March 9, 2017
A Series of Unfortunate Events, the celebrated children’s books written by Lemony Snicket and now adapted into a television series on Netflix, was my childhood introduction to satire. (Likewise, in a popular and insightful essay for The Atlantic, Lenika Cruz wrote that A Series of Unfortunate Events introduced her to postmodernism as a child.) In ASOUE, satire is a powerful political tool. ASOUE is simultaneously theatrically absurd and an accurate reflection of the issues it addresses, forcing the audience to consider the absurdity of a social issue without being too far removed from the phenomenon it addresses.
I began reading ASOUE at the age of eight. While I didn’t yet understand the concept of satire, the series still had an eye-opening effect on me: it forced me to think deeply about social issues. Namely, it made me think about adults.
Read more A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Reflection on Adultism by @sianfergs
February 28, 2017
Yasmin Rehman reviews Christine Delphy’s Separate and Dominate: Feminism and Racism after the War on Terror
The sociologist and theorist Christine Delphy has been one of the most influential figures in French feminism since the 1970s, when she was active in the Mouvement delibération des femmes (Women’s Liberation Movement), and co-founded the journal Nouvelles questions féministes with Simone de Beauvoir. Separate and Dominate is a collection of ten essays which she began writing in 1996. Originally published in French in 2008, this is the first English translation, and it contains an opening chapter written specifically for this volume.
I read the book in the midst of the fierce social media debate surrounding the Charlie Hebdo cartoon featuring Aylan Kurdi, in which those who criticised the satirical magazine for using an image of the dead toddler were accused of failing to understand satire and/or the French. I was aware that my own lack of inside knowledge might affect my understanding: Delphy makes repeated reference to details of French governance, political controversies and pieces of legislation with which I am unfamiliar. But the issues and arguments raised by the book—terrorism, racism and imperialism, identity—are relevant and timely for British readers too.
Read more How have we come to this? by Yasmin Rehman for @strifejournal
February 27, 2017
“Sometimes Harlem would just do that, you understand. It would open up and reveal itself in a rigorous display of scents, various and commanding, floating its sounds around and above you, where they swirled generously, like autumn colours. In a while, you couldn’t tell what was what, really, or where the sensations came from.”- Kuwana Haulsey, Angel of Harlem
This is one of the most beautifully-written books I’ve ever read. Inspired by true events, it’s the story of Dr. May Edward Chinn, the first black woman physician in Harlem (in the 1920s). While reading the story, it’s natural to be amazed by how tenacious people can be, especially marginalized women. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about hearing about the first person to do something, to gain some sort of achievement. Even now there are always firsts but it’s not until I read this book that I thought more deeply about what being the first black female doctor in Harlem entailed. Not only is she black, she’s also a woman, so the question that entered my mind was this: How do marginalized people, women in particular, continue on despite society telling them from all angles that they are not supposed to be there?
Read more Angel of Harlem- Kuwana Haulsey
February 24, 2017
A while back, I attempted to compile a list of Welsh BME writers to read on Twitter. Since then, I’ve sat on this for months, thinking and then overthinking it; “is this necessary? Are you really going to be that person? How will people respond?” Yet every now and then, I’m reminded of this little project of mine, whether it is through the tense political climate, or the conversations I have with people.
I would firstly like to say that most publications etc. in Wales are very open to diverse and intersectional experiences in literature. Parthian Books regularly publish books by diverse authors, while platforms such as Wales Arts Review regularly give voice to, and review books by diverse writers. Both are also platforms I contribute to and work with. Yet while this is the case, the Welsh BME voice in literature remains a quiet one. ‘Difficult’ is a euphemism for what has been my search for BME and intersectional experiences in Welsh books. Whether the problem is simply that Wales isn’t as diversely populated as London or other areas in England, or whether there is a lack of promoting and reaching out to writers from different backgrounds who are Welsh, I can’t say.
Read more Why I Want to #Read & Discover More #Welsh #BME #Writers
February 16, 2017
Goodreads Rating : 3.75/5
Review: The first time I ever heard Annie Zaidi speak dates back to my post grad days when she has a special session with us filled with her page-3-kinda-like-ermygod stories. As expected, massive eye rolling happened. Fast forward 3 years later, I see her again, this time with Mandy Ord at JLF 2015. More eye-rolling and subtle scoffing, until she and Mandy spoke about alternate endings to iconic tales in our culture, such as the love saga of Salim and Anarkali. I was like a dog who picked up a new scent. That one story and the epic cliffhanger was sufficient enough to itch my mind and click ‘add to cart’ on Amazon.
