For Books’ Sake http://forbookssake.net Championing Books by Women Fri, 23 Jan 2015 10:00:47 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Paxman: Poetry is out of touch. (We disagree)… http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/23/paxman-poetry-out-of-touch/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/23/paxman-poetry-out-of-touch/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 10:00:47 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25650 Jeremy Paxman, judging the Forward Poetry Prize last year, said he wished poetry would ‘aim to engage with ordinary people much more’. But is poetry really out of touch? Perhaps Paxman is looking in the wrong places because, in other quarters, the poetry scene is more alive and vital than ever, and women are at the forefront...

Salena Godden and guitarist at a Book Club Boutique event
He clearly hasn't seen Kate Tempest or Hollie McNish...

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Jeremy Paxman, judging the Forward Poetry Prize last year, said he wished poetry would ‘aim to engage with ordinary people much more’. But is poetry really out of touch? Perhaps Paxman is looking in the wrong places because, in other quarters, the poetry scene is more alive and vital than ever, and women are at the forefront...

Salena Godden and guitarist at a Book Club Boutique event

Paxman thinks poetry is out of touch and called for poets to appear before a panel of ordinary people in order to explain why they’re writing about a particular subject, using poetry as their form – to justify their art, in other words. He has obviously never been to Salena Godden’s Book Club Boutique, or a Tongue Fu event, or any poetry slam, for that matter.

At these events, ordinary people stand in judgement of the wordsmiths, who get up on stage and either capture their audience with the beauty, truth and relevance of their words, or they don’t – and the drunken shouts from the audience drown them out. At which point they either go back to the day job or they go back to their notebook and try again, become better and get on stage next time, more engaging and relevant than ever.

Despite the traditions of structure and meter, poetry has always been somewhat amorphous. From its oral origins to its overlap with music, theatre, prose and even stand-up comedy, this art form proves difficult to pin down, as For Books’ Sake has noted before.

Kate Tempest is the epitome of this; taking her place in the ‘notoriously fusty’ poetry world, the Guardian recently stated that ‘she is beyond modern; she’s practically science fiction.’ After all, when was the last time a Ted Hughes Award winner was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize? Here is a poet whose words are being played on the radio – and Radio 1, to boot.

But Tempest is not unusual as a poet spanning genres. Sales of poetry books are down, but the poetry scene is flourishing precisely because it overflows into so many different areas.

In this kind of atmosphere, heckling is commonplace and the audience is not shy of telling a performer her subject, form or language is not up to the mark. Paxman should go along to see his ‘inquisition’ in action.

Hollie McNish recently toured to support her new album, Versus (incidentally, she is adding new dates in the spring due to popular demand), and she pulled her poems together thematically by performing her ‘most hated’ top ten, based on the amount of hate mail she gets for each, giving the gig the feel of a comedy night. Even without this thematic element, McNish’s poems have a wicked streak of humour – listen to her commentary of the Flo Rida ‘Whistle’ video, for a taste of this.

Salena Godden is another poet with a strong comedic element to her work. Whether she’s talking about her home town of Hastings or making fun of the artistic endeavours of her youth, Godden provokes hilarity from her audience. She’s also no stranger to using music to hook people in, both in her collaborative work with Peter Coyte for SaltPeter and during her performances at Tongue Fu events (alongside the likes of Tempest, Sabrina Mahfouz and Deanna Rodger), where music is a key part of the evening.

In this kind of atmosphere, heckling is commonplace and the audience is not shy of telling a performer her subject, form or language is not up to the mark. Paxman should go along to see his ‘inquisition’ in action.

So can poetry that feels more like comedy still be poetry? Can words, written as poetry, but now performed to music be classed as anything other than a song? Does it even matter?

Godden claims it doesn’t, and that it could even be damaging. In an article for The Author, she wrote, ‘I am often frustrated by the names and labels used to identify me and my work – I don’t really feel I fit into any of these boxes [. . .] These boxes are limiting.’

Thankfully, there are also publishers that agree with her. Burning Eye Books, which publishes the Saboteur Award winning Vanessa Kisuule, as well as Godden, staunchly believes that performance poetry can translate to the page, and we at For Books’ Sake agree.

In a similar way to how someone might want the lyrics to a favourite song written down, or learn the words to a scene in their favourite movie, so people who attend performance poetry events want the words for themselves, to revisit them and squeeze every ounce of meaning out of them.

What is particularly heartening is that, whereas both written poetry and stand-up comedy are male-dominated fields, women are flourishing in performance poetry. And, while poetry book sales might be down in bookshops, the tiny presses which put out most new poetry are selling directly to people who attend spoken-word gigs – sales which Bookscan cannot account for.

Poetry’s amorphous nature is the very thing that keeps it going and, contrary to what Paxman believes, it is reaching more ‘ordinary people’ all the time.

 

What do you think of Paxman’s argument? Have you been to any poetry performances recently and want to recommend and up and coming poet? Leave us a comment and join in the debate.

[Image credit: Book Club Boutique Facebook]

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The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/21/temporary-bride-jennifer-klinec/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/21/temporary-bride-jennifer-klinec/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 10:00:54 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25482 Jennifer Klinec’s memoir, The Temporary Bride, is a treat for the senses. It’s a wonderful piece of writing which throws open the door to a much misunderstood culture, and its attitude towards women in particular.

The Temporary Bride Book Cover
Klinec on her journey to find "the best, most beautiful parts of Iran."

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Jennifer Klinec’s memoir, The Temporary Bride, is a treat for the senses. It’s a wonderful piece of writing which throws open the door to a much misunderstood culture, and its attitude towards women in particular.

The Temporary Bride Book Cover

Klinec’s life began in Ontario with an unconventional upbringing, mainly due to her parents’ having “lost their taste for hands-on parenting.” Klinec and her sister took full advantage of the resulting freedom. Thankfully, mature beyond her years Klinec admits, “by the age of ten I possessed a sense of independence that astonished my friends’ mothers.” The seeds were sown for a thirst for adventure.

After years of running a Time Out recommended cooking school from her London apartment, she suffered from wanderlust and a dead-end relationship. The solution? Klinec packed up and headed to Iran to “untangle” herself with the intention of searching for “the best, most beautiful parts of Iran.”

Klinec’s journey to Iran was spurred on by her love of food, and her desire to discover that enticing link between food and culture. Whilst her descriptions may not sit comfortably with staunch vegetarians, she does have the uncanny ability to make some quite unusual offerings (including tripe, tongue and brains) sound surprisingly appetising, especially when they come “sprinkled with cinnamon and lemon juice.” You’ll certainly be left Googling Iranian rice recipes.

The true gift of Klinec’s memoir emerges from her ability to prise open the door to a culture few of us have truly experienced. As a woman who falls in love with a young Iranian, Klinec comes up against many barriers, unfamiliar cultural views and values. The huge risks taken by Klinec and her partner, Vahid to spend small amounts of time together, create a fascinating and unnerving read.

The intimate narrative voice has a honesty to it which is more than addictive. Klinec's confusion as she tries to make sense of the unexpected emotional journey she has found herself on is acutely captured as we are whisked off with her in a new environment, new rules and new emotions.The intimate narrative voice has a honesty to it which is more than addictive. Klinec’s confusion as she tries to make sense of the unexpected emotional journey she has found herself on is acutely captured as we are whisked off with her in a new environment, new rules and new emotions.

At times The Temporary Bride feels like Iranian equivalent of Joanne Harris’ Chocolatwith its evocative descriptions of food running parallel with a personal story of great intrigue. Her narrative evolves with a calm, laid-back tone which reflects an intriguing aspect of the culture she has become immersed in, whilst also jarring sharply against the tension and passion as Klinec and Vahid seek to find a path for their relationship without breaking the law. It is this aspect which really drives you through her writing, in addition to feeling truly immersed in the sights and smells of Iranian culture.

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Bullet Hole Riddle by Miriam Barr http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/16/bullet-hole-riddle-miriam-barr/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/16/bullet-hole-riddle-miriam-barr/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 10:00:40 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25363 Barr's standout poetry collection navigates the shadows of consent and assault.

Bullet Hole Riddle Front Cover
A poetry collection exploring consent and assault.

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Barr's standout poetry collection navigates the shadows of consent and assault.

Bullet Hole Riddle Front Cover

Bullet Hole Riddle, by New Zealand poet Miriam Barr, is a meticulous and triumphant new collection. Each tightly crafted poem sits within the narrative arc of a young woman’s growth through the complexity of consent and assault; a journey to “make sense of an unwanted history.”

The collection is timely in light of the recent sexual violence headlines dominating New Zealand’s media. A group of young men, self-styled the ‘Roast Busters,’ are alleged to have intoxicated and assaulted a number of teenage girls, though no charges have been laid.

Barr speaks to the burgeoning gender discourse that brings such horrific events to the forefront of the public psyche. Bullet Hole Riddle finds a place alongside authors Patricia Lockwood, Eimear McBride and essayist Leslie Jamison. Barr speaks to the burgeoning gender discourse that brings such horrific events to the forefront of the public psyche. Bullet Hole Riddle finds a place alongside authors Patricia Lockwood, Eimear McBride and essayist Leslie Jamison. It also draws to mind Selima Hill’s award-winning collection Bunny, which chronicles a young girl in a twilit, shadowy and sexualised path to womanhood.

There are a number of spectacular pieces in Barr’s collection, but the standout is Observer effect. Its power is its elegance: it speaks to a thousand blog posts and feminist op-eds but reaches beyond, to the subtlety of a truth behind a movement. Also worthy of note is the imagery of Waves; “I am becoming a smooth pebble / or a mellowed-sleek piece / of broken glass… One day I will be softened / back to an embryo…”

The first section of the book features a number of recurrent motifs. Though verging on repetitive, it does stir a sense of urgency upon reflection and re-reading. Images shuffle shoulder-to-shoulder, clamoring in their furious need to be told. The frequently mentioned mouth that had “forgotten / the shape that ‘no’ makes” finds its place at the book’s centre as a visceral silence.

The Riddle – the final section of the work – strides towards a positive close. The language finds a less surreal, more confessional tone than the opening two thirds. It rings of the reclamation of self. The narrative grows, encompassing other women, other stories. There is a window here, for the reader to enter the work. The final poem, Exchange, offers the idea of the volume as a communal dream.

This collection is well worth the seven years it took to write. Barr has a confident, vibrant voice whose performance background has lent the work an understated yet theatrical flair.

Too often books by performance poets fade on the page. Miriam Barr’s first collection, however, has placed her firmly in the cream of today’s most exciting publishing poets. Bullet Hole Riddle is a brave, resilient story of a terror made mundane by notions of gender. It demands to be read.

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Pushkin Acquires Finnish Feminist Fantasy Series http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/15/pushkin-acquires-finnish-feminist-fantasy-series/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/15/pushkin-acquires-finnish-feminist-fantasy-series/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 16:16:35 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27326 Maria Turtschaninoff's award-winning YA novels will be available in English from 2016

Pushkin Acquires Finnish Feminist Fantasy Series
Could this be Finland's answer to Suzanne Collins?

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Maria Turtschaninoff's award-winning YA novels will be available in English from 2016

Pushkin Acquires Finnish Feminist Fantasy Series

In the wake of the Hunger Games phenomenon, and the ensuing wave of YA books dealing with feminist themes and alternate realities, publishers seem primed for the next big name in the young-and-powerful-woman mould.

Pushkin Children’s Books has looked to Finland for its inspiration and found it in the shape of author Maria Turtschaninoff, whose third novel for young people won the Finlandia Junior Prize in November 2014.

Maresi: Punaisen luostarin kronikoita (which translates as Maresi: Chronicles of the Red Monastery) is currently available in Swedish and Finnish, and sets the action in a fantasy past where girls find safety in a matriarchal society.

The first volume in what will become The Red Abbey Chronicles, Maresi promises to be “intelligent writing for young adults, in the vein of Ursula K Le Guin” with “a strong and timely feminist message”.

We’ll get to judge for ourselves when the book is published in 2016.

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Ten Reasons to Love: Betty Dodson http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/14/ten-reasons-love-betty-dodson/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/01/14/ten-reasons-love-betty-dodson/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 10:00:20 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25233 Dodson is an author, an artist, a sexologist and a tireless advocate for sexual freedom and women’s pleasure... so pretty much our new favourite person too! Check out some of her amazing work below, though probably best not to read this one sat at your desk at work...

mage Credit: Betty Dodson and Carin Ross's Blog
10 reasons to love and feel grateful for Betty Dodson's life and work...

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Dodson is an author, an artist, a sexologist and a tireless advocate for sexual freedom and women’s pleasure... so pretty much our new favourite person too! Check out some of her amazing work below, though probably best not to read this one sat at your desk at work...

mage Credit: Betty Dodson and Carin Ross's Blog

1.SHE IS OUR “BAD” AUNT BETTY

Her full name is Betty Anne Dodson hence “BAD,” she teaches us to love our vulvas, appreciate our bodies, enjoy masturbation, become orgasmic and embrace our sexuality.

2. HER BOOKS BRING US CLOSER TO SEXUAL ENLIGHTENMENT

Here are some of Betty’s most famous titles:

Liberating Masturbation: A Meditation on Selflove (1974): Regarded as a feminist classic!

Sex for One: The Joy of Self-loving (1987): Her best seller: a guided invitation to masturbation.

Orgasms for Two: the Joy of Partner-sex (2002): A positive view on sex with a partner.

3. HER INSPIRING AND EMPOWERING VIDEOS: A CELEBRATION OF WOMEN’S SEXUALITY

These are just a few examples of her videos:

Selfloving: Portrait of a Sexual Seminar (1993): it documents one of Betty’s women’s masturbation workshops in which sex education and sexual pleasure are intertwined.

Orgasmic Women: 13 Self-Loving Divas (2006): a celebration of women’s orgasms and its diversity.

Betty Dodson: Her Life and Art (2007): written by Betty herself, this film shows her own life as an artist and as an advocate for sexual pleasure and sexual liberation. It shows many of her original art pieces created in the past 45 years. Bonus: you can watch it on youtube (among many other inspiring videos) if you subscribe to Carlin Ross‘ channel.

Betty Dodson’s Bodysex Workshop DVD (2011): a circle of trust, scenes of genital show and tell and a shared experience of self-acceptance and bodily pleasure.

4. SHE IS AN ACCOMPLISHED SCHOLAR

Betty holds a Ph.D. in clinical sexology and has received The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality’s Public Service Award (2011) and the Masters and Johnson Award by the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (2012).

There are several academic articles and blog entries written by her available. She often writes about women’s sexual pleasure, the importance of knowing what we like and the merits of experiencing orgasms.

5. HER BODYSEX WORKSHOPS

She has been running these for more than 25 years! In cooperation with Carlin Ross, Betty relaunched the Bodysex” workshops and now they host six per year.

These workshops promote self-love, sisterhood, knowledge of one’s own body and a positive view on sex and masturbation. It is a healing process that encourages to view the body as a home of joy and pleasure.

They also host specialized workshops to certify women to hold their own Bodysex workshop — expanding Betty’s philosophy throughout the globe.

6.SHE IS AN EROTIC ART PIONEER

In 1950 Betty entered art school and drew many nudes; showing that since those days she already loved and admired the human body.

In 1968 Betty had the first one-woman show of erotic art in New York. In 1973 Betty joined other feminists and presented the first slideshow of vulvas and introduced a vibrator as a device for self-pleasure at the NOW Conference on women’s sexuality in New York. Betty’s art is varied, exciting, subversive and feminist. Check out her gallery; it includes works that span from the 50s’ to the early 2000s’.

7. PODCASTS AND VIDEOS: GETTING TO KNOW BETTY AND CARLIN ROSS

Betty is definitely committed to sharing her knowledge and experiences, and spreading the word about masturbation, women’s sexuality, body acceptance and empowerment. A proof of this is the multiple audio and video files available at their webpage. Here is one of our favourites on Body appreciation.

Check out all their podcasts and video podcast archive!

8.BETTY’S VAGINAL BARBELL

Her selection of Sex Toys including the Betty’s Vaginal Barbell: Made of stainless steel, the Barbell is both a dildo and a vaginal exerciser. ‘The Barbell is sturdy enough to become a family heirloom that can be passed down from grandmother to granddaughter.’ Wow! This is what we call being really open-minded.

9. HER LATEST BOOK:

My Romantic Love Wars: A Sexual Memoir (2010): A first-person account of Betty’s life story, including her reminiscences of the Sexual Revolution in the U.S. and her experiences as a feminist activist for over thirty years.

10. AMONGST HER MANY WORDS OF WISDOM:

"Liberating women one orgasm at a time."

Phew! Safe to say there is now a LOT on our to-read and to-watch list (hold all our calls!).

What’s your favourite Betty Dodson book? Any other pioneering erotica and sex educators we should know about? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Over and Out for 2014: Happy Christmas and Thanks! http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/18/for-books-sake-over-and-out-for-2014/ http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/18/for-books-sake-over-and-out-for-2014/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:00:45 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25690 Counting down the days to Christmas? Us too. But first - on our final day before we pack up and hitch a one-horse open sleigh outta here - we're saying a few farewells and thank-yous to 2014...

Snowman
Highlights from 2014, and what to expect when we return...

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Counting down the days to Christmas? Us too. But first - on our final day before we pack up and hitch a one-horse open sleigh outta here - we're saying a few farewells and thank-yous to 2014...

Snowman

Still got shopping left to do?

For fiction-lovers, some of our five-star favourites from earlier this year include: Boy, Snow, Bird (Helen Oyeyemi), We Were Liars (E. Lockhart), Layla (Nina de la Mer), A God in Every Stone (Kamila Shamsie), Animals (Emma Jane Unsworth), The Girl in the Road (Monica Byrne), Stone Mattress (Margaret Atwood) and After Me Comes the Flood (Sarah Perry).

More into memoir, poetry or essays? Get your mitts on Assata: An Autobiography (Assata Shakur), Redefining Realness (Janet Mock), Everyday Sexism (Laura Bates), Stitched Up (Tansy Hoskins), Hold Your Own (Kate Tempest), H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald) or Springfield Road (Salena Godden).

Still stuck? Don’t forget we’ve got a brilliant bookish feminist gift guide packed full of patriarchy-smashing present ideas.

2014: Farewells and Thanks

We’ve had an incredible year, and that’s down to the support, time, and passion of our amazing volunteer team, plus countless authors, publishers, arts organisations and readers just like you. Thanks for making the past twelve months some of the most eventful yet.

We took part in ace events like Wowzers Fest, Day of the Girl and various other arts and literature festivals, plus coordinating an epic fourth birthday party and Halloween Witchfest. And if you didn’t make it along to any of those, there’ll be lots more to come in 2015!

We also published, FURIES, our first ever poetry collection. Celebrating women warriors and featuring emerging and established poets from across the globe, it was a smash success, selling out in next to no time and raising just shy of £2,000 for Rape Crisis England  & Wales.

And on top of all that, we recruited a brilliant board of trustees and smashed several other key milestones, putting us significantly closer to our next step; registering as a charity and securing funding to kick-start the big projects we’ve got planned.

But until then…

We’ll be back in January, but there’s still fantastic For Books’ Sake opportunities to take advantage of. Wanna join our gang? We’re in need of incredible editors and coordinators, so check the role descriptions and apply by Friday to get involved.

Always wanted to feature in a For Books’ Sake short story collection? Here’s your chance. We’re currently accepting submissions by women writers for our next anthology, an erotica collection.

Characters can be any gender or sexuality, with stories set in any genre, time or place. From bisexual bikers into bondage to first times of post-apocalyptic punks via vampire orgies, steampunk sexpots, toys and tattoos, get creative with setting, style and subculture, and give it to us good.

Find the full details here, then get scribbling, because the deadline is midnight on 9th Jan 2015, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

For now though, happy holidays and thanks for everything. See you on the other side. x0x0x

(Image via Aki Jinn’s Flickr photostream)

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Five Underrated Memoirs and Biographies of 2014 http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/17/five-underrated-memoirs-biographies-2014/ http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/17/five-underrated-memoirs-biographies-2014/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 10:00:21 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25570 These memoirs and biographies written by and about women are not necessarily the tell-all confessionals that many publishers seem to be keen for women to write, but ones that offer an exploration of the human condition and express beautifully the hardship, loss, joy and the strangeness of life...

Men We Reaped Cover
The most moving and beautiful memoirs of the year...

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These memoirs and biographies written by and about women are not necessarily the tell-all confessionals that many publishers seem to be keen for women to write, but ones that offer an exploration of the human condition and express beautifully the hardship, loss, joy and the strangeness of life...

Men We Reaped Cover

Tove Jansson: Work and Love by Dr Tuula Karjalainen

She created the unmistakable tubby creatures that have captivated generations of children; even if you did not come across those dreamy valley dwellers, The Moomins, as a child, the landscape of Tove Jansson’s life is as wild and mesmerising as those she conjured in her stories. In this biography, Tuula Karjalainen pays respect to Jansson’s literary and artistic output in equal measure. She may be renowned for the legacy of The Moonins, but Karjainen explores Jansson’s work as an artist, as well as a writer of novels and short stories for grown ups. The book is interspersed with photographs and glorious specimens of her art. It is a dedication to the talent and wisdom of a woman whose works exemplify the delightful yet strange world of childhood.

The Great Below, A Journey Into Loss by Maddy Paxman

Many people who have lost a life partner have spoken about how they found Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking a great consolation when dealing with grief. How can anyone truly put something as gargantuan and inexplicable as grief into words? It is a challenge for any writer, and Maddy Paxman’s memoir about the death and aftermath of her husband, the Irish poet Michael Donaghy, speaks candidly and with compelling, and often uncomfortable, insight into the process of bereavement. Much has been written about Michael, and the poetry world mourned his sudden death for a long time. But this comes from a woman piecing together her own story, talking honestly about the frictions in a relationship with such a boundlessly charismatic poet, her endeavour to raise a child single-handedly and reflections into why we struggle to adequately discuss death. This is not a flailing widow’s memoir. It is a woman navigating back from absolute darkness into a new understanding about life and loss.

Eleanor Marx: A Life by Rachel Holmes

Her surname instantly gives her away as the daughter of revolutionary socialist Karl Marx, yet Eleanor Marx, perhaps the first modern feminist, was a truly remarkable figure in her own right. Rachel Holmes’s biography revives the inspiring, yet tragic life of a woman rarely mentioned in the history books, stating “Karl Marx was the theory; Eleanor Marx was the practice.” Not only was she her father’s helpmate as his editor/translator, but what she learned working alongside him she put into practice, and emerged as an activist championing human rights, a political leader and organiser, an actress, an orator and linguist. Holmes’s research is rigorous – we see Eleanor as a tireless and passionate revolutionary, who, despite her personal integrity and strength of character, is ultimately betrayed by those around her with less moral intentions. The biography takes us into the heart of the creative and political circles of the 1900s, showcasing a woman striving against convention and oppression.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

This richly textured and truly harrowing memoir by American novelist Jesmyn Ward emerged around the time of the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown and the consequent decision of the jury not to indict the white police officer that killed him. It is a book for our time; the morbid reality of young black life in the Deep South that is still, and continues to be, dominated by poverty and feelings of profound inadequacy and hopelessness. Ward traces her life growing up in rural Mississippi against the legacy of gender and race inequality. She recalls her parents’ break up and mother’s struggle as a single parent, cleaning for middle class white people in order to send her daughter to boarding school and offer her the opportunity to break out of the morbid cycle that herself, her family and friends are bound to. Alongside her own account – having become the only member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education – she examines the lives of five young black men, including her brother; tragic lives cut short by suicide, shootings and overdoses. Ward lays bare the uncomfortable truth with devastating clarity, shining a light on a dark and forgotten part of America.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

A greatly deserved winner of the most prestigious accolade in nonfiction, the Samuel Johnson Prize, H is for Hawk can be said to be more than just a memoir; it is a piece of sublime nature writing, exploring the history and art of falconry and the process of training her new Goshawk, Mabel. This acquisition of the new bird and attempts at training it come at the wake of Macdonald’s father’s death, and so it is a journey that begins in the depths of grief and pain, and which she admits becomes a harrowing, yet rewarding experience. The book is layered so richly – Macdonald intersects her own narrative with an exploration of a talismanic work by the writer TB White, The Goshawk. Falconry isn’t just a hobby, or an obsession; it is presented as a way of life, and a way to heal.

 

If you enjoy these, some other outstanding non-fiction books we loved this year include; Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, The Road to Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead and Beloved Strangers by Maria Chaudhuri.

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Women in Print: Salena Godden http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/12/salena-godden-springfield-road/ http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/12/salena-godden-springfield-road/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:00:55 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25615 Unbound recently launched their Women In Print campaign to champion their women writers and to try to tackle the wider gender imbalance in the publishing industry. Last month, Rose Bretécher told us about her experiences of sexism in the publishing industry and this month Salena Godden tells us about her own journey of publishing her memoir Springfield Road...

Women in Print: Salena Godden
Salena Godden tells us about her journey in publishing Springfield Road...

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Unbound recently launched their Women In Print campaign to champion their women writers and to try to tackle the wider gender imbalance in the publishing industry. Last month, Rose Bretécher told us about her experiences of sexism in the publishing industry and this month Salena Godden tells us about her own journey of publishing her memoir Springfield Road...

Women in Print: Salena Godden

I feel a little nervous writing about this campaign as I’m only just now in print after over two decades of rejections and near misses. The poetry collection Fishing In The Aftermath poems 1994-2014 came out in July with Burning Eye Books and the childhood memoir Springfield Road was published in October with Unbound.

It wasn’t intentional to publish both books in the same year but that’s the way the cards fell and I followed the bread crumbs up the path to find myself here today.

I began work on Springfield Road in 2006 – but before that I wrote poetry, short stories and songs in my band SaltPeter. Back in the early 1990’s I was idealistic and fearless. I’d been working on a novel and I thought I finally had something worth reading. I boldly booked a meeting with a well-known publisher.

I remember bowling into the glass offices alone, with no manager or agent, just me and my manuscript. I also gave him a beautiful mock-up of the book, complete with images, artwork and layout, which a designer friend had been working on with me. After he’d read it, the publisher was kind about it. Looking back, he was very generous, but then he said something I’ll never forget… he told me it was ‘too brave’ for a first novel.

The publisher closed that meeting by suggesting I read Bridget Jones and try writing chick-lit and then come back to him. That was the summer Bridget Jones’s Diary was buzzing like an incessant vibrating lipstick. I have never attempted to write a chick-lit, but that first rejection and those words ‘too brave’ stayed with me.

Springfield Road was initially sold to a major publishing house. After four years we went our separate ways, and now it seems that bravery was what was required. It was frustrating to watch my story chopped to bits in order to try and make it fit into another commercial genre, the misery memoir.

The bravest thing I could do was to take my book back, re-write and publish it my way and to never, ever give up. I think of 2006-2010 and being signed to a major publisher as my writer’s training ground; I learned how to fake that I had a thick skin, I learned some patience. Most importantly I learned to read my own compass and to be sure to stay true and tell my story my way.

Working with Unbound I have the sense of being in a team whilst also still being independent. Writing is hard work, the crowd funding process was hard work and now spreading the word about both books is hard work too.

But I have my Unbound family and editor Rachael Kerr behind me, I adore our working relationship and friendship. Burning Eye’s Clive Birnie has great passion for publishing, Burning Eye Books is boldly setting out to show us that ‘spoken word’ does work on the page.

They also publish an above average number of women. My golden rule has always been to go where the love is, there is a real love for books here.

I believe that if we do not start publishing more women, we only pass on half of our inheritance, half of our heritage, half of the story. When I was a little girl I spent much of my time upside down or spinning in circles. I have always had an awareness that there is more, ok to put it bluntly, I have always had an interest in getting out of my head to get into my head. As a teenager I was drawn to literature of a hedonistic nature.

I devoured books like Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson, the work of William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, the Beats and Jack Kerouac.

I searched high and low for women’s stories, I read Carolyn Cassady’s Off The Road a miserable account of the reality of rent and babies, depression and poverty, whilst her husband Neal Cassady is On The Road with Kerouac enjoying orgies of pot and LSD.

Next I discovered Joyce Johnson’s book Minor Characters about 1950’s New York, she writes about her time with the beats, Allen Ginsberg and William and Joan Burroughs.

Again this is a portrayal of being an observer, of not being of any importance to the party, the movement or the revolution. As for William Burroughs, his wife Joan was shot, it was an accident, a trick that went wrong, but she is now listed as not much more than a footnote in the weird and wonderful Burroughs experiments.

These curious and curiouser worlds of experimentation and hedonism it seems have always been narrated by men and from the male perspective. I want to read about female ejaculation. Ha! Seriously, I want to read books by women about women on the front line and in the trenches.

I want to read books by women about the passion and the sacrifices we make living this writing life, writing this living life. I want to see more places set for women at that great table that is the feast of books.

I believe that if we do not start publishing more women, we only pass on half of our inheritance, half of our heritage, half of the story. If we only hear from the great white shark, we miss all the other diverse voices and fish in the sea.

It is no accident that I mostly read men when I was a teenager, back then it seemed to me that was where the party was. It took me years to stumble upon the great Jean Rhys and her vivid 1930’s boozy Paris.

One of my all-time favourite novels Good Morning, Midnight was hidden from me, overshadowed by the likes of Henry Miller and Louis Ferdinand Celine.

Writing Springfield Road I realise now I was trying to narrate a time and place in childhood, to capture it and hold it up in a jam jar for us to see the wings, as you might a butterfly, and then to set it free and watch it fly. I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read in the library, so I wrote it, to paraphrase Toni Morrison.

I wanted to write a story from how the world looked to me as the half caste kid, the alien with the green eyes in a brown face. Both Fishing In The Aftermath and Springfield Road burn with the frustration of longing to belong, of being invisible, yet pull on strength found in the freedom of being an outsider. I am wary of labels and boxes and lists, I feel they only serve to distract and divide writers.

A writer must only concern herself that what she writes today is better than yesterday, she must compete with the better work of her own making tomorrow. Every morning, man or woman, we surely all begin with the same fight: Writer V’s Empty Page.

Today there are millions of mixed race, cloud bothering, daydreamers, little girls spinning in circles getting dizzy in playgrounds all over Britain – And as I write this I say hail to each and every one of them, may they all be too brave.

For more about Unbound’s Women In Print campaign click here. To read about Rose Bretécher’s experiences click here.

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For Books’ Sake’s Bookish Feminist Gift Guide http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/10/christmas-feminist-gift-guide/ http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/10/christmas-feminist-gift-guide/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 10:00:29 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25579 Looking for the perfect book to give to a feminist friend or put on your own wish list? Our gift guide has got you covered for all the gift-giving holidays. From Pankhearst to poetry, below are some of our staff and contributors' recommendations...

Christmas Dog
A bookish feminist gift guide...

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Looking for the perfect book to give to a feminist friend or put on your own wish list? Our gift guide has got you covered for all the gift-giving holidays. From Pankhearst to poetry, below are some of our staff and contributors' recommendations...

Christmas Dog

Cars & Girls: The Pankhearst Femme-Noir Sampler edited by Evangeline Jennings

cars-and-girls-kindle-cover

Feminists love books about bad girls, right? This collection of ‘femme-noir’ stories from four emerging women writers features a compelling, charismatic cast of damaged, brave, badass heroines who swing from fragility to ferocity with more speed and power than their weapons or getaway cars.

Fast-paced, escapist, blood-soaked and sexed-up, Cars & Girls is contemporary, authentic and uncompromising. In lurid Tarantino technicolour, its vengeance-driven protagonists fuck and fight better and harder than any man, making them the perfect company for a festive joyride to hell and back.

- Jane Bradley

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests book cover

This is a fascinating account of the relationship between two young women. It places women’s lives and struggles at the heart of the narrative, discussing prejudice, oppression and the socio-political expectations of women in the aftermath of the First World War.

We’d recommend this one for fans of historical fiction and romance with a feminist, LGBT edge and a roaring mystery chucked in for good measure. Read our full review here.

-Kate Kerrow

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

The Road from Coorain - Jill Ker Conway

This is a memoir of growing up on an isolated sheep station in Australia during the 1950’s. It’s a good gift because it’s not the thing everyone else is giving — published in 1989, it’s still available, but there’s a good chance your feminist recipient hasn’t read it yet. It’s a fascinating look at a girlhood that most readers will find unfamiliar and enthralling.

Conway is the former president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the the U.S. She is a widely respected academic and supporter of access to education for low-income women. The book is a story of hardship but also of a young girl’s total immersion in her unique environment. Conway’s subsequent arrival at the University of Sydney provided a rude awakening to the sexist academic culture of the 1960’s and shaped her goals of equity in education.

– Becky Holmes

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was one of the first feminists I encountered on my journey to feminism. I’d fallen for the movement on a social level, but Adichie gave me a level of intellectualism that I was desperately in need of. She left me questioning both my rights as a woman and the ingrained cultural stigmas we pass down to younger generations.

‘We teach girls shame. Close your legs. Cover yourself. We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something.’  – p.33, We Should All Be Feminists.

Adapted from her 2012 TEDx talk of the same name, Adichie explores (in just 48 pages!) the fundamentals of why we all need feminism. It’s short, pithy and succinct, free from stuffiness. She is the best ‘Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men’ that I have ever encountered.

– Alice Farrant

Colonize This: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman

Colonize This

If you’ve heard of intersectional feminism, but don’t quite understand the whys and hows, pick up a copy of Colonize This.

In a collection of brilliant, heartfelt essays, the young women of colour contributors discuss their experiences of being multiply marginalised, both within society as a whole, and by white-centric forms of feminism. The essays discuss a plethora of subjects; abortion, queerness, Middle Eastern feminism, Native American cultural revival, the importance of community and solidarity. Colonize This is an engaging and eye-opening alternative to mainstream feminist writing, and a life-changing read.

– Alice Nuttall

Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales

Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales

Angela Carter’s interpretation of fairy tales from around the world is wickedly subversive, just like many of the original tales. With chapters such as ‘Good Girls and Where it Gets Them’ and ‘Brave, Bold and Wilful’, this collection is clearly anything but the schmaltzy moralistic tales that may come to mind whenever the words ‘fairy tale’ are mentioned.

From Inuit to Swahili, and with stores coming from Palestine to Jamaica to Ireland, these stories tell us what it is to live in certain societies and how stories can affect culture and vice versa.

Carter’s book is a celebration of the tales predominantly told by women in many countries over many years. It is also a celebration, as Carter says in her introduction, of the ‘perennially refreshed entertainment of the poor’. These are the voices of people who were unable to write their stories on paper. The recent-ish Virago hardback imprint is beautiful, making it a wonderful feminist Christmas gift.

– Kate Lunn

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

Anya von Bremzen’s experiences growing up in the former Soviet Union may be difficult to relate to for many of us, but the role food, food culture, and food politics play in her life manages to be nostalgic and relevant nonetheless.

At times funny and heartwarming, von Bremzen paints a picture of social injustices in the Soviet Union decade-by-decade by recreating meals with her mother in New York. Her analysis of gender, class and ethnic diversity in her homeland is illuminating, and reading about the food – even when it left her tummy grumbling – is mouthwatering. This book is a treasure.

– Phylisa Wisdom

I, Vampire by Jody Scott

I Vampire - Jody Scott

With so much about Christmas being predictable, what better way to treat yourself or a friend than to a completely unexpected, unheard of, yet brilliant feminist novel?

Unjustly neglected for years, ‘I, Vampire’ by Jody Scott is an exuberantly clever and wildly iconoclastic feminist and SF take on vampires in fiction. If you thirst for something really witty, quirky, with bags of brains – and not much blood – this holiday, you will do no better than this wonderful novel.

Sterling O’Blivion is a bright, phenomenally well-read and irreverent 700 year old vampire. Now living in Chicago, she’s a bored instructor of a dance studio. But soon she’s on a madcap adventure spree, falling in love with a rejuvenated Virginia Woolf, dealing with Mr Spock (the Baby and Child Care one), and negotiating with multiple aliens up to no good.

Rave reviewed when first published by The Women’s Press in 1986 and since out of print, good, super cheap second hand copies – one Sterling penny! – are easily available online. Praised and loved by such SF mavericks as Theodore Sturgeon, Samuel Delaney and Barry N. Malzberg, why not satisfy your cravings this Xmas with something radically different and deliciously feminist?

– bobbygw

Furies: A Poetry Anthology of Women Warriors by For Books’ Sake

Furies: A Poetry Anthology of Women Warriors

And for the wonderful wordsmith or women warriors out there, what better gift than our very own Furies poetry anthology! We say you let loose with this one and buy a copy for all the family, cats and dogs, your work’s secret santa… the possibilities are endless.

A beautiful hardback collection of poetry from writers such as Patience Agbabi, Bridget Minamore and Claire Trévien would be a welcome present for any feminist. Edited by Eve Lacey, with a foreword from Jenni Fagan, this is the poetry of wronged and revolutionary women, the new verse that emerges when poets take a sinner and spin her anew.

You can buy a hardback or e-edition here.

Marie-Claire

 

We hope you all have a lovely, relaxing holiday! Leave us a comment with what feminist books are on your wish-list this Christmas…

[Photo Credit: Richard Gillin on Flickr]

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How To Have An Amazon-Free Christmas http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/09/amazon-free-christmas/ http://forbookssake.net/2014/12/09/amazon-free-christmas/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:00:13 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25517 Amazon seem to have fallen out with everyone this year. From bringing in union busters at work and charging customers widely varying prices, to bullying publishers and authors and of course for continuing to dodge their taxes! Want to go Amazon-free this Christmas? We've got you covered...

Books
Want to boycott Amazon this Christmas but not sure where to start?

The post How To Have An Amazon-Free Christmas appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

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Amazon seem to have fallen out with everyone this year. From bringing in union busters at work and charging customers widely varying prices, to bullying publishers and authors and of course for continuing to dodge their taxes! Want to go Amazon-free this Christmas? We've got you covered...

Books

It’s no wonder a petition to boycott the book-selling giant has taken off and disgruntled customers have pledged to spend £3,077,320 (at last count!) elsewhere.

But just how easy is it to go Amazon-free this Christmas? Amazon is known for being cheap and convenient and for any part of Christmas to be both those things seems like a festive miracle…

Well first let’s do a bit of myth busting: Amazon is not the cheapest online bookseller (unfortunately they’re also not the only online bookseller ripping off authors, but that’s another post for another time).

The Book People have a wide range of books (new and old) and as the flashing SALE signs suggest; they’re cheap.

But let’s not stop there, as the last few years have shown us; no individual retailer should control a single market – so diversify your book buying!

Big Names

Waterstones and Foyles have a massive range of books and will deliver right up until Christmas. Waterstones offer free delivery on orders more than £10 and the deadline for posting in the UK is 18th December at midday. Foyles deliver both inside and outside the UK and cut it even finer with a last posting date of 22nd December for UK customers.

Co-operatives

News from Nowhere is Liverpool’s Radical and Community Bookshop – which basically means they’ve got a ton of great books you can order online, safe in the knowledge that your money is going to a good cause.

Independent Bookshops

A good place to start is The Guardian’s Independent Bookshop Directory. However not everyone lives near an independent bookshop so if you’re lucky enough to have a good indie to hand grab on and hold tight! And if you’re not physically close to one, fear not and go online.

A lot of independent retailers are online and (battling Google Adwords to appear in search results) so pay them a visit! If your nearest indie isn’t online there’s Hive Books: a network of indies (360 and counting) who guarantee that a percentage of all money spent goes to support a local bookseller.

Vouchers

National Book Tokens are available online and for the eco-conscious among us they’re the perfect alternative to physical books. Also accepted in exchange for ebooks.

Authors and Small Presses

You know those lovely people who wrote the books you’re so excited to buy for your nearest and dearest? Well they celebrate Christmas as well and most of them sell their own books so if you want to make sure as much money as possible goes to your favourite writer then Google them directly!

It’s also worth checking out what the small presses are offering direct through their websites too, their illustrated pamphlets and gorgeous hardbacks make for great gifts. Check out our Publisher Spotlight series for some of our favourites.

Charity Shops and Second Hand Bookshops

If you’re feeling brave enough to venture out into the real world to do your Christmas shopping then check out your nearest charity shop. As a former charity shop bookseller I can tell you that now is the time of year when they bring out their best stuff. Untouched bestsellers, immaculate 3-for-2 rejects and beautiful editions of the classics.

Or check out their online equivalent: Better World Books share their profits with libraries and literacy charities – at the time of writing they’ve raised £12,064,251 – let’s see if we can put them up to £13 million by Christmas!

There’s also a great listing of second hand bookshops here for those of you looking for a rare or collectors gift too.

Book Clubs

For the gift that keeps giving all year around buy a subscription to The Willoughby Book Club. Based on the customer preferences they’ll send specially tailored book recommendations all year around and for every subscription sold they donate a book to Book Aid International.

Other Alternatives…

For everything else that Amazon usually provides (no point in pretending it’s not going to be a bitter break-up; they’re keeping the dog and Love Film) Ethical Consumer have produced a comprehensive list of alternatives; from e-readers to video games.

 

Are you boycotting Amazon this year? Share your tips for alternative book buying in the comments!

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