Hi you lot. Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been incredibly busy with loads of exciting projects brewing and the launch of my book. More on all of this soon, after I’ve moved house. Promise.
Below are some books from what’s tried to be a fairly female and feminist reading list over the past couple of months. This is everything that springs to mind as worth mentioning, worth recommending.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs The climate by Naomi Klein. This certainly has changed everything for me. I took it on holiday where I was depressed by it and struggled. Before I started reading, a couple of friends told me that they’d read two-thirds or three-quarters of it, that it was good but she went on a bit. In the early days of holiday and the book, I could see what they meant. It was interesting but also depressing and dense and hard work. But I ended up doing that thing that happens a lot with books, I got over the hump and all of a sudden I was reading it all night until 5am in the living room, unable to put it down. One of the most compelling arguments in the book is when Klein draws attention to the climate crisis as a racist crisis, one that disproportionately affects people of colour. Watch this video by Black Lives Matter UK to get the gist.
Klein writes rigorously, no idea is left stranded, everything is backed up by statistics and research. She also writes emotionally, in a way that you are constantly horrified by what’s gone down and what’s still going down. Read this, it will change you.
Sister Outsider by Audre Lourde I bought this book from an anarchist bookshop in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco having (shamefully) never heard of Audre Lorde before. This is a seminal work of black feminism, a collection of essays and speeches by this amazing poet. Many of the things Lourde discusses are (thankfully) now more widely accepted, at least in some circles, but with racism a continuing problem, and particularly in the current climate, it’s fascinating to read the black feminism of the 80s.
I was reading this book on the circle line recently and made a friend who got excited that I was reading it. He told me it was his favourite book, that he’s taken it around the world with him. This book operates as a call to action too, it repeatedly speaks of the value of anger and the danger of silence. For a taste of this book read Poetry is not a Luxury, eye-opening and true.
Unspeakable things: sex, lies and revolution by Laurie Penny. This is good. Laurie Penny is angry and rightly so. This book tackles gender and class and race, cybersexism and desire. It’s a really angry book and her anger is inspiring and unapologetic. Not that I often forget, but it did a great job of reaffirming my anger and my right to be angry on behalf of all women, especially those less privileged than myself.
Reading it quite soon after Klein though made me truly appreciate Klein’s rigour with her subject. Massive respect to Penny though, I like her fire a lot and just in the introduction comes out with a line I particularly enjoyed perhaps more than any other in the book. Penny tackles the commonly held belief that now we can work and vote, feminism has achieved its aims and we can all go back to normal, arguing that popular feminism only benefits the privileged few “Public ‘career feminists’ have been more concerned with getting women into ‘boardrooms’, when the problem is that there are altogether too many boardrooms and none of them are on fire.” Word.
Chavs: the demonization of the working classes by Owen Jones
First published in 2011 at the height of ‘chav-bashing’, this book looks at the the class war waged in the UK on the working-classes by the elite, with a strong focus on how it all began with Thatcher and de-industrialisation. This book is tightly argued and shocking, I found the content about the media’s portrayal of the working classes particularly fascinating, all-pervasive hatred and spite and mockery. This book also made me think much more about the lack of representation of people from less well-off backgrounds in powerful jobs: lawyers, journalist, doctors and, of course, MPs. A lack of those people in those jobs leads to a lack of understanding and unfair policy being created, unfair news stories being run. The 50:50 parliament campaign recognises this and does great work trying to get more women into parliament.
Many of this countries tensions around immigration hinge on the lack of housing, the fact that recent governments have continually failed to build new, affordable homes. Building new, well-insulated, homes would activate the workforce (the majority of whom are not lazy, the jobs just don’t exist), reduce unemployment and aliviate the constant struggle for the most basic of provisions, a home. This episode of File on Four about the Hidden Homeless is worth a listen too.
I should point out that I borrowed three out of four of these books from Peckham Library. Big up libraries, please do what you can to save them as they’re increasingly attacked by our government.
So all of the fiction I’ve read recently have been coming of age tales in one way or another. It makes a pleasant change to read a woman/girl’s experience of discovering the world, rather than a man’s. I feel so much more able to identify, to latch their ways of thinking about things, of seeing things on to my own experience. Also I feel as if I’ve rediscovered that when you carry a good story around with you, your life is infinitely improved.
Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson. This is (also shamefully) the first Winterson I’ve read. I found it completely absorbing. The alternation between the fairytale, mythical style and the frank account of a young life in rural Lancashire is executed beautifully and gives an impressive, stylised edge to the work. I know these bleak Lancastrian towns well and Winterson gets them just right. The book is all pain and confusion, all longing and discovery. It’s great, I read it in half a day. Found two more Winterson’s in a charity shop.
Astragal by Albertine Sarrazan. This had got to be one of the best books I’ve read of late. Sarrazan has a quite simply magical way with words. The images are rich and dense, just the way I like ’em and the story is thrilling, romantic, young and simultaneously hopeless and gorgeously hopeful. It’s small but very powerful, just like the protagonist who we can’t help but love, her determination, her resilience and her courage are written so beautifully. All of her other books are out of print so proper expensive. I can only hope this reprint of Astragal sells well so more of her work is reprinted soon. Buy it if you can!
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This book imagines the prior life of the woman in the attic in Jane Eyre. It’s a vivid and vibrant exploration of the abuse colonial power, sexual and romantic power and ways that we perceive and develop mental illness. This book casts a very dark and unforgiving shadow on Mr Rochester and is just so relentlessly urgent.
Tons. I’m in a bit of a hurry now so I’ll just chuck them out there. I find it really tricky to write about poetry somehow too. So beg, borrow or buy them and have a read for yourself.
The Mystic and the Pig Theif by Fran Lock.
Dear Boy by Emily Berry.
Meanwhile Trees by Mark Waldron.
Ban en Banuille by Bhanu Kapil.
Burning Books by Jess Green
Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo