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May 17, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Maurene Goo

Kate Hart
headshot of Maurene Goo
Sometimes you meet people and immediately know you're going to be friends. That's what happened two years ago when I met Maurene Goo at the LA Times Festival of Books -- mutual friends had assured me I'd love her, and sure enough, they were right. Fast forward to 2017 and we've shared a publisher, signing tables, secrets, good times, and even weird stomach problem remedies. I'm grateful to have Maurene in my life and I'm happy to share her with you. Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end!


cover of I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE by Maurene Goo
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Maurene: I’m a YA author who does freelance editorial work on the side. I had a few meandering paths that lead me here—but always there, from the beginning, was a love of books. I thought I wanted to study journalism in college but took so many literature classes that I ended up minoring in English lit. Then I worked in a bookstore after graduating with absolutely no career plans. So I applied to grad schools and ended up going to Emerson College to get an M.A. in writing, literature, and publishing. I worked in textbook publishing while in school then worked for a few art book publishers in LA when I moved back here. During all this, I was writing my first YA novel purely for fun (it was a sample for an MFA program that I couldn’t stop working on even after I decided not to pursue it). My friend read an early draft and sent it to her agent who ended up representing me! In a way, my publishing journey was both long and short. A few months after I sold my book I started freelancing and writing full time.

cover of SINCE YOU ASKED by Maurene Goo
Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? 

Maurene: I have an interest in design, and I was doing that work when I sold my book, actually (I was the design director at a wholesale art house). I’m not sure if it influences my writing, but in general, I’m a pretty visually driven person, so I have some strong feels on book covers, haha. I don't have much time for it nowadays, but my website is where I have fun once in awhile.

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Maurene: Focus. I used to be super proud of my multi-tasking skills (a plus in project management work), but it’s now a huge detriment to getting writing done. There are always one billion other things that distract me…and I end up doing them a lot of the time. Having friends to write with has been invaluable, I work really well with accountability and deadlines.

Maurene Goo (center) protesting at LAX with authors Kirsten Hubbard, Sarah Enni, Victoria Aveyard and Alex Kahler
Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Maurene: Very tempted to list every boy that never liked me back but probably we’re talking career related ;) Well, I’m four years between books, which is like—eternity in YA years. I took a long break after my first book when a lot of my ideas were rejected. I actually didn’t write a single word for nine months straight. I know that's “bad” for writers (write everyday! Or something!), and I wouldn't necessarily give that advice to anyone. However, it’s what I needed at the time— some perspective beyond publishing and not having my identity shaped by success or failure at this one thing. So when I finished drafting my second book, I knew it was a book I really loved and wanted to champion. It was hard-earned.

Kate: Tell us something that makes you proud.

Maurene: Anytime someone says something I wrote made them laugh out loud, I am very flattered. I’m not kidding when I say that’s a big goal of mine every time I write a book—to make people laugh. A lot. I don't know why I feel this need to be like, a comedian, but humor is something I’ve grown to really value as a writer. (I’m sure it all boils down to simple narcissism!)

Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work? 

Maurene: I actually took an introduction to feminism class in college. Haha. But I think feminism was a part of my life from day one—my mom was always a strong figure and she never took shit from anyone. And she taught me and my sister to never take shit (while being polite, well-raised Korean kids). She also always pursued her career and prioritized it. At first, it was out of necessity, but soon it became clear that my mom found real fulfillment through work. This was like, step 1 of understanding feminism for me. That women are equal to men—as breadwinners, decision-makers, in strength and intelligence, etc. So I’ve always fought against any force that told me otherwise. As far as how feminism informs my writing? I write about teenage girls. They  might be flawed and have a lot of growing to do, but I think they’re valuable in a world that is always telling teen girls that their interests and opinions are silly. I want to tell their stories.

Maurene with friends at boxing class
Kate: Lightning round -- tell us what you’re…    

reading: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
watching: The Handmaid’s Tale and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (K drama of course!)
listening to: Spoon’s new album, Hot Thoughts and the Reply All podcast
eating: I just ordered Korean food! Spicy tofu soup.
doing: A lot of book promo, haha. Ha. Ha.
wearing: It got “cold” in LA so I’m wearing my fleece and thick camping socks
wishing for: A huge fail for the proposed GOP healthcare bill.
wanting: My cat to stop bringing lizards into the house
loving: My boxing class—it’s so fun, empowering, and really challenging.

Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Maurene: Celeste Pewter for keeping the entire kid lit community properly informed and galvanized after the election. She’s a political staffer and book reviewer and she’s been invaluable in the whole #resist movement.

Ali Wong for being the funniest Asian American woman in the world. Ok, there are probably others I don't know about, but her Netflix special, Baby Cobra, nearly killed me. She writes for Fresh Off the Boat and lives in LA and it’s my personal mission to befriend her.

Megan Nicole Dong who works in animation. She does the funniest/slightly grotesque and bizarre comics and she was recently picked as one of Variety’s Ten Animators to Watch.

Maurene at art museum
Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Maurene: With your money! I’m only half-kidding. Supporting women-owned businesses, buying their art, consuming their content—that’s all ways you can support women’s work. But you can also be a good friend, support them emotionally and mentally. And be a connector, refer people, talk them up—spread the word on the women you want to support. (You are the BEST at this, Kate Hart!) [editor's note: I try, thanks Maux. <3]

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Maurene: Take risks and don't be afraid of failure. I’m not religious so I believe we only have this one life to get shit done.

 Win a signed copy of I Believe In A thing Called Love and a button pack!


badass ladies you should know logo
Maurene Goo is the YA author of Since You Asked and I Believe in a Thing Called Love. She grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. Before publishing her first novel, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

website  //  twitter  //  instagram  //  facebook

preorder I Believe In A Thing Called Love:
amazon  //  barnes and noble  //  indiebound  //  add on goodreads

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May 10, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Gauthami Vemula and Renae Virata

Kate Hart
Gauthami and Renae
Badass Ladies You Should Know is (thankfully) not a unique series. There are lots of online projects featuring noteworthy women, and today I'm happy to profile Gauthami Vemula and Renae Virata of, a site where #ModernMuse posts highlight all sorts of women doing all sorts of amazing things, and important women and words of wisdom are featured on wearable inspiration.

As if that's not enough, Gauthami has Master’s Degrees in both Psychology and Counseling, holds leadership positions in several organizations, and is a Dallas Women’s Foundation 2014 Maura Helping Women Award recipient and a 2015 Dallas Business Journal Women in Business Award winner. Renae holds a degree in the Communication of Science, Engineering and Technology from Vanderbilt University, sits on the board of Dallas nonprofit Against The Grain Productions, and appeared on the 2012 season of NBC reality TV show “Ready for Love.” Read on to find out how they do it all, and why.


female doctor models a shirt from the UGauGrrl lineKate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Gauthami and Renae: UGauGrrl is a movement that we created to inspire, empower and impact women. We do this in two ways. The first is through our Modern Muse campaign where we highlight women and girls around the world who embody our mission on our blog and social media platforms. The second is through our collection of stylish t-shirts featuring iconic, and oft-forgotten, women of the past and today along with inspirational messages.

With all of the negativity in the world and being women, we wanted to promote conversation around positive messages and bring women’s history to life in a unique way. We like to think that we are a vehicle to carry on the legacy of awesome women before us.

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Gauthami and Renae: Our biggest challenge is being a new startup. However, we face something new every day about teamwork, finance and running a business, among other things, that make entrepreneurship a fun learning experience.

mother and two young daughters model shirts from the UGauGrrl lineKate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Gauthami and Renae: We don’t look at the challenges we’ve faces as failures but more as opportunities to grow! While we’ve only been in business for five months, our first attempt at Facebook ads was a flop. But we quickly bounced back and took a different direction, which worked!

Kate: Tell us something that makes you proud.

Gauthami and Renae: We are so excited every time we hear how much people (women AND men) love our shirts. They not only love the designs but, more importantly, the spirit and messages behind them.

