A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging- Dionne Brand

Cross-posted from: Les Reveries de Rowena
Originally published: 23.10.16

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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

Ways of being alive together, by @RoseAnnaStar

Cross-posted from: (I am because you are) Trying to decolonise my mind
Originally published: 09.05.17

Love MedicineLove 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

Love, sex and no regrets for teens: a review by @meltankardreist

Cross-posted from: Melinda Tankard Reist
Originally published: 04.06.17

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’.

selfieThis 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

Room by Emma Donoghue at Obscure and Unnecessary Drama

Cross-posted from: Obscure & Unnecessary Drama
Originally published: 19.09.15

 

Pages :  321
Read on : Kindle

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.


Read more Room by Emma Donoghue at Obscure and Unnecessary Drama

The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery by Les Reveries de Rowena

Cross-posted from: The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery by Les Reveries de Rowena
Originally published: 22.11.16

9780770422349-us-300“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

Against the Party Line by @RoseAnnaStar

Cross-posted from: I am because you are
Originally published: 12.06.16

The IncomersThe Incomers by Moira McPartlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 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

How have we come to this? by Yasmin Rehman for @strifejournal

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 19.04.16

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.[1]  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

Angel of Harlem- Kuwana Haulsey

Cross-posted from: Les Reveries de Rowena
Originally published: 12.11.16

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“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

Why I Want to #Read & Discover More #Welsh #BME #Writers

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 01.02.16

 

 

 

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 literatureParthian 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

Eat The Sky, Drink The Ocean – a review

Cross-posted from: Obscure & Unnecessary Drama
Originally published: 29.04.16

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 10.03.55Goodreads 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

Review: How You Might Know Me by Sabrina Mahfouz

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 19.11.16

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 09.41.32How 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

White is for Witching- Helen Oyeyemi

Cross-posted from: Les Reveries De Rowena
Originally published: 29.12.16

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 “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

Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – a review at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 21.09.16

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“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

Thistledown of History by @RoseAnnaStar

Cross-posted from: I am because you are
Originally published: 30.08.16

A Ripple from the StormA 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

A Lady & Her Husband – Amber Reeves by Madam J Mo

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

Charlotte Wood ‘The Natural Way of Things’ at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 13.03.16

natural way of thingsI 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

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride – a review by @Durre_Shahwar

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

Women & writing: A celebration of true greatness by @AliyaMughal1

Cross-posted from: Aliya Mughal

“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

My History by Antonia Fraser – Book Review

Cross-posted from: Adventures in Biography
Originally published: 25.01.16

Antonia FraserPrivilege 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

Who’s afraid of the dark by Abigail Rieley

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley

Glasnevinhttp://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