For Books’ Sake http://forbookssake.net Championing Books by Women Sat, 28 Mar 2015 18:36:37 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Feminist Books for Children http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/26/feminist-books-for-children/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/26/feminist-books-for-children/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:00:19 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=28016 Gender stereotyping and sexism affect all of us, including our children. Even among children’s toys, clothes and books, gender divide is so persistent that we have internalised it. It is a colossal mistake to teach the young ones such differences. But if we can condition young minds about these limitations we can also teach them how not to fall into the trap of gender stereotyping. Dhanya Nair presents five subversive books for your consideration...

Feminist Books for Children
Some feminist reads for the young'uns to add to your reading list...

The post Feminist Books for Children appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Gender stereotyping and sexism affect all of us, including our children. Even among children’s toys, clothes and books, gender divide is so persistent that we have internalised it. It is a colossal mistake to teach the young ones such differences. But if we can condition young minds about these limitations we can also teach them how not to fall into the trap of gender stereotyping. Dhanya Nair presents five subversive books for your consideration...

Feminist Books for Children

Heather Has Two Mommies

Heather Has Two Mommies was originally self published in 1989 by iconic gay Jewish writer Lesléa Newman.  It is a story of a little girl named Heather and her two mommies. A seminal work, it highlights nontraditional family systems in a positive light. Newman, who has penned around 65 books, has explored the intersection of her lesbian and Jewish identities in her writings. 

Heather’s favourite number is two. She has two feet, knees and elbows. She also has two pets and two mommies – Mama Jane and Kate. At her day care, she learns that there are different kinds of families. Joshua has a mom, a dad and a step-dad; Miriam has a mom and a baby sister; David is adopted. She also learns that the most important thing in any family is love. Diana Souza’s detailed illustrations add authenticity to the plot making it more absorbing. 

The book was once censured in US Senate and attacked by the religious right for promoting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle. However, it has been successfully breaking gender stereotypes while encouraging inclusion ever since its first edition.

Heather Has Two Mommies

Chinese Cinderella

A riveting memoir of Chinese-American physician and author, Adeline Yen Mah, this book proves that feminism is a worldwide issue. Adeline returns to her roots and tells the story of her painful childhood. Although from an affluent and powerful family, she is hated right from birth because she is believed to be the cause of her mother’s death.

Adeline grows up in a lonely and insecure environment.  Her turning point happens, when she is forced to eat her Christmas dinner all alone and when her pet golden duckling is murdered by the aggressive family dog. Adeline finally realises that her family will never care for her and that they will only continue to bully her. From here she develops a strong sense of resilience; an audacity to bounce back in life, find her own way and the right people to be with.

Adeline’s journey shows that with courage and determination one can overcome the toughest odd regardless of gender or race.

Chinese Cinderella

Amazing Grace

This book by Mary Hoffman was first published in 1991 and it resonates with kids and adults alike. The central idea of the book is that you can be anything you want. The protagonist Grace loves stories and enacting them with encouragement from her mother and granny.

Grace has been Joan of Arc, Hiawatha, Mowgli and Aladdin. When her class teacher announces that they are going to do Peter Pan play, she volunteers herself as Peter. But some of her classmates protest saying that Peter Pan was neither a girl nor black. This upsets her. However, her mother and granny remind her that with determination Grace can be anyone. Her granny takes her to a ballet, where the lead dancer is a black girl. Enraptured and inspired by the performance; Grace auditions and wins the role of Peter Pan.

The book promotes diversity while also showing how to graciously deal with prejudices. Peppered with colloquial dialogues, endearing characters and illustrator Caroline Birch’s evocative water colour paintings this book is emotional and absorbing.

Amazing Grace

Pearl Power

Author Mel Elliot got the idea to pen this book when her five-year-old daughter Pearl told her that men were doctors and women were nurses. Startled by the comment, Mel decided to pen a book that defies such notions.

Pearl’s mother is promoted and the family has to relocate. Pearl joins a new school where she meets Sebastian who bullies and critises Pearl because she is a girl. Undaunted, Pearl holds her ground and stands up for herself. Sebastian is also dumbfounded to realise that Pearl is the only person who helps him during his hour of need.

Aimed at four to eight year olds, the book is written in rhyme, making it easier for children to join in. Strong graphics accompanies the witty text making it a delightful read. Pearl is a strong character who shows vulnerability without being a pushover. The book teaches determination, compassion and independence in a humorous way.

Pearl Power

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina

Inspired by her multiracial upbringing, author Monica Brown gives us an enthralling book about celebrating individuality and diversity. Marisol McDonald is a spunky red-haired girl who loves her Peruvian-Scottish-American heritage and has a penchant for peanut butter and jelly burritos.

Marisol doesn’t match. She wears polka dots with stripes, speaks English and Spanish, and mixes cursive handwriting with print. Everyone pesters her because of this and Marisol decides to match. However, she quickly realises she doesn’t like matching as it just makes her unhappy. She embraces her not-matching nature and appreciates that her differences makes her an individual. She cannot be put in a box and that’s fine by her.

The book aimed at four to eight year olds showcases the importance of a multi culture environment. It also teaches young minds about self-love and acceptance. Illustrator Sara Palacios’ childlike mixed-media illustrations brings Marisol’s world alive making it easier for readers to connect with her. 

Further Reading

If you’re looking for further inspiration we also highly recommend this piece by Book Riot on feminist books for younger readers.

If you have any other reading recommendations then hit us up on our social media channels!

 

Dhanya Nair is a freelance writer, editor and blogger. She blogs about parenting, lifestyle and fashion at http://voices-in-my-head.net and tweets at @DhanyaNsankar. She is currently preparing for her NCTJ exams and learning teeline Shorthand. 

The post Feminist Books for Children appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/26/feminist-books-for-children/feed/ 0
A For Books’ Sake Guide to Literary Self-Care http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/24/a-for-books-sake-guide-to-literary-self-care/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/24/a-for-books-sake-guide-to-literary-self-care/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:00:12 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27896 An apple a day, you are what you eat… The world is full of tips for looking after our bodies, but what about our minds? Rachel Vorona Cote explores the world of literary self-care, and chats about her leading literary ladies about who they read in times of stress, from Audre Lorde to Tina Fey.

A For Books' Sake Guide to Literary Self-Care
Need a cuppa? How about something a little more... literary?

The post A For Books’ Sake Guide to Literary Self-Care appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
An apple a day, you are what you eat… The world is full of tips for looking after our bodies, but what about our minds? Rachel Vorona Cote explores the world of literary self-care, and chats about her leading literary ladies about who they read in times of stress, from Audre Lorde to Tina Fey.

A For Books' Sake Guide to Literary Self-Care

I rarely know what to do with myself, but this existential dread always reaches a critical peak in the first months of the year. My body sags under the weight of New Year’s resolutions — determination born from desperation, in my case — as I slump into another year of chastising myself for not doing better, being better.

However dazzling the concept of a fresh start seems, I’m skeptical of imbuing it with too much clout. And yet, when the clock struck twelve at the start of this year, I found myself, like some kind of sentient automaton, committing to “get it together, bitch” – the same worthless and obscure promise I can’t or — in a more masochistic hue — won’t forsake.

I haven’t experienced any epiphanies to render the start of 2015 less barbed. But I have achieved one productive goal: curate a self-care reading list of women writers. I spent a good few weeks deliberately thumbing through books and essays that encouraged me to come to terms: with my imperfect self, my anxieties, the most tangled knots in my personal history.

I’ve been reading women who themselves have written through the circumstantial darkness of being a woman in this world, whose words encourage me to be kinder both to others and to myself. I turn with regularity to Roxane Gay’s work — I have an especial fondness for her blog — and am nurtured by her fierce, poignant empathy and wide-open heart. I read Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, an exquisite collection of advice columns that teach me, page by page, how to be a human being.

Several months ago I taught Audre Lorde’s essay, “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic As Power” (from Sister Outsider) in a class on queer literature. It was not the first time I had assigned the essay, and its words are, by now, deeply familiar and dear to me. But some days the need for certain words, certain tones, is more urgent than others, and that day I needed Audre Lorde: warm, whetted, galvanizing.

Lorde’s essay argues for a definition of the erotic that extends beyond its tie to sexuality; she interprets it “as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.” Wow, ladies. I am here for this variety of eroticism. Lorde’s essay argues for a definition of the erotic that extends beyond its tie to sexuality; she interprets it “as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.” Wow, ladies. I am here for this variety of eroticism.

I’m not always capable of drawing from this pool of energy, but to know it exists, that somewhere Audre Lorde’s spirit nods at me benevolently, whispering for me to live my best life – these are the thoughts that give me wings when I am my most leaden self. Later in the essay, Lorde writes that women “have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings.” Remembering what my “yeses” are — as Lorde reminds me that I can and should achieve them — charges me with a certain psychic pleasure and joy.

My recent turn to Lorde’s essay (which, if you enjoy it, acts as a fine companion to her masterwork Zami: A New Spelling of My Name) encouraged me to ask some of my women friends about the writers (specifically women) to whom they turn for emotional sustenance. Their poignant responses say as much about them as the works and writers they champion.

Samantha Carrick: “In times of darkness and lethargy, I often find myself best reminded of the healing power of language by a poet whose work I now rarely visit on any other occasion. That Denise Levertov has become a companion to my sadness seems both fitting for someone so able to capture the language of death (see: “The Tulips“) but a disservice, too, to someone whose words I often consider tattooing on myself as a reminder to keep living (see: “O Taste and See“).”

Isabella Cooper: “Susan Cain‘s Quiet comforts me by pinning down precisely what I find so alienating in the way our schools, our businesses, our churches, and so many other aspects of our culture are structured: they are hierarchical, implicitly favouring extroversion. She helps remind me of how much I have to offer as an introvert– that, in fact, my culture needs people like me.”

Liz DePriest: “As a woman juggling the responsibilities of family and professional life, I find myself returning most frequently to Mary Hunter Austin‘s short story, “The Walking Woman,” first published in 1907. The titular character provides a model for valuing and balancing romantic love, work, and motherhood. Plus, this sentence about her ranks among my favourites in all of American literature: “She had walked off all sense of society-made values, and, knowing the best when the best came to her, was able to take it.”

Meredith Haggerty: “I read Lorrie Moore to remind me that the best women are humans who like jokes.”

Lyz Lenz: “Mostly, when I need solace of any kind, I find that immersing myself in beautiful words is the only self-care I need. I love rereading my favourite Sarah Vowell essays. They are just so perfect for combining fact, insight and humour into a beautiful seamless essay.”

Patricia Nelson: “Reading work by women who write sensitively about their own lives and the world they live in feels to me like self-care. A mix of recent favourites and books I return to: Alison Bechdel‘s Are You My Mother?, Anne Patchett‘s Truth and Beauty and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Joan Didion‘s The Year of Magical Thinking, Maxine Hong Kingston‘s The Woman Warrior, Ellen Forney‘s Marbles, and on the lighