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 thirty-three 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 Lauren Karcz
Lauren Karcz is a fan of new books, old dogs, long sentences, Broadway shows, adverbs, and wandering art museums. She’s a professional language nerd, having worked as an ESL teacher, a language test developer, and now as a writer. Lauren lives with her family in Atlanta. Her debut novel, The Gallery Of Unfinished Girls, is coming from HarperCollins / HarperTeen on July 25, 2017.
Sheila Tubman’s fears: Dogs, spiders, the dark, learning to swim.
My fears at Sheila Tubman’s age: Balloons, throwing up, being the last one awake at a slumber party, learning to swim.
Oh, and people. Meeting them. Liking them. Losing them.
I reread Judy Blume’s Otherwise Known As Sheila The Great at least once a summer. In it, Sheila Tubman, her parents, and her older sister leave Manhattan for a few months at an old rental house in Tarrytown, New York. And Sheila has to continually face her fears – the dog (Jennifer!) who comes with the house, sleeping alone in a dark bedroom, and going to an artsy day camp, where the other kids may figure out that she’s not as brave as she claims to be.
It was my first Judy Blume book, a light green Dell Yearling paperback, and Sheila’s voice captured me from the moment I opened it in the bookstore. I tried to read it in the backseat of the car on the way home, but A.) I was supposed to save the book for our family beach trip, and B.) See above regarding my fear of throwing up.
Sheila’s voice is strong and confident. She’s got an explanation for everything – The perfect story for why she needed to hike up ten flights of stairs to avoid her neighbor’s dog. The perfect lie about what her bedroom in the Tarrytown house will be like. But throughout the book, Sheila starts admitting her vulnerabilities. Her disappointments.
Sure, the dogs (or the balloons, or the slumber parties) were scary, but worse than anything was someone seeing beyond your story. Your bravery. Mine. Sheila’s confident lies were my strong and silent moments. Me in the shallow end of the pool at summer day camp, trying and trying again to learn how to thrash my way through the water before the other kids noticed that I couldn’t. Me in the corner of a birthday party, trying to hold back my panic when everyone else started batting the balloons around.
Fears hung on. Friends sometimes didn’t.
Sheila’s moment of reckoning comes near the end of the book, when she and some of her Tarrytown pals have a sleepover, complete with pranks and property destruction and a slam book. Sheila’s surviving the slam book was always the triumphant moment of the novel for me – when she can laugh off their criticism to find the compliments (one of her friends calls her “an interesting person,” which is not a way she’d ever thought of herself before).
And me? Well, I had the brilliant idea to do a slam book at the end-of-the-year sleepover for my Girl Scout troop in the fifth grade. When the book came back to me, I was, naturally, the last one awake, sitting in the darkened kitchen at two o’ clock in the morning, reading the messages these girls, my friends, who I’d both loved and been slightly terrified of, had written about me.
Her book is tooooooo long!!!, one of them said. Yeah, I was in fifth grade and writing my own Sheila-like novel.
Her hair always looks the same, said another.
I like her!, another one said, simply.
I closed the notebook. I suppose I eventually went to sleep.
I didn’t stay friends with all of those girls. And I still can’t deal with balloons. And my hair never changed, and I never go to bed early.
But I liked those girls, and I liked me, and I realized that not everyone can be as bravely afraid as I was, and still am. I can throw myself into new places, my own various Tarrytowns, and come out the other side, stronger and more vulnerable, all at once.
Title The Gallery Of Unfinished Girls
Author Lauren Karcz
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Fabulism
To Be Published July 25th, 2017 by HarperTeen
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.
Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.
Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.
At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.
I loved Sheila when I was a kid! This was wonderful–it took me back. Now I want to re-read all my Judy Blume favorites!