The Blood on My Hands by Shannon O’Leary, a review via @Durre_Shahwar

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 26.07.16

“Set in 1960s and ‘70s Australia, The Blood on My Hands is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years, growing up with an abusive father, who was also a serial killer. No one, not even the authorities, would help O’Leary and her family. The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reached out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives were afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemned the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevented the police from interfering unless someone was killed. “

 

 

The Blood on My Hands is a gripping read, with underlying tension throughout the book, right from the beginning. Every recollection is detailed and concise, be it the author’s memories of her pets and animals or her days at school. It is full of rich descriptions of the characters and the hot Australian setting. The book has a structured, chronological timeline of events, which works without losing the storytelling/memoir feel.

Yet this is not for the weak-hearted. The story is gruelling and traumatic, not for the shock effect, but because this is a story that needs to be told, and the detailed account is an evidence of that. It could be argued that it didn’t need to be so detailed and horrific, and the more traumatising recollections could have been toned down. However, while as a reader, I see the reason why others may feel this way, but as a human, there is credit to be given to Shannon for being so honest and vulnerable on the page.  ….

 

The full text is here. 

HerStory (Durre Shahwar)I’m a writer, a book reviewer, and an MA Creative Writing graduate. As a South Asian female, I’ve identified as a feminist, since a teen and to this day, I’m writing about what that means and trying to put my experiences into words. My blog was named ‘Herstory’ after my research into Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own during my degree. The term has been the driving factor behind my writing. We all have stories to tell, voices that need to be heard, especially from women of colour, and I hope to be one of them. On my blog, I write book reviews and other content related to the craft of writing and sometimes, academia. I’m interested in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, mental health, intersectional feminism, gender, religion, art, yoga – though not always in that order or mixture! I’m slowly getting my writing published, and trying to review more book by women/women of colour, for which, I am happy to be contacted for via my blog or on Twitter: @Durre_Shahwar.

 

‘A Petrol Scented Spring’

Cross-posted from: J-Mo Writes
Originally published: 02.02.18

A Petrol Scented Spring by Ajay Close

https://madamjmo.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/a-petrol-scented-spring.html

 

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’

Her Story Arc’s Best Feminist Books of 2017

Cross-posted from: Her Story Arc
Originally published: 29.12.17

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.

Our Winter 2018 F-BOM author partner will be announced on January 1st, and we know you’re going to love her work! But first, let’s take a look back at the best feminist books of 2017. Like last year’s list, not all of these were published in 2017, but if we read and loved them in 2017, then they count. Here we go!
Read more Her Story Arc’s Best Feminist Books of 2017

The Golem and the Jinni (small spoilers), at Her History Arc

Cross-posted from: Her Story Arc
Originally published: 05.11.17

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

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

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

IN THE WAKE by @LorrieHartshorn

Cross-posted from: Lorrie Hartshorn

nighttrafficI.

My lullaby is the rumble of trucks as they cut through the town on their way to anywhere else. This is not a destination.

II.

The horizon is an impassive witness. The brow of a hill, the curve of a road framed by firs. It watches you as you go about your daily business, crawling into adulthood then stooping back out the other side. Perhaps one day it will approach and share what it’s seen. For now, it slides further away if we, fools that we are, try to reach it.


Read more IN THE WAKE by @LorrieHartshorn

The Abstracted Woman by @CatEleven

Cross-posted from: The Occasional Poet
Originally published: 03.03.17

I’m not an abstract
That you can take out of its box
And place in a column
Total up and measure
Against some statistic
Of two a week
Or 134 a term
Or once in a lifetime
Or after the age of 30
I’m not an abstract
That you can tesselate
To make pictures
Of veils
Or makeup
Or underwires
Or bound feet
Of folds of skin
Like dunes from a desert
That you’ll never see in the flesh
I’m not an abstract
Sat in a cell
Or sat in a line
On a border
In a boat
On a floor
At a stove
Squatting and heaving
Doubled over
I am all and none
I am solid and hollowed out
I am breathing, but barely
I am laughing
And devastated
I am desperate
And god
So utterly bored
So fully fatigued
At my kitchen worktop
At my boardroom table
At my mud-dug well
At my birthing chair
At my parent-teacher conference
At the grocery store
On the floor
On the bed
Against the wall
I am abstracted
Distracted
I am

 

One Woman’s Thoughts I am a feminist and this is my blog; a collection of perspectives, poetry and ideas.  Twitter @CatEleven

lesbian love poem 2 at Sister Hex

Cross-posted from: Sister Hex
Originally published: 23.08.15

It is the end of days
no longer holding
breath

unfolding, unpeeled
and real again

breathing, brazen and bold
are the lustrous

we share a little death

before spring

poem 2

 

sister hex : A blog about women, lesbians, racism, class, politics and art.

Why I love Philippa Gregory by @sianushka

Originally published: 08.02.11
Philippa Gregory and her strong, doomed womenI have a secret which is about to be revealed. Despite my bookshelf being crammed with Blake, Woolf, Eliot and Dostoyevsky, I absolutely love romantic historical fiction. The fatter the book and the glossier the cover the better. And most of all I love my recently discovered Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels.

Gregory is first and foremost a really good writer. She has a deft use of language and a density of description that means she fully recreates the world of the Tudor courts she writes about, the smells, the colours, the landscapes, the houses and the costumes. Reading her novels, she puts you right there, timid behind the throne, absorbing the action. Secondly, she has a brilliant way with characterisation, particularly in my mind of her female characters. They leap out of the page, alive and strong and passionate, often angry and often sensual. They are full characters who invite your love, hate, distaste and admiration. And thirdly, her books are well researched, from the details of the colour of the gown Mary Boleyn wore at a gala, to the complex hatreds and schemings of Jane Boleyn and Thomas Howard. …

You can read the full text here.

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

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

Top Posts of 2016

Erasure: The New Normal for Lesbians by @VABVOX

Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny by Young Crone

Is the term FGM cissexist? by Kalwinder Sandhu

Unspoken Grief: The Death of a Daughter by @VABVOX

Maria Miller’s Report Puts Feminists In An Impossible Position by @cwknews

Consent Is Sexy And Sexy Is Mandatory

The Snowflake Awards: A Review of White Feminism™ in Pop Culture by @GoddessKerriLyn

The Science Museum and the Brain Sex game by Young Crone

‘There Seems To Be Some Queer Mistake’: The Film of Anne of Green Gables by @LucyAllenFWR

Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Racism in the Feminist Movement by @ClaireShrugged

A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing

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A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing is now available:

Paperback

Kindle

CreateSpace

 

A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing is a collection of essays, poetry, and short stories written by women. The proceeds of this book will be used to support this platform covering the costs of hosting and website maintenance and development.


Read more A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing

Alex’s Dream

Cross-posted from: Generation Why
Originally published: 16.10.16

2016 Friday 12th of august 15:43

Dad said this morning I wasn’t allowed to bring my diary to the church but I didn’t listen. He says my dream job writing isn’t proper whatever that means. So when dad took my diary he put it in his desk drawer that he puts everything he doesn’t want me touching in. He thinks I can’t get in because he locks it but then he just puts the key on his desk. My dad isn’t very smart; all he does is watch TV and “teach”, He supposed to be a teacher but all he does is hire this guy to pretend to be him. Everyone tells me I shouldn’t complain cause he’s rich and has a big house, but they don’t know him like I do. Only 2 people in the entire world know him like I do, my best friend and my mum. My mum is dead now but she understood me when I complained. She said he was a nice man when he met him but as he grew older his heart got smaller. It got even worse when mum was diagnosed with cancer. It was weeks and weeks of back and fourth to the hospital. Soon mum lost her hair and then she died n the 28th of july. That’s why I’m here its mum’s funeral. 


Read more Alex’s Dream

The Naming of Elena Ferrante

Cross-posted from: Everyday Victim Blaming

The identity of Elena Ferrante is a secret well-guarded by her publisher. At the request of Ferrante. Ferrante has made it clear on multiple occasions that she does not want her art confused with her real life. This may not seem something that our campaign would necessarily concern ourselves with but there are multiple reasons why women deserve anonymity and even more reasons why breaching their anonymity puts women at risk of male violence.

As many of the writers we’ve linked to below demonstrate, authors owe their audiences nothing more than what they write – and even then audiences are not entitled to new material. What concerns us, and is referenced by some of the authors below, is the refusal to recognise the reason why a woman would want to keep her real life private. As with Facebook’s ‘real name’ policy, there is a complete refusal to recognise the reality of male violence against women and girls. Claudio Gatti, the journalist (and his publisher) who believes he’s entitled  to know the real name of a woman despite her refusal demonstrates a total disregard of women’s safety.

Ferrante’s decision to remain anonymous may simply because she values her privacy – something that all women are entitled to. It may be as a way of protecting herself from online harassment and abuse that many women writers experience. It is also entirely possible that her anonymity is a way of protecting herself from male violence – both historical and potential. Ferrante has every right to do so and Gatti, and others before him, simply do not have the legal or moral right to doxx Ferrante just because they don’t like successful women writers (and there is more than a whiff of misogyny here). 
Read more The Naming of Elena Ferrante

Passing Moments by @carregonnen

Cross-posted from: Carregonnen
Originally published: 18.02.16

Just a passing moment

A breath of air on my face

reminds me of something I can’t quite recall

and the moment has passed

Looking out of the window a cup of tea in my hand

a quick flurry of snow and then gone

Catching someone’s eyes as I pass them in the street

a connection a recognition a nearly smile

A wren in the garden I thought was a brown leaf

left over from winter blowing across the path

On a dark grey clouded day

a break shows me enough blue sky

The cold smoky familiar smell of a November night

crowds my head with memories

then gone for now

The sweet moist smell of cut grass

Leaves in autumn

Raindrop Racing down the window on a wet afternoon

An old song pulls me back

Glancing in the mirror above the sink I see my mother’s face

My daughter looks at one of her children and I see her father

A passing moment of a memory allows despair to wrap me up

and I try to let it pass

How much of life is made of passing moments

All the emotions in a brief encounter or thought

The lives of my children

My life

The earth is millions of years old

I am a passing moment

 

Carregonnen – I do life writing in poetry and prose about child abuse and mental health – politically I am a radical feminist.

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

Whisky in a Storm by @sianushka

Cross-posted from: sian and crooked rib
Originally published: 16.04.16

The taxi dropped David at the end of a long gravel drive. It was still light – midsummer – and the sky was heavy. It had not been a good summer. The sun had struggled all month to break through the barriers of clouds.

‘Just down there,’ the taxi driver said, pointing, as David paid the £20 fare. ‘It’s a ten minute walk. Full of potholes,’ he grumbled. ‘Wreck my tyres to take you all the way down.’

David nodded. After seven hours on the train and twenty minutes in the cab he could do with the walk.  Stretch his legs.

He stopped, and turned back to the driver who was pulling away.

‘Sorry,’ David said. ‘Have you got a card? In case I need you to pick me up?’ He didn’t know what welcome awaited him at the end of the driveway. He should’ve contacted Leonie first, let her know he had thought about it, let her know he was coming. What an idiot, he thought. She might not even be here.
Read more Whisky in a Storm by @sianushka