Read more Eat The Sky, Drink The Ocean – a review
February 9, 2017
How You Might Know Me is a result of years of creative writing workshops with women from the UK’s growing sex industry and Sabrina Mahfouz’s own experiences of working in strip-clubs. It is told through four characters: Sylvia, Tali, Sharifa and Darina, who each use the poetic form to tell their stories, be it through a traditional verse, or a more contemporary, free verse with punchy lines.
The collection examines “taboos, surprising sexual encounters, the politics of desire, the vastly differing viewpoints on sex work and most prominently, the status of women’s equality in the UK today.” What the collection also is, is inclusive and representative of women from different backgrounds and cultures.
Read more Review: How You Might Know Me by Sabrina Mahfouz
February 1, 2017
“I am here, reading with you. I am reading this over your shoulder. I make your home home, I’m the Braille on your wallpaper that only your fingers can read–I tell you where you are. Don’t turn to look at me. I am only tangible when you don’t look.”- The house in Helen Oyeyemi’s “White is For Witching”
Read more White is for Witching- Helen Oyeyemi
October 27, 2016
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 21.09.16
“Most important the figure of the witch…in this volume is placed at the center-stage, as the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy; the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeha woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” (p.1)
I have just finished reading this fascinating and excellent work.
I am avid enthusiast of the need for the reclaiming of women’s history and the necessity to document and learn about women’s past roles in our history. So it was with excitement that I came across this important work.
Federici gave me an interesting perspective on women’s history as she claims that it is not just about reclaiming women’s hidden history but understanding how women are often at the centre of historical events but their role has been diminished by historical accounts.
Read more Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – a review at Mairi Voice
September 16, 2016
A Ripple from the Storm by Doris Lessing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The third book in Martha Quest’s story is best read after the foregoing instalments. Here there is a shift in subject matter; previously Martha’s political activities were not a dominant part of her life, and she engaged in them alongside other preoccupations. Here all the action is political activity, and the personal lives of the characters are subsumed in it rather than the reverse. The energies and characters of Martha and everyone else is enmeshed in a political epic taking place at all scales, from international to intimate.
While Lessing sometimes seems to ridicule the machinations and dogma of political groups or criticise them scathingly, she effectively demonstrates that every level of existence has a political dimension, which is often overlooked by the particular ideological framings at work among the participants. Greek activist Athen’s attempts to communicate the all-embracing political framework of Marxism to ingenue Maisie, whose sympathethic indolence might be meant to represent an easily influenced reader, involve humanising politics, softening ideology into an integrated (even living) body of varyingly flexible ethical positions. This humanistic approach is the opposite of ideologue Anton’s rigid and dogmatic intellectualism. I remembered reading about dry stone walls and why they are stronger than bricks and mortar: the stones flex with the moving earth, and each tiny shift wedges them more tightly together. Anton’s Marxism is accordingly much more robust than Anton’s.
Read more Thistledown of History by @RoseAnnaStar
September 6, 2016
Cross-posted from: Madam J Mo
Originally published: 19.06.16
There are few greater literary treats than the bi-annual publication of a few new books from the wonderful Persephone Books in London. And this re-issue of the 1914 novel A Lady And Her Husband by Amber Reeves is, of course, no disappointment.
Amber Reeves had a fascinating life story, not least of all because she was the muse for the character Ann Veronica in HG Wells’ 1909 suffragette novel of the same name. (I wrote about Ann Veronica here back in February 2012.) Reeves and Wells had had an affair in which both seemed to inspire the other in equal measure, and many say that A Lady And Her Husband is Reeves’ response to Ann Veronica. Having read both, it is interesting to be able to compare them.
Read more A Lady & Her Husband – Amber Reeves by Madam J Mo
August 4, 2016
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 13.03.16
I have just finished reading this harrowing and powerful novel.
Set in the near future it is about a group of young women who are abducted and imprisoned in an outback facility somewhere in Australia. They are abducted by a corporation – to be punished, to be silenced because they have dared to expose their sexual exploitation at the hands of powerful men.
They include a victim of a football-buddy pack rape; another is a “lover” of a high-profile politician; a woman assaulted whilst partying on a cruise ship, and a woman, a contestant on a TV reality show who is singled out for sex by the producer of the show.
Read more Charlotte Wood ‘The Natural Way of Things’ at Mairi Voice
July 27, 2016
Cross-posted from: Femineach
Originally published: 29.03.16
I mainlined Spin series 2 on Walter Presents.
*Do not read this if you haven’t watched it.*
It’s a cut and thrust, wheel and deal, dog eat dog, keep your friends close and your enemies closer, French, political drama. There are few things that I like more than that but I had to suspend all of my feminist sensibilities to be able to watch it at all. I promised myself that I wouldn’t “do feminism” on it but here I am regardless. (Feminist analyses are just like the hiccups, really: uncomfortable, concerning, infuriating, and like the divil himself to stop.)
There were several criticisms about the representation of women in Spin series
1. For starters, all of the women there were in some way dependent on their menfolk (Valentine on Pierre*, Appoline on Simon, yer woman who was the candidate on just about everyone, really) and much too capitulating. It was a valid enough criticism but I could get over it for the odd glimmer of fight and rebellion. Juliette, the daughter, was irredeemable but she was young and selfish and we were all that once.
Read more SPIN: MORE GETTING WOMEN ON TV VERY, VERY WRONG by grainnemcmahon
June 30, 2016
Cross-posted from: HerStory
Originally published: 19.02.16
I wrote this review a year or so ago when I was doing my MA Dissertation and I forgot about it until now. Why publish it now? Because I recently read Deborah Kay Davies’ Reasons She Goes to the Woods (2014), which is another fantastic novel about a young girl, coming of age, and mental health, to put it elementarily, and I felt that the two books had some themes in common. This is not to say that they are similar. They are not. I repeat: they are not similar. But they have “unconventional” layout and writing style and both play with the concept of sibling relationships amongst other things. So, I’m publishing it again with some revisions, because this book is definitely worth raving about. Apologies in advance for the informal tone of this review – I don’t usually do this, but a year ago I was a newbie to book reviews and still find this a difficult book to review.
Read more A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride – a review by @Durre_Shahwar
June 23, 2016
Cross-posted from: Madam J-Mo
Originally published: 24.10.15
This post contains plot spoilers about the 2015 film Suffragette.
On one hand I was very excited to see the 2015 film Suffragette because this is a period of history I have long been fascinated and inspired by. One the other hand I was very nervous to see the film precisely because I know so much about the era – and I was worried that the film industry would either a) over-dramatise things for effect to distort facts, or b) invent one or two things to make the plot more ‘Hollywood’.
I always refer to myself as a supporter of the suffragists rather than the suffragettes. The suffragists (the peaceful ones who campaigned for many decades but rarely made the news) far outnumbered the militant suffragettes (the ones who got the headlines for the few years they were active), and it frustrates me that the law-abiding, peaceful and effective suffragists are so often overlooked than their more sensational sisters. So while it looks unlikely that a film about Millicent Fawcett’s lifelong campaign and petitioning will be made any time soon, Suffragette is the best we’re likely to get for now.
Read more Suffragette – A Film Review at Madam J-Mo
May 11, 2016
“It’s not so easy writing about nothing.”
So starts Patti Smith’s glorious homage to the temperamental nature of the creative life. M Train is one of those books that not only lives up to the unanimous praise of reviewers, it exceeds it. It’s a book that envelops you in an absorbing journey through the “the twisting track of the mind’s convolutions”, as inimitably described by Smith herself. Unrestrained in the rawness of her reflections, Smith is a writer so incisive that you read her words with a sense of wonder and envy.
M Train is the latest book to join my beloved collection of works by women through the ages. As with all writers I admire, there’s the vain hope that through some mysterious process of literary osmosis, I might emulate a speck of their talent and output. A grandiose delusion indeed but in the words of another talented storyteller I’ve recently been binge-reading, Brene Brown, “it’s like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction”.
