Melling. Still, I read everything. Every weekend I would pile my basket high with books from the teen section of the library, and that is where I found the Crown Duel / Court Duel duology by Sherwood Smith.
Meliara was a countess in name but ran wild in the mountains. She was good with figures and clumsy with words, just like teen me. When her father died, she found herself leading a rebellion against the king. Mel faced problems head-on even though she was afraid. She made rash decisions and paid for them dearly, yet she never gave up on her quest for justice. She did it for the family and the people she loved. I admired her bravery and her sheer stubbornness, but it isn’t until she ends up at court when I could relate to her the most.
Even after the rebellion was done and the king overthrown, court was a different battle altogether. She found courtly society even more difficult to navigate than waging a war. She didn’t dress quite right, always spoke out of turn, and couldn’t fit into the cultural norms. She had to find her place in the palace, make tentative friendships and deal with two-faced nobles. I wanted so much to be her: to fight for and win a place where I belonged, to finally be confident in myself (and to have a romantic correspondence with a mysterious stranger).
Now years later, I have a family I love fiercely and a daughter I would do anything for. I write my stories for her now to see representation on the bookshelves, with Asian heroines on the cover like Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix, with familiar stories from our culture and settings she would recognize from our travels back home. But every year or two I still reread Crown Duel with fondness, accept that I will always prefer the written word to speaking, and I hope one day someone will see themselves in my heroines like I saw myself in Mel.
Title Heart of Severed Leaves
Author Judy I. Lin
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date Winter 2022
Find It On Goodreads
Inspired by Chinese history and mythology. The story follows commoner Ning as she fights to save her dying sister by entering the palace’s first magical tea-brewing competition. But political schemes and secrets make her goal of winning access to the royal physicians far more dangerous than she imagined.