Spotlighting Women Authors: Celebrating Women’s History Month with Jessica Jopp
By Lizzy Young
Next up in our blog interview series for Women’s History Month, where some of our women authors shared their thoughts, we have Jessica Jopp!
Jessica Jopp grew up in New York state. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. An award-winning poet, Jopp has published her work in numerous journals, among them POETRY, Seneca Review, and Denver Quarterly. Her collection The History of a Voice was awarded the Baxter Hathaway Prize in Poetry from EPOCH, and it was published in 2021 by Headmistress Press. She has been a finalist for the Yale Younger Poets Prize, the Juniper Prize, the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and the Honickman Prize. Jopp teaches in the English Department at Slippery Rock University. She lives in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where she is on the board of a nonprofit working to protect a community woodland.
Lizzy Young: Who are some women authors that inspire you?
Fiction writers who inspire me include Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Colette, Shirley Hazzard, Alice McDermott, Marilynne Robinson, Sarah Schulman, Harriet Arnow, Claire Messud, Edna O’Brien, Louise Erdrich, Kate Walbert, and Jennifer Haigh.
LY: How do you hope your work adds to the rich history of books written by women?
JJ: There are several ways in which I hope my novel, From the Longing Orchard, adds to the ongoing conversation: with a queer protagonist, it gives voice to and affirms the perspective of someone in a marginalized group, and as such is a counter to patriarchal norms, especially in this
current political climate of right-wing misogynist vitriol. I hope my novel would enable some young reader somewhere to feel less isolated. I would want it to add to the canon of works that celebrate the wonder of the natural environment. And for my novel to be read as a feminist work.
LY: Who are some of your favorite female characters in literature, and why?
JJ: I tend to be drawn to characters that challenge the status quo or who give readers an unconventional way of looking at and understanding human experience or the natural world. These would include Orlando from Woolf’s Orlando; Sula from Morrison’s Sula; Alison Bechdel and Jeanette Winterson in self-portraits; Aunt Sylvie from Robinson’s Housekeeping; the
protagonist Bette from Schulman’s The Cosmopolitans; and also Patricia Westerford from Richard Powers’ The Overstory.
Jessica Jopp’s novel, From the Longing Orchard, winner of the Quill Prose Award, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press this Spring!
Eighteen-year-old Sonya Hudson has been gripped by phobia since she was thirteen. What would make navigating the world so difficult for this budding visual artist? When the story opens, she lives with her mother and her sister in a suburb in New York in the late 1970s. The narrative carries us back through her childhood, where she struggles with the family’s frequent moving and with her parents’ increasingly fraught marriage. Lingering at the periphery of her consciousness is the shadow of a damaged boy she knew when she was very young. Reverence for the natural world provides comfort, as does her fierce attachment to her sister and her parents’ poignant guidance. But it is the intimacy with another young woman that ultimately offers a path to healing. In language soaring with poetic incantation, From the Longing Orchard shows us the ways in which a young woman and those she loves all must contend with a longing of some kind and how they seek from each other, and sometimes find, the needed balm.
Preorder Jopp’s novel at this link today!