Read more Women & writing: A celebration of true greatness by @AliyaMughal1
February 4, 2016
A recent issue of Private Eye published a spoof newspaper front page purportedly from the start of WWI, drawing parallels between the international conflict of that time and our own. Juxtaposed with this was an article about what a fabulous summer it was, full of ice-creams and donkey rides on the beach. Of course, the joke of this front page is that whilst we are sated with immediate sweet and simple pleasures we can ignore the horror to come. I found it funny and frightening.
I’ve thought of that spoof quite often during the past weeks of my son’s summer holiday, whilst eating ice-creams on the beach (no donkeys any more). Yet … my natural inclination to catastrophise means I am drawn to the news bulletins of the many, terrifying conflicts that have punctuated this summer. They seem to draw together in our collective consciousness to predicate a disaster of greater magnitude. There has been a shadow cast over the bright sunny beach, a shadow of conflicts reaching ever closer.
Read more Fictions of Conflict
January 29, 2016
Privilege is relative, isn’t it. As long as there is someone wealthier, smarter or better-off than you, then it’s hard to consider yourself privileged. Even when you most certainly are.
English biographer Antonia Fraser DBE is something of a paragon. Her biographies are best sellers (Mary Queen of Scots) that get made into movies by the hollywood elite (Marie Antoinette). The several I have read are engaging, impeccably researched and – on occasion and appropriately – laugh out loud funny (Warrior Queens).
In her ‘Memoir of Growing Up’ Fraser, now in her eighties, is at pains to describe what an ordinary girl she was, and how middle-class her upbringing. This despite being the granddaughter of an Earl and, on her mother’s side, a wealthy Harley Street medico. She grew up in North Oxford (not as well-to-do, Fraser assures us, as South Oxford) where her father was a don and, later, a Labour minister in England’s post-WWII government.
Read more My History by Antonia Fraser – Book Review
January 23, 2016
http://www.aroomofourown.org/wp-admin/post-new.phpI’ve always loved reading ghost stories at this time of year. Nothing else seems to hit quite the same spot the wind is roaring like a lost soul outside and the rain is battering against the windows in truly biblical fashion. As the nights draw in there’s always that primeval part of us that draws closer to the fire but is mindful of the fury outside. This is something that writers have always understood and those writing before homes were lit with the flick of a switch understood it by far the best. My favourite ghost stories always seem to date from the mid-19th to early 20th century, when the gothic imagination was at its height. I grew up reading M.R. James and E.F. Benson, first discovered in the volumes that made up part of my dad’s Everyman Library – hundreds of uniform cloth covered books with matching paper jackets that lived in special glass fronted bookcases in the dining room.
Read more Who’s afraid of the dark by Abigail Rieley
January 21, 2016
I’ve never really read YA, not even when I was a YA myself. Except A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian, proving there is always an exception to any rule.
So it was a real treat for my first proper YA experience to be the fantastic Beautiful Broken Things by my very clever friend Sara Barnard, published by Macmillan.
There’s the disclosure: Sara is a friend of mine but I would be writing the following glowing review whether I knew her or not. Because this book merits it.
The novel is told in the voice of Caddy, a teenager living in Brighton. Like most teens, she’s concerned with schoolwork, exams, parents and, of course, boys. But, in a refreshing twist from a lot of fiction aimed at teenage girls, boys are not the primary pre-occupation of this book. Female friendship is.
Caddy’s best friend is Rosie. Although they don’t attend the same school, the pair are inseparable – doing everything together and calling or texting each other every evening to update on the day’s events. However, when the beautiful, cool and mysterious Suzanne starts at Rosie’s school, Caddy is worried that their close bond is under threat.
Read more Beautiful Broken Things – A review by Sara Barnard (@sianushka)
January 4, 2016
In 1855 the well-to-do Finch family falls on hard times and is forced live and farm in the Coorong, on the remote southeast coast of South Australia. Cue struggles with the landscape and clashes with the local Ngarrindjeri people. But first-time novelist Lucy Treloar subverts the typical white Australian pioneer story in interesting and complex ways. Nothing in this fascinating and beautifully written story turns out as expected.
Papa Finch is an entrepreneur always eyeing off the next big opportunity but the family’s ramshackle homestead on the Coorong is a blow to everyone’s pride. His four teenage boys are forced to forfeit their education to work on the run. Mama, grieving for two younger children who died just before the family left Adelaide, is not quite herself and the responsibility for running the household falls to the eldest daughter, fifteen year old Hettie.
Read more Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar