Updated: Jul 16
By Abisola Alli
As we have seen throughout society, almost every field of work tends to be male-dominated. This is no exception for Latin Studies. In this blog post, I want to uplift and amplify some amazing female novella writers. As we all know, 2020 has been a whirlwind of emotions and life-changing events. 2020 has also provided us with an open platform to tackle some social justice issues that the United States and the rest of the world are going through. This includes the need for more female and nonbinary representation in all fields of work because our voices matter and will be heard.
Emma Vanderpool is the first novella writer who will be discussed. Vanderpool has written
books like Incitatus: Fabula Equi Senatoris, Sacri Pulli: A Tale of War and Chickens, and Kandake Amanirenas: Regina Nubiae, Femina Romana, and Surus Elephantus. I love how the books have beautiful illustrations, which really draw the reader into the book. All of Vanderpool’s books have really great cover art. The illustrations are very well thought out and tie into the plot of the book. All three of the books she has written have interesting story arcs. The issue I have found with many Latin books is that they most times lack a modern edge. When researching the plots of the book, I was really interested because the stories told you more about unrepresented figures in Roman History, such as female warriors who went into battle. Latin can tend to be repetitive and sort of antique at times, but Vanderpool’s books bring new perspectives to Latin History which I really love. I also love how novellas cater to different levels of Latin. The stories have limited Latin vocabulary that is suited for Latin students who are levels 1 and 2 and can really help strengthen your knowledge of Latin grammar. After researching some of Vanderpool’s books, I found some customer reviews on Amazon that shared the same sentiment about her books, specifically, Incitatus as I did. I was so interested in Incitatus that I plan to purchase some of her books because Vanderpool’s books can help with understanding semi basic Latin. As someone who would often get lost in the vocabulary when reading Latin novels, it is very helpful that hers have helpful notes and that the Latin is understandable especially for someone like me who just finished Latin 2.
“I really enjoyed reading this Latin novella. Incitatus won all the races, and Emperor Caligula loved winners, so he made Incitatus a senator. The horse, a poor senator and the Emperor tell the story. It is a comprehensible novella. If you know the basic tenses of Latin verbs you will enjoy reading this novella (probably mid year 2). There are many helpful notes at the bottom of the page, many words are explained that you know already (better too many notes than too few). There are 120 words, (350 unique forms) and a total of 2200 words. The words are repeated many times so that by the end you know them without looking at the notes. --Jacobulus” (Amazon Customer Review of Incitatus)
Another female author of Latin novellas is Arianne Belzer Carroll. Carroll is a Latin teacher in Atlanta, who writes novellas for students. Some of the novellas that she has written are Lucia Heros: A Lucia Story, Fortuna Fortibus Favet: viae variae patent, and Lucia: Puella Mala. What stands out to me is this book is targeted towards high school Latin students. I will even recommend this book to my teacher because from what I’ve observed about Carroll’s books, they are very interactive. They even remind me of the Ecce Romani books which I really love. Her books seem to be a great tool for high school students who might want a bit of a challenge. Oftentimes Latin books written for students aren’t very intriguing or provoking, but Belzer’s books really draw you in and help break down Latin in a way that everyone can understand. The book of Carroll’s that interested me the most was Fortuna Fortibus Favet. From what I gathered from the description of the book and other customer reviews I saw on Amazon, the book is very interactive. It has many different endings and what you puck determines how the story ends. I think that is such a great thing because it keeps you intrigued, for you don’t know how a decision you make while reading will affect the outcome of the story. This type of interactive book definitely interested me because it combines Latin, history, and mystery which are three things that I really love. I would even recommend this to my teacher for our class because as high school students, we tend to lose focus easily, so I think that Fortuna Fortibus Favet would be something that people at my level of Latin would really enjoy. The quote below solidified my interest in this book and helped me understand what the book was really about.
"Quid est agendum? I just loved this book. I'm a self-learner and this was the first book that I'd used that was a consistent difficulty level throughout. It's refreshing to be able to just read Latin without having to tackle a grammar lesson at the same time. The limited vocabulary also helps as you're not reaching for a dictionary all the time. The vocabulary and phrases used are all defined in the back! The story itself is fun. Set in the vicinity of Pompeii during the eruption of Vesuvius, you're given a good look at what life may have been like then. Since it's a choose-your-own-adventure format, I chose badly a good half dozen times and died. After each death, I went back to the beginning, re-reading, and choosing differently...each time getting a better grasp
of the Latin and...of course...a different twist of the story. So much fun.”
(Amazon Customer review of Fortuna Fortibus Favet)
Yet another author is Laura Shaw, who has written books such as In Vineto, Bellovesus in Gallia, and Charibydis: The Very Hungry Little Goat. Her books are great for Latin students especially those in their first three years.
The last two authors I will be talking about actually are connected: Miriam Patrick and Rachel Ash. They have written a book together named Pluto: fabula amoris. This book is meant for Latin 1 and 2 students and it focuses on mythology, specifically the story of Pluto and Proserpina. Not only are their books on interesting topics like Greek Mythology, but they also help with vocabulary and fully understanding Latin words and their meaning. Though Patrick and Ash wrote a book together, they both have novellas that they wrote on their own. One of Patrick’s books, Eurydice: fabula amoris, is about a girl who discovers herself and the meaning of fate and life itself. Rachel Ash also wrote a book called Camilla about the story of a female warrior. What is similar about the two books is that they both tell stories of women during Greco-Roman history trying to find themselves.
“It's an interesting Romance told from both the hero and the heroine's point of view. I think you would enjoy reading it after you have read "Agrippina Mater Fortis", and "Livia Mater Eloquens", roughly end of year 1, beginning of year 2. (a limited vocabulary of 148 words with a total word count of 1114 ) It uses the present, imperfect and perfect, the occasional subjunctive, accusative plus the infinitive, and verbs tend to be at the end of the sentence. Macrons are not marked, which makes it a little slower going for those of us who are used to them (I just marked them all in my book, good practice). Watch out for sōlus, a, um alone and solum ground, floor."
“This book is truly one of a kind. Upon reading the words of Magistra Ash I was overwhelmed with emotion and power. This book actually made me turn into Pluto himself and I am so thankful for that. Godspeed”
(Customer reviews from Pluto: fabula amoris)
Researching these books taught me a lot about Latin novellas, especially novellas written by women. As someone who loves to read, I often find a hard time finding representation in books, especially Latin novellas. As a modern reader, finding interesting facts about books written by women really made my day. In the future I definitely am interested in writing books of my own, so finding books written by women really gave me that confidence boost that I needed. It showed that anyone can do it as long as you have the passion and the drive. What I also really liked was how many of the authors I discussed told interesting stories about overlooked parts of history or stories of strong Roman women which I really loved. One thing that I would love to see though, is the depiction of stories of Roman women that might've been of African descent. As a Nigerian American girl, black representation in books and media was something that I really wish I found. If more stories about black and brown men and women were researched and talked about in Latin novellas, I think it could really help start some conversations about race in the Roman history community. Like I said in the beginning, researching these Latin novellas written by women really made my interest in Latin culture and history so strong I decided to purchase some of my own. I am excited to dive deeper and Latin and take in all the wonderful things this complex and beautiful language has to offer.
About the Writer:
Hello, my name is Abisola Alli. I am a rising junior in high school and next year I will be taking Latin 3. When I first started taking Latin I almost quit. It was so confusing to me and I did not really understand the history, vocabulary, or grammar. Then last year I really started to enjoy Latin and when my teacher told me about Lupercal, I knew then that it would be a great experience. It’s only my first year being a part of Lupercal, and I have already been a part of so many great opportunities, like writing for the blog and working on various group projects. I am able to put a lot of my passions into one big initiative which makes me so happy. I am also learning new things about Latin history and culture that I knew nothing about before. This program is truly an amazing experience, and I am so excited to grow as a Latin student with Lupercal!