Spotlight on Among The Fallen (Virginia Frances Schwartz), Guest Post, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to spotlight Among The Fallen by Virginia Frances Schwartz.
Read on for more about Virginia and her book, an guest post, plus an giveaway!
Meet Virginia Frances Schwartz!
Virginia Frances Schwartz grew up in rural Ontario, Canada, but now lives in Queens, New York, where she taught writing in the public schools before devoting her career to her own writing. She is best known for her novels for young adults which have been ALA Best Books for YAs, and winners of multiple Canadian awards including the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, the Ontario Silver Birch Fiction Award, the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, and British Columbia Red Cedar Award. Her work includes Crossing to Freedom and If I Just Had Two Wings. She teaches a creative writing course at UCLA Online.
Meet Among The Fallen!
In a time when losing her virginity condemns a young woman to a being a criminal, a prostitute, or worse—one famous man offers a way out…
In 1857 the beloved author Charles Dickens is at the height of his fame. Committed to saving the fallen girls of London, he founds Urania Cottage, a haven where they can tend to gardens and chickens and learn employable skills. The catch? After just one year, a future across the ocean in Australia, never to return.
Orpha, jailed for a crime she doesn’t understand, is numb. Plucked from prison by Dickens to a start a new life, she rediscovers her love of books, and she alone recognizes the author for the man he really is. Can she persuade him to let her find her own destiny? And what of her feelings for the wild and saucy Sesina?
This atmospheric mystery depicts the sights and smells of a beguiling 19th century London, entwined with a novel of a girl finding her voice, piecing together the grave wrong inflicted in her past. In a story resonant with modern parallels, Virginia Schwartz explores the restrictions forced upon young women in the Victorian era and the blatant double standards. With its evocative historical detail, sensual lesbian love interest and great literary storytelling, THE VIRGIN CHARGE is Sarah Waters for the YA crowd.
~ Guest Post ~
AMONG THE FALLEN by Virginia Frances Schwartz
“A Dickensian #MeToo novel.” —Kirkus Reviews
Among the Fallen depicts the dark journey of an abused sixteen-year-old girl, Orpha, in a historical fiction novel based on true facts. Imprisoned at the opening of the story, Orpha is given an offer by a famous man–the author Charles Dickens–to reinvent herself much like one of the characters in his many socially minded Victorian novels. She, along with other “fallen” Victorian girls, were given shelter, family, and education in a halfway house called Urania. When I first visualized Orpha, my main character, I sensed her abuse was so deep that she had no name for it. She seemed frozen. Dickens says of her, “The girl is pale and so still, she could have been marble.” The unwinding of her trauma is the focus of most of the story. As her background unfolded, it was revealed to me bit by bit. I wrote it that way, as I was learning from Orpha herself what had happened to her. She finally begins to heal and trust by receiving help from a circle of women and eventually confesses how she endured sexual abuse at a young age.
But I wanted more for her. More than the telling. I wanted her to be completely free of her past. I wanted a reckoning. A satisfying ending. Something that would uplift readers and give them insights and methods to come to terms with any assault preventing them from being whole. Why? Inside me were emotional wounds from my own childhood that my mother and I endured from my violent alcoholic father in the 1950s and 60s. There was no satisfying ending for females then. Since I never experienced an authentic reckoning for myself or my mother, I needed my character to. I needed her to be inspirational and call out the abuse. But I could not imagine that fully in the face of the silence and invisibility I experienced so many years ago. How was Orpha to do this in the Victorian era? A classic writer’s block–my own past–stood in my way. I was stuck.
When I was young, I didn’t realize that male dominance was not just my own isolated experience. Rather, it was vast, societal, widespread, and unchecked for centuries. If you went up against it, you lost. I will never forget Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas hearings. Her brave voice was recognized by millions of women but not by the patriarchy. Nevertheless, she cracked the ceiling enough for me to see sky. To know that it was not only me was absolutely illuminating.
I experimented with five different endings for this novel as if I was trying on outfits. Like a puzzle with missing pieces, nothing quite fit into place. No happy ending was realistic for a sexually abused sixteen-year-old Victorian girl in 1850s London. Powerless, parentless, impoverished, a girl in a patriarchal society had no agency then. One of my main themes as a novelist is transformation. How could Orpha gain a sense of self in such a repressive society?
As I was revising the ending yet again in 2017, the here and now exploded into my work in a remarkable way. On social media, prominent newspapers, and television shows, charges of sexual harassment rang out. Multiple women bonded as a unit to make accusations against abusers and take them to court. The #MeToo movement became an international phenomenon; its hashtag was born. One by one, the patriarchy crumbled: Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein to name a few. It felt victorious. Electric. As monumental as birth.
The #MeToo movement created a toolbox to crack the ceiling so wide open this time that women would never retreat. But Orpha lived in 1858, not 2017. What was realistic for her? With a jolt, I realized the solution. Orpha had the tools in her hands all along, and so did I. We just hadn’t used them yet. Orpha didn’t know what was possible.
In the new ending, this lost girl reinvents herself with the only means available to a select few in the Victorian era, something within her reach all the time, something she did not realize the power of until she used it: her own voice and the only safe avenue she could express it in. A potent instrument that, as a novelist, I have used over many years: words. I wrote this book and many of my novels to free myself, my mother, and all those who have endured abuse of any kind.
When you read the book, you will recognize the power of the simple and practical ammunition that women possess to beat the patriarchal system.
I hope the ending of this novel is enlightening for young women readers and allows them to see the #MeToo movement in an historical perspective, how much has changed, and how universal the experience is. We’ve been waiting for this movement to blast the boundaries for centuries.
Among The Fallen
By: Virginia Frances Schwartz
Publisher: Holiday House Publishing Inc
Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Three winners will each receive a copy of Among The Fallen (Virginia Frances Schwartz) ~ US Only
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I am sooooo excited for this one! It has been on my TBR for ages, I am always such a sucker for mysteries in historical books too- the atmosphere always just seems perfect for it! Thanks so much for the chance!
The cover is nice, but the synopsis is what I find unique and interesting. I love the Victorian Era and Dickens so this is a perfect read for me. Thanks for sharing.
A very inviting cover, and the synopsis is very intriguing! I would love to share this with teens as a companion to reading a Charles Dickens story in school.