The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Highline professor Jamie McGillen has just released her third book in the Rainier Series.

Highline professor climbs higher along with her literary heroine

Faith Chao Staff Reporter Nov 23, 2021

A Highline professor has just published her third novel in a series that she said tries to address the issues of young women breaking into roles that men have traditionally held. 

Jamie McGillen, who teaches in the English Department, has just released In the Heart of Paradise, the third book in the Rainier Series, which follows the adventures of 19-year-old Anna Gallagher, a young woman with mountaineering dreams but who faces the pressures to marry well and soon.

The series is set in the late 1800s after the Great Seattle Fire.

McGillen teaches English Composition I, II, and is on the National Poetry Month Committee.

Jamie McGillen

“I love teaching, but having a creative outlet definitely makes teaching more enjoyable. I think continuing to write and publish while teaching is a benefit to my students,” McGillen said.

She was born in Juneau, Alaska, but was raised in Kent and now lives in Enumclaw. 

McGillen began writing when she was young. She first wrote poems, and eventually took poetry workshops in college. She began writing her first novel, In Sight of the Mountain, the first book of the Rainier Series, four years ago. 

The Rainier Series is published by The Evergreen Bookshelf, a small press in the Pacific Northwest.  

“It took me four years to edit and write the entire series,” McGillen said.

The inspiration behind Gallagher’s story is Fay Fuller, the first woman to summit Mt. Rainier in 1890, and “other trailblazing women of the 19th century,” McGillen said.

“[Women] like Isabella Bird who traveled around the Rocky Mountains and climbed Longs Peak in 1873. And Lucy Walker, a British woman who summited the Matterhorn in the Alps in 1871,” McGillen said.

In a time where women were expected to play the role of the homemaker and were judged based on their looks rather than their abilities, most women were spending their time fulfilling those roles by maintaining the duties to their families and children.

However, there are always exceptions.

“I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many women doing epically adventurous things like that when it not only risked their lives, but also risked their chances of having any place in their society,” McGillen said.

The 19th century was a period in American history where people began questioning the roles that women played in society.

“Should we let them help chop down trees and build houses because we don’t have enough men? Should they be able to get a university education, but not be allowed to vote? The logical answers to these questions were starting to emerge, even though it challenged the social norms,” McGillen said.

McGillen’s third book has received much praise from her readers and editorial reviews.

The Kirkus Reviews has said the novel is “Historically evocative and helmed by independent female role models.”

The Seattle Book Review has said that “Fans of Pride and Prejudice and Little Women will enjoy this beautiful tale.”   

McGillen says that the Rainier Series is classified as young adult historical fiction. The targeted audiences are young adults, and women in particular.

McGillen plans on writing another historical fiction book that will be for an adult audience.

Inspired by a life-size portrait of Fay Fuller, McGillen wanted to write the story of what it might have been like to be a woman in her early 20s with the thought of summiting Mt. Rainier in that time period.  

In the first book of the Rainier Series, Anna Gallagher’s grandfather wishes for her to settle down with a suitable husband and have a stable life, but she has an agenda of her own.

Gallagher is a headstrong and determined young woman who is not willing to give up her freedom even with the pressure of conforming to societal norms. She wants to travel and explore.

“The story proves that you don’t have to conform to social norms to create a fulfilling life and to surround yourself with people who love you,” McGillen said. “I hope that readers will be inspired to get outdoors and do things they didn’t think they were capable of.” 

For more information about the Rainier Series please visit https://jamiemcgillen.com/

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