September 13, 2017
I have not visited the Door of No Return, but by relying on random shards of history and unwritten memoir of descendants of those who passed through it, including me, I am constructing a map of the region, paying attention to faces, to the unknowable, to unintended acts of returning, to impressions of doorways. Any act of recollection is important, even looks of dismay and discomfort. Any wisp of a dream is evidence.- Dionne Brand, A Journey to the Door of No Return
There’s a short list of books that I’d say have recently changed my worldview and how I view things. This is one of them. From my research into the black diaspora through literature, art, and stories, etc, I always marvel at is what was saved and what was lost. This book goes a lot into what was lost and I read it from a personal place, identifying strongly with many of its themes.
The main premise of this book is the Door of No Return in the Black diaspora. The door in the book’s title is defined as “a place, real, imaginary and imagined…The door out of which Africans were captured, loaded onto ships heading for the New World. It was the door of a million exits multiplied. It is a door many of us wish never existed.” I think I’m fortunate to know where my “door” is; but for others in the diaspora this relationship is much more fraught with confusion. Because The Door is not an imagining for me, I initially felt that the book was more suited to North American and Caribbean Black people who might not know their origins, but the more I read the more I saw that oppression was universal and the Diaspora has a strong connection:
Read more A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging- Dionne Brand
September 8, 2017
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes the books I enjoy most are the ones I have the least to say about. And what can I add to Toni Morrison’s comment that “the beauty of Love Medicine saves us from being completely devastated by its power”? Because reading this book is living, in sweetness and beauty and love, even when it tells terrible things.
It’s life and there are as may ways of looking at it as there are minds to see, but in so far as these folks have been and still are fighting for survival, not just of the individual bodies but ways of being alive together and the deathlessness of stories. It’s a fight fought ducking and rolling and with tricks of all styles, with ‘one paw tied behind my back’. Sometimes it’s fought by going with the flow, by listening to the heart or the spirit or the craving of flesh, and seeking what’s wanted. Sometimes it’s fought in humility or by letting go, sometimes by audacity and pride in the face of censure. There are losses and grief, but the dead travel with the living.
Read more Ways of being alive together, by @RoseAnnaStar
August 14, 2017
Sex is too intimate to compromise.
‘I’d already decided that teen sex was no fun, especially for girls. Too many of my friends told me about the sex they’d had and it sounded horrible. It sounded fast – insanely fast- and unpleasant. And unsatisfying. To make things worse, it seemed that as soon as it went from making out for about a minute to having sex, the boys turned into emotional zombies who got as far away from the girls as possible’.
This quote, from a new book Love, Sex and No Regrets for Today’s Teens, describes the experiences of girls I meet everywhere. Fast, expressionless, meaningless, non-intimate, care-less sex which makes them feel like a masturbatory aid. Boys who know how to give a girl a pounding but not how to make love. Girls desiring authentic intimate connection but finding de-personalisation and emotional disconnection instead.
Read more Love, sex and no regrets for teens: a review by @meltankardreist
June 6, 2017
Cross-posted from: MOG Plus
Originally published: 31.05.17
It might seem strange to apply a real world principle, like privilege, to a fictional character. But I think it can be quite interesting to consider it in this manner, as it has the potential benefit of allowing a degree of distance and objectivity.
The reason I’ve chosen to do this is partly because I’m a little bit excited about the Wonder Woman film, but also because she is a character who is raised in a radically different environment to the one she ends up in.
For those who don’t already know, Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince is born and raised on the island Themyscira, previously titled Paradise Island. This is an island populated solely by women who have no experience of life with men, and therefore exist entirely outside of the patriachy. (If you wanted to read a book that Paradise Island was likely based on I can highly recommend Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman)
On Themyscira no woman has been socialised to believe that there are women’s roles and men’s roles, as women are required to do all roles through necessity. As such they are unlikely to have been taught that women have to fit into a narrow personality type, or only be interested in selected hobbies, or any of the other demands that are placed on women in our society.
Read more Is Wonder Woman privileged? by @MogPlus
May 15, 2017
Cross-posted from: Tricialo
Originally published: 10.10.15
The Let Books Be Books campaign has attracted much media coverage and high profile support, but labelling books ‘for boys’ is sometimes defended as a useful tool for getting boys to read. Tricia Lowther argues that gendering reading doesn’t help literacy, and may even be harming boys’ chances.
The Let Books Be Books campaign asks children’s publishers to take the ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ labels off books and allow children real free choice in the kinds of stories and activity books that interest them. The campaign has had success with publishers and retailers like Usborne , Parragon, and Paperchase, and seen support from prominent authors, but of course there have been people who disagree with us, and one argument in particular keeps cropping up; gendered books are acceptable because we need to encourage boys to read more.
Read more How do we get more boys reading? (Clue: ‘boy books’ aren’t the answer.)
May 12, 2017
Pages : 321
Read on : Kindle
As if there was less misery in the world that I had to review such a book. The trigger, of course, was Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
. Soon after I finish a book, I scan through Goodreads to see what the fellow bibliophiles have to say. All because I’m curious and also just to pick up points that I might have overlooked/missed.
When it comes to child abuse, Room by Emma Donoghue was a title tossed around by a bunch of people. Stated to be loosely inspired by the Fritzl case, Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’ was a book that made everyone sit up and notice the risk she had taken in publishing this work, which eventually lined up quite a few accolades and appraisals for her.
Read more Room by Emma Donoghue at Obscure and Unnecessary Drama
May 9, 2017
“Valancy had lived spiritually in the Blue Castle ever since she could remember. She had been a very tiny child when she found herself possessed of it. Always, when she shut her eyes, she could see it plainly, with its turrets and banners on the pine-clad mountain height, wrapped in its faint, blue loveliness, against the sunset skies of a fair and unknown land. Everything wonderful and beautiful was in that castle. Jewels that queens might have worn; robes of moonlight and fire; couches of roses and gold; long flights of shallow marble steps, with great, white urns, and with slender, mist-clad maidens going up and down them; courts, marble-pillared, where shimmering fountains fell and nightingales sang among the myrtles; halls of mirrors that reflected only handsome knights and lovely women–herself the loveliest of all, for whose glance men died. All that supported her through the boredom of her days was the hope of going on a dream spree at night. Most, if not all, of the Stirlings would have died of horror if they had known half the things Valancy did in her Blue Castle.”- Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Blue Castle
This is the sort of book that makes me so glad to be a reader. Montgomery is an EXTREMELY talented and beautiful writer. Recently I’ve been finding myself wanting to read more of her work because it’s honestly like a balm. There’s a feeling I would get very often as a child when I was discovering the world of literature and everything was fresh and new; it’s a feeling that as an adult I rarely get close to reliving, but in this book I did see some glimmers of it.
Read more The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery by Les Reveries de Rowena
May 8, 2017
The Incomers by Moira McPartlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I bought this book partly because I was so attracted to the beautiful manga style cover art centred on a gorgeously drawn black woman’s face. While her necklace looks African to me, her rakish curls of hair, sceptical eyebrow and thick gold earring give her a cartoon romantically piratical air! Meanwhile, two white women on the phone look as if they’re either dealing with a crisis or plotting some intrigue, but as it turns out, the protagonist, Ellie, isn’t a swashbuckling renegade and the other women are just gossiping. Their chatter, often cruel, is McPartlin’s vehicle for working through the harshness and bigotry of a rural mid-’60s Scottish setting. While the ‘pairty line’ vents toxic racism and ignorance, its status as a space for friends to speak openly enables some healing and changes of mind to take place. Religious fissures are bridged by family relationships, and the speakers feel comfortable enough to contradict each other and repent of previous convictions.
Read more Against the Party Line by @RoseAnnaStar
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