Cross-posted from: J-Mo Writes
Originally published: 02.02.18
A Petrol Scented Spring by Ajay Close
Wow! This book has been sitting on my To Be Read pile for well over a year. Thankfully, something made me finally pick it up to take on a succession of long train journeys at the weekend and I am now a) kicking myself for not having read it sooner and b) praising myself for picking such an absorbing and compelling and wonderful book to accompany me on my travels.
A Petrol Scented Spring by the Scottish author Ajay Close came to my attention via nothing more exotic than my periodic online search for novels about the suffrage movement. But this is far from your bog-standard suffrage novel; this is something quite, quite different.
Set in Perth, Scotland, we are offered a rare glimpse of suffrage life north of the border, which is a welcome change from the majority of novels that are London-centric. As such, the real-life characters who Ajay has used as the basis for many of her characters in the meticulously well-researched A Petrol Scented Spring are not ones I had previously known of, but have now becomes ones I want to know more about. Read more ‘A Petrol Scented Spring’
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 19.01.18
“What I hope for is a world filled with richness, texture, depth and meaning. I want diversity with all its surprises and variety. I want an epistemological multiversity which values the context and real-life experiences of people. I want a world in which relationship is important, and reciprocity is central to social interaction. I want a world which can survive sustainably for at least 40,000 years. I want a wild politics”.
Ever since it began publishing in 1983, T&S has included an occasional ‘classic review’ featurein whicha contemporary feminist re-reads an important text from the past. The latest addition to the series features Liz Kelly’s groundbreaking 1988 book Surviving Sexual Violence. Revisiting it in 2015,Alison Boydell finds it as relevant as ever.I first read Surviving Sexual Violence (SSV) in the 1990s for a postgraduate Women’s Studies dissertation about abusive men who murder their current/ex-partners. Today my understanding is informed by both reading and experience of working with survivors: I am involved in providing front line services to survivors of sexual violence, and will be shortly working in the domestic violence sector. I’m also studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Advocacy for Victims of Sexual Violence: SSV is on my reading list. Since it’s now more than a quarter of a century since it was first published, this is surely a testament to Liz Kelly’s work.
In the 1970s, feminists had analysed rape as an act of male power, raised awareness about its prevalence and deconstructed the myths that surrounded it. However, it was only later that literature about other forms of male sexual violence began to emerge. SSV focused on a wide range of manifestations: it was one of two ground-breaking books published in 1988 which forced childhood sexual abuse onto the public agenda (the other was an American self-help book, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis’s The Courage to Heal).
For me this collection divides along a line between story-driven episodes that unfold ideas & characters from a narrative, and pieces that dissolve these elements in a diffuse, intensely poetic, emotionally charged meandering. But perhaps I’m being overly convergent in seeing a line when I should detect a field of ambiguity and shade.
I often struggle with plotless writing but when I can feel a depth of glowing emotion as I can here I can appreciate. Hardwick conveys a moody, conflict-ridden yet implacable and transcendant love for New York City, partly (I’m not entirely sure how she achieves this shimmering web of effects) by piling images one atop the other in a profusion of witty contrasts. Another way she does it is by introducing vulnerable and unconventional personalities in a way that makes NYC seem like a sheltering haven where the fragile can survive. Read more Ecstasy of a Feminist Tragedian in New York by @RoseAnnaStar
This was the year Her Story Arc became F-BOM, the Feminist Book of the Month. Not to be conceited, but we consider ourselves pretty qualified to pick a good book! Working with self-published women authors to promote their work and give them more time and money to focus on their art has been an inspiring journey, and we are so looking forward to all the readers and writers we will meet in 2018, AND all the good books we’ll get to share.
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 03.08.17
I have just had the pleasure of reading Denise Thompson’s book. It is my part of my personal on-going exploration of feminist theory and thought.
Although I have worked for many years as a feminist activist, particularly in the field of male violence against women and children, and have thus read and discussed feminism, I hold some trepidation in writing this blog.
I claim no expertise in feminist theory – but am in the process of learning and developing my knowledge and want to share my journey with you. I can only hope that I can do justice to Denise Thompson’s book which I highly recommend.
This blog is not going to cover all the range of issues that are discussed in the book. Rather I will attempt to focus on her understanding of radical feminism.
Lacking a mother to advise her, Natalia, whose ideas of romance and beauty seem to be symbolised by the colour white, which she loves to wear, is picked up by a douchecanoe so selfish and arrogant he takes her name from her and proceeds to arrange her life and possessions at his service. Eventually he fills their home with doves, another white creature coerced violently into confinement. Natalia is living in hell, but it seems there is a hell below this one because along comes the civil war and a famine that sucks the heart and spirit and flesh from the shell of the body Read more Mercè Rodoreda’s A hell below this one, at (I am because you are)
This year has been the year of fiction. Mostly because it was an especially intense year in terms of work, and when I find myself overwhelmed with academic reading, writing, and teaching, I find fiction a much-needed way of relaxing. There are two fiction books I am currently making my way through which I hope to finish before the end of the year, but I haven’t added them to the list; one is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and the other is 4321 by Paul Aster (1200 pages!) Pachinko in particular is just stunning, and it’ll be a painful one to say good Read more Favourite books of 2017, by @saramsalem
When did you begin making music, and did you ever ponder a different career?
I’ve been singing ever since I remember. Though my first instrument was piano…I was probably 9 and my family ran a fruit stand all summer long, which meant long hours of sitting around in the sun or organizing watermelons. I went to the church that was down the road and started taking lessons from the pastor’s wife in order to escape the boredom. We paid her in fruit. Read more Magana, by @mttmfeed
During a long Sunday walk, I found the Golem and the Jinni in a Little Free Library. After reading the jacket, I was sold. I’m a sucker for mythology, so I just had to take the Golem and the Jinni home.
The book first introduces Chava, the golem. She’s a woman formed from clay, made to serve, protect, and be the “perfect wife” for a man who paid for her creation. However, this relationship doesn’t last long, as her “husband” dies on the voyage from Poland to America. Chava escapes into 1890s New York City and settles in a Jewish neighborhood, hiding in plain sight. Read more The Golem and the Jinni (small spoilers), at Her History Arc
Every time I have read about spirituality, and usually when I am reading anything vaguely self-help-y, and sometimes when I am trawling through the Internet, there is a message that keeps coming back. That we are one. All of life, all of the Universe is, or is part of, the same organism, essence, energy.
I’m not too interested in debating or justifying this though I’ll happily discuss it, and often do, when someone is willing to engage with the idea. But without any religion, I have always believed that somehow we are all connected. I don’t know why, and I can’t really explain it. I don’t need to.
My best friend believes that we are imbued with the Holy Spirit, the same spirit of her God; my other best friend is an atheist, but does believes that we each have a soul, or spirit of some kind, and that we are connected to each other through mutual dependence and a moral responsibility to each other, simply by being alive and in proximity.
I’m not sure I can describe my experience of ‘oneness’, other than to say that at times I feel a connection, an emotional mirroring, and a rush and pull so visceral that it’s frightening, as though the soul I haven’t yet decided whether or not I have is being clamped and dragged from my body. I often shut that feeling down, especially since this happens most often when I am faced with the pain of others. Pain I’d rather not feel with no power to act on it, that’s not mine to fully grasp anyway, that’s distorted and egged on by my imagination and my adrenal glands. Read more THE ONENESS IS THE GREATEST – #SANCTUMBRISTOL, by @elizabethethird
Cross-posted from: Slutocracy
Originally published: 04.08.17
It wasn’t so long ago that Game of Thrones was widely criticised for its initial portrayal of female characters as powerless victims. In my view, the disconnect between the books and TV series was the main factor in these concerns: scenes such as Sansa’s (Jeyne Poole in the books) abuse was shot for TV in a way which emphasised a male character’s (Theon Greyjoy’s) reaction; scenes critical of male-on-female violence were cut. Perhaps just as importantly, the books’ presentation of systemic oppression of the poor, disabled and even children- not just women- was not as apparent onscreen.
Obviously, all that changed during Season 6. Now, with Sansa as acting ruler of the North, all the contestants for the Iron Throne are women. (Unless Gendry shows up to stake a claim as Robert Baratheon’s bastard). However, Game of Thrones has gone further than simply having powerful female characters. Intentionally or not, both the show and the books take down classical archetypes of women which have existed in the west for centuries. Read more How Game of Thrones Debunks Archetypes of Women, by @slutocracy
It’s hard to know where to start. When it was announced that Wonder Woman would be getting her own movie years ago, I was excited that the debut would coincide with the year I anticipated graduating from my MBA program. A year and a half ago I was excited that the movie debut would coincide with having the first female President of the United States. What a year 2017 would be, I thought.
My MBA graduation has ended up being delayed a year, and that’s fine. But we all know how the presidential election turned out. We march. We protest. We persist. We aren’t sorry.
And we needed Wonder Woman. I needed Wonder Woman.
Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 07.03.17
There is not much in the way of quality programmes on TV, so it was with some delight that I looked forward to last weekend when three of my favourite programmes – Broadchurch, Call the Midwife and Vera were going to be on ABC TV in Australia.
And each of them dealt with male violence against women.
In Broadchurch, Trish, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh is a victim of sexual assault. She portrays the trauma of rape very realistically and sympathetically, forgetting her name and many of the details of her experience.
We see the detail of the forensic investigation, such an intrusion in itself. The detectives, Ellie Miller played by Olivia Colman and Alec Hardy played by David Tennant, respond to Trish with compassion and sensitivity. The whole ambiance of these scenes acknowledges the trauma and pain of sexual assault.
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
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.
‘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
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.
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.
Review: 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.