Young adult author Julie Berry speaks at Whitman


Jack Middleton

Author Julie Berry speaks to students about her new book, "Lovely War." Whitman club GenerationWOW hosted the event.

By Jack Middleton

Author Julie Berry talked to students about her latest book, “Lovely War,” in the media center March 7. A wartime romance that features strong female and minority characters, “Lovely War” is a unique spin on a well-established genre.

GenerationWOW, a club dedicated to educating and supporting young women, hosted the event. As a female author with a newly released book containing strong female characters, Berry was well-aligned with GenerationWOW’s goals.

“Berry was a perfect example of an empowering woman,” GenerationWOW president Maddie Menkes said. “She took one of the greatest risks by becoming an author, a field solely driven upon your own success.”

The way “Lovely War” deals with race and gender was a key topic of Berry’s presentation. The two main female characters serve as volunteer nurses, which Berry said was one of the crucial yet overlooked ways that women were able to contribute during World War I. Aubrey, one of the main male characters, is a member of the Harlem Hellfighters: a segregated regiment consisting entirely of African-Americans.

“Lovely War” is also told through greek gods Aphrodite, Aries, Apollo and Hades.

“Using the greek gods as storytellers allowed me to play with some of the history that we have of gods telling stories of mortals entangled in love and war, like ‘The Illiad,’” Berry said.

Ragtime music is an important aspect of “Lovely War,” with Aubrey playing ragtime on the piano throughout the novel. While researching and writing, Berry spent about a year and a half learning to play ragtime music on the piano, some of which she played for the audience.

“Playing the piano added another layer that we’re not used to,” librarian Alexis Mazur said. “For those that were unfamiliar with that kind of music, hearing it now might give the story a bit more dimension.”