Kate: Lightning round. Tell us what you’re…    

reading: Gau – The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander/Benjamin Zander; Renae – He Named Me Malala by Malala Yousafzai
watching: Gau – “The Young Pope” and “Fuller House”; Renae – “This is Us”
listening to: everything except the news
doing: Gau – taking care of Gau; Renae – preparing for my baby’s arrival
wishing for: Gau – love; Renae – a break
wanting: travel the rest of the world
loving: life!

Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Gauthami and Renae:

Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Gauthami and Renae: The best way to support other women is to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. We hope that UGauGrrl is one way that we can personally support our fellow ladies and their aspirations.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Gauthami and Renae: Quit trying to be, just be. Do you!


Badass Ladies You Should Know logo
Gauthami Vemula and Renae Virata are two friends who believe in being the change they want to see in the world! Gauthami is a first-generation Indian American while Renae is a first-generation Filipino American. They both live in Dallas and have full-time jobs in addition to living out their passion to move UGauGrrl’s mission and vision forward.

website  //  facebook  //  instagram  //  pinterest

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April 12, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Lilliam Rivera

Kate Hart
Lilliam Rivera in jeans and black leather jacket, standing before a graffiti mural wall
Sometimes these intros are impossible to write. All I really want to say is, You know who kicks ass? Lilliam Rivera, that's who. From the Pushcart Prize and the Clarion Writing Workshop, to readings at PEN Center USA, interviews with MTV, articles for Cosmo and the LA Times, and personal essays on Lenny Letter, Lilliam's already well-established writing career is now paired with the debut of her YA novel The Education of Margot Sanchez -- and she is killing it. What's more, she is a delight in person, and I can't wait to see her again later this month at YALLWEST in Santa Monica. 

Be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of her book!


cover of THE EDUCATION OF MARGOT SANCHEZKate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Lilliam: The Education of Margot Sanchez is my first young adult novel published on February 2017 by Simon & Schuster. I also write short stories that have been published in literary and speculative literature magazines. My background is in entertainment journalism where I’ve worked on staff as an editor and writer for various publications including Latina magazine and E! Entertainment. Now I currently freelance writing copy for fashion brands.

Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Lilliam: As I mentioned above, I’ve written features and cover stories for magazines. Here are just a couple of my favorite stories: America Ferrera, Aubrey Plaza, Why Do Latinas Have The Highest Suicide Rate in America?, and an interview with Sofia Samatar.

I’ve also hosted a radio show called Literary Soundtrack where I interviewed authors of color like Laila Lalaimi, Victor LaValle, and Meg Medina, to name a few. For me, writing is just perfecting that muscle so writing for other outlets helps me with my fiction. You also don’t know where you will find inspiration.

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Lilliam: My biggest challenge is ignoring the voices that try to convince me that I’m a fraud. Even with a book published and the ability to finish a second novel, I still get caught up in the swirls of doubt. My challenge is to focus on the work in front of me and to ignore what is going on with everyone else.

the crowd at Lilliam's release party for MARGOT SANCHEZKate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Lilliam: Before The Education of Margot Sanchez, I wrote my first young adult novel. It was about Latina vampires set in Los Angeles. I started to submit the novel to agents in the hope of representation. It was right at the time when the Twilight movie came out and every young adult novel was about vampires. Anyway, I received a lot of rejections. It was a real test for me. I worked hard finishing that novel and I learned so much from that experience. I was devastated but I guess I knew deep down that no matter the amount of rejections I knew I had a voice that deserved to be heard. Somehow I managed to keep moving forward.

Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? 

Lilliam: I’ve had the best readers reach out to me and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed reading Margot Sanchez. They’ve expressed how much they can relate to the character. Some have even sent me gifts. I’m always so happy when someone takes to time to let me know that something I wrote moved them in some way. That is a huge deal and I don’t take those things lightly.

Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Lilliam: I didn’t grow up with the word “feminist.” The word I did grow up with is activist or revolutionary. My family instilled in us that we had to fight against the injustices in this world and that there are many out there who refuse to acknowledge Latinx as equal. The first defining moment I came to understand this was when my father explained to me how Puerto Rico, the island he grew up in, is neither a state of the U.S. or an independent island but a commonwealth. If you follow the history of the Island, from when the Spaniards “discovered” it to its current state, you would understand how destructive and racist the colonial mentality is.

Lightning round: Tell us what you’re…    

reading: I’m currently reading Among Strange Victims, a funny novella by emerging Mexican author Daniel Saldaña Paris.

watching: I’m watching Into the Badlands. Karate, bad ass girl fighting. Need I say more?

listening to: On repeat, “Humble” by Kendrick Lamarr.

eating: Whatever is in the house.

doing: In front of my laptop, always typing.

wearing: I’m wearing a concert t-shirt from Hurray for the Riff Raff.

wishing for: The list is very long.

wanting: To see the Game of Thrones new season already! July can’t come quick enough.

Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why?

Lilliam: Alynda Segarra is a Puerto Rican folk singer from New York. I’m obsessed with her music. I love how vocal she is in her music, using her platform to make a statement. Her latest album “The Navigator” is all about gentrification and safe spaces.

If you don’t know who Congresswoman Maxine Waters is by now, you seriously need to check yourself. Congresswoman Waters is the only representative who is vehemently against the current administration. She is not afraid.

Julia de Burgos is a Puerto Rican poet who wrote such powerful lines such as “Don’t let the hand you hold, hold you down.” Her work played such an important role in my young adult novel.

Kate and Lilliam (2nd and 3rd) at the North Texas Teen Book Fair with fellow debut authors Natalie C Anderson, Angie Thomas, and Ibi ZoboiKate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Lilliam: The best way to support other women is to have your list ready. What I mean by list is I mean that if someone asks me ‘Do you know of a good person for…’ I will have my list of women to recommend. It is healthy to be competitive but I believe there is more than enough room for everyone so I’m always willing to share my resources. Be supportive. Be vocal.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Lilliam: Find a path that works for you. You will end up finding others on that journey that will help and that you in turn will help.

US only


badass ladies you should know logo
Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, a contemporary young adult novel available now from Simon & Schuster. Recently named a "2017 Face to Watch" by the Los Angeles Times, Lilliam's work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, and Latina, to name a few. She lives in Los Angeles with her family where she’s completing her second novel.

website  //  twitter  //  instagram  //  goodreads

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March 29, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: The Queens Bookshop

Kate Hart
Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa, and Holly Nikodem
We're taking a little cross-country trip -- from last year's profile of the Koch sisters, owners of LA's The Ripped Bodice bookstore, all the way to New York, to meet the badass ladies behind The Queens Bookshop Initiative. As all the Barnes and Noble stores closed in their area, Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa, and Holly Nikodem decided their side of the borough needed an independent bookstore of its own to fill the gap.

One $70,000 Kickstarter and a ton of hard work later, they're set to open their new store this year. Find out more about the challenges they've faced and what they're looking forward to!


Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa, and Holly Nikodem
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Holly: Take ten plus years in retail and combine that with a love of books, and you get the crazy notion that starting an independent bookstore is a good idea. The Queens Bookshop Initiative, though, really started as a labor of love that sprung from recognizing a genuine need in a community.

As of 2016 all of the big box bookstores in Queens (Barnes and Noble, specifically) were gone. Vina was the one to realize that Queens was left with one general purpose bookstore to service the entire borough (The Astoria Bookshop). She suggested we start our own, after having worked together for several years. Natalie and I agreed. If we were sorry to see the bookstores leave, then we would have to be the ones to bring them back. The people of Queens deserved a place to comfortably interact with books that wasn’t the internet - a place that could foster a sense of community or belonging. Together we formed The Queens Bookshop Initiative, rallied the neighborhoods behind us, and set to work bringing a new independent bookstore to the borough.

Since then we’ve met some of the most amazing people (a little nine year old boy in a park that told us owning books was better for the economy than borrowing them, small business owners eager to let us use their cafes for meet ups and markets, and fellow booksellers that are driving the industry). We’ve also heard some of the harshest criticism (e-readers are taking over the world, Amazon will eat us alive, people don’t actually read anymore...) What really drives me now is a desire to give our supporters what they’ve dreamed of and to prove our critics wrong. Also, books are great? Technologies and markets come and go, but books never need to change.

Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? (If you have photos/links/examples to share, that would be great.)

Vina: Besides reading and film photography, another hobby that has proven to be very useful in this venture is knowing my way around Photoshop. Designing and creating flyers for any of our events, or for announcements we’ve had throughout has been unexpectedly fun and an area I wouldn’t have thought twice about beforehand.

Natalie: I dabble in a lot of random things. I enjoy watercoloring, writing poetry, and Holly never has to try to convince me to craft with her. I think any work you do creatively fuels your soul and gives you a fresh and dynamic look at the work you are also doing professionally.

Holly: Outside of reading? Photography (cameras as technology are fascinating) paper crafting (card making, origami, quilling). I’m not sure if they influence the running of a bookstore, but they certainly make me excited for all the beautiful table and window displays we can set up.

Natalie at the LIC Flea
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Vina: Personally, my shyness can be at times crippling, but when it comes to our bookstore I have found that whenever we are approached with someone who thinks “physical books are dead/ebooks are taking over,” all my shyness is cast aside and I have a huge need to prove those people wrong. Books offer an experience that cannot be replicated, no matter how many apps or devices try to emulate them. The sense of accomplishment of turning the last page of a book? The atmosphere, their aroma, and the presence they have on a bookshelf? I could go on and on!

Natalie: Actually trying to live out your dream can be terrifying and challenging. When you've thought about doing something for so many years it can become a fantasy in your head to the point where you don't think it's really happening even when it really is. It’s given me a nearly constant fear that the floor will fall out from under me, that someone will sweep in and tell us “Just kidding. You aren't actually doing this.” But the community's faith and interest in our project has definitely kept me afloat. As well as the trust I have in my partners’ abilities and knowledge.

Holly: Trusting that I’m smart enough to succeed. I second guess myself, a lot. That and fighting the narrative that books are an archaic, dying medium.

Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Natalie: In my personal life, I've definitely had instances where I've been thrown to the ground and had to drag myself back up again. But with the bookstore, I don't feel like we’ve ever truly stopped moving forward. When we found locations that didn't work, we moved on to the next. When someone told us no, we asked someone else. When our feet dragged, we carried each other. We haven't bounced back because we haven't stopped moving forward.

Holly and Vina at BookExpo America
Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? Or Tell us something that makes you proud.

Vina: I feel the most proud when fellow businesswoman say “I love what you are doing.” I can’t express how thankful I am and how much that means to me, their support has been consistent from the start. As women, most of the time we have to rely on one another, safe to say they haven’t turned their backs on us and they always have advice and offer a helping hand.

Natalie: I think we can all agree that it warms our hearts and gives us such encouragement when people tell us they can't wait to come to our store, and when people tell us that we are doing an important thing for our community. A friend of mine told me just the other day that this project will genuinely positively impact our community and that we were doing something that really mattered. It was so heartening to hear that from someone outside of this.

Holly: We got to meet the author Louise Penny and when she found out what we were doing she took my hands in hers and said “You are my heroes.”

Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work? 

Vina: I distinctly remember right before we launched our Kickstarter, we met up at a cafe to brainstorm our campaign and right next to us were about 4-5 men seated and they happened to overhear us. They then proceed to tell us “how we should do this” or ways they think we haven’t thought through our approach… It hit me not only how basic their advice was but how they were wary of our success as such “young women.” Months later I hope they saw that we did achieve what we worked so hard for and that our gender didn’t hinder our success. I can only continue to hope that even under our current political climate, women everywhere have that same chance to prove what they can accomplish.

Holly: There was never that “ah-ha” moment of understanding feminism for me. As an only child to a single mother, the expectation of respect and equality, regardless of gender, was the norm for me. It wasn’t until I was older, probably college, when questions started to begin with “How does it feel to be a woman in ___” that an understanding of feminism started to creep in. That understanding is still creeping and evolving in my mind. I don’t think it’ll ever galvanize; it will always be a changing, growing thing. That being said, if the idea of being a woman opening a business and promoting literacy in a community is seen as feminist inspiration to some, I’ll gladly wear that badge.

Natalie: I feel like feminism was something that has always been a part of who I am whether I had a name for it or not. Every woman has experienced those little (and sometimes very big) moments when someone says that you can't do something, that you shouldn’t do something because you're a woman or because you're from here or you believe in this. And it’s how you react to those moments that define you, not the moments themselves and certainly not whatever label someone puts on you. Sometimes people have come to us and said that we are not capable of the work we are trying to do, that we have no idea what we're talking about because we're just a bunch of girls. At that point, it's just a matter of saying "Yes, we’re girls, we’re women and we are still going to kick this project in the ass no matter what you say."

Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why?

TQB: Audrey Dimola is currently the Director of Public Programs at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. From the moment we started our endeavor, Audrey introduced herself and just brought this intense light and energy with her. She’s a poet and artist and has a love for her neighborhood like no other. We’ve partnered up with her several times and in doing so we’ve had the pleasure to witness her find a calling with Socrates and find an outlet for her creativity and drive that really benefits her community. She’s definitely been an inspiration to us. Plus she gives really genuine hugs.

Lightning round: Tell us what you’re…    

reading: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Thanks Obama! I picked it up after he chose it as one of his favorite reads)
watching: Veep!
listening to: The xx’s new album I See You
eating: currently obsessed with grapefruits.
doing: working
wearing: all black
wishing for: our bookstore to open soon!
wanting: again, to open our doors.
loving: that I will soon be reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I’ve heard nothing but great things
other: I feel really happy that we are part of this series!

reading: Red Rising by Pierce Brown and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
watching: Arrow
listening to: Hollow by Tori Kelly on repeat
eating: pizza
doing: waiting through jury duty
wearing: still winter wear, unfortunately
wishing for: spring time and our bookstore
wanting: a good long nap
loving: my dog, Kaylee, always
other: I've never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my life

reading: The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente
watching: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (anime, go figure)
listening to: Hamilton (on loop)
eating: a lot of oranges lately
doing: filling out interview questions
wearing: my trusty green cardigan
wishing for: the final piece of financing to go through for the shop
wanting: to see our doors finally open
loving: the graphic novel The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg... it’s so good.
other: My favorite word is “doodle”. Really it's the oodle sound.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Vina: I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said it best: “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.” A mantra we should all live by.

Natalie: Just keep on being your badass self and don't stop doing whatever makes you happy and helps your community.

Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Vina: Applaud their successes. If you have a platform, spread the word as a way to help.

Holly: Trust them. Ask them questions to learn from them. Expect great things from them.

Natalie: First of all, shop local lady-owned businesses. Second, never ever doubt the capabilities of a person because of their gender. Third, don't stand for the crap you see other people do to women, whether it's someone you know or a stranger. We have to lift each other up because we are all living in the same world.


Bios for the ladies behind The Queens Bookshop:

Vina Castillo: 4 years of bookselling/managerial experience (Barnes & Noble). BA in Literature and Publishing. You will find on her bookshelf: literary fiction, classics, children's/YA, and four different editions of the Harry Potter series.  Proud Queens resident! Serial music festival go-er, and bitten by the travel bug.

Natalie Noboa: 5 years of bookselling/managerial experience (Books-A-Million, Borders, Barnes & Noble). Lifetime Queens resident. Graduated from Queens College in Secondary English Education with two years at Baruch College for business. You will find on her bookshelf: science fiction, fantasy, an exorbitant amount of YA, memoir, humor, and an accidentally large collection from The Norton Anthology. Loves giraffes and puppies.

Holly Nikodem: 2 years as bookstore manager, 10 years in retail management with experience in event planning and niche markets. BA in Print Communication. You will find on her bookshelf: House of Leaves, Bone Clocks, and Brave New World. But also ALL the graphic novels, ALL the manga.

For more about The Queens Bookshop, visit their website or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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March 22, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Alice Driver

Kate Hart
Alice Driver making a film in Juarez - photo credit Julián Cardona
In January, I got to interview sommelier Rachel Speckan, an old friend from high school. Her family must have some killer genes, because this month I have the honor of profiling her cousin, Dr. Alice Driver, a photojournalist whose work I've admired for a long time. Alice uses her prodigious talents to benefit marginalized populations, fight for intersectional feminism, and shine a light on injustice at a time when doing so is becoming more dangerous by the day.


The cover of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015) by Alice Driver
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Alice: I have two fellowships to support my current writing and photography projects on Central American migrants traveling through Mexico, a Restorative Narrative Fellowship from Images of Voices and Hope and a Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellowship. At a time when the United States has embraced particularly hateful, vitriolic rhetoric against immigrants with a focus on Mexico, I feel that it is essential for me to use my photography and bilingual writing skills to tell narratives that highlight the strength, resilience and humanity of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. My project will take me to migrant shelters in Juarez, Oaxaca, and Tapachula, Mexico where I will focus on telling the stories of women and transgender migrants.

Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? 

Alice: At any given time, I am juggling several creative projects. If anything, the difficulty for me is that I want to turn everything in my life into a project. I am working on a co-authored book about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with Civil Rights leader Mary King, and I recently translated a book by Mexican journalist Julián Cardona into English. I would like to make another short documentary if I can raise the funds.

black and white portrait of Alice Driver by Sung Park
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Alice: The biggest challenge is balancing my creative life and making money.

Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Alice: I fail all the time – freelance writing is 99% rejection. For every fellowship I’ve gotten, I’ve been rejected from 30. Learning not to take rejection personally has been a difficult but important lesson. And keep doing the work, because the work is what matters.

Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? 

Alice: Poet Nikky Finney, who was my professor in college in 2001, wrote me in 2015, "So much of the world needs the muscle found in true words. Please keep sending what your head and belly make as one loaf."

"Muerte el macho" street art in Mexico City - photo by Alice Driver
Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Alice: I was raised a feminist. My mom has always been outspoken about social justice issues, and she is funny and a real force to reckon with. The injustice of daily life moves me to continue my feminist work, because I see how women I know, including myself, are marginalized and discredited, as well as paid less than their male colleagues.

Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Alice: I believe that rising tide lift all boats, and I try to support other women by celebrating their work and their lives. In practical terms, I interview women, recommend them as experts, share their work, and try to increase the participation and visibility of women in my field.

KateLightning round -- tell us what you’re…    

reading: I’m reading The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan and The Heart of the Artichoke by Elena Poniatowska (who, coincidentally, I met in Mexico City recently)
watching: Samantha Bee
listening to: Julie Byrne
eating:  Gorditas, tacos, mamey milkshakes
wearing: Superman converse (Wonder Woman was sold out)
wishing for: equality
wanting: to collaborate on more projects with photographers and videographers who I admire
loving: Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer

Alice Driver fly fishing on assignment - Mulberry River, Oark, Arkansas
Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Alice: Roxane Gay is one of my favorite writers, both for how genuine she is and how open and funny.

Elizabeth Plank is a media goddess – brilliant, funny and she does a lot of good work supporting disability rights.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Alice: Do the work and be persistent. Don’t overthink.


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Dr. Alice Driver is a bilingual photojournalist based in Mexico City. Driver received a 2017 Images and Voices of Hope Restorative Narrative Fellowship to support her work on a project about women and transgender migrants in Mexico, and she is also a 2017 Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellow.

She is the author of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015), a book which she completed as part of her postdoctoral fellowship at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City.

Driver's writing and documentary photography have been featured in The New York Times, Oxford American, National Geographic, The World Policy Journal, The Guardian, The Texas Observer, Al Jazeera English, Pacific Standard, and Ms. Magazine. She has interviewed and/or worked with foreign policy analyst Anne-Marie Slaughter, actress Lena Dunham, chef Andrew Zimmern, novelist NoViolet Bulawayo, and Emmy-winning writer Moira Walley-Beckett. She has a forthcoming book chapter on Mexico with Oxford University Press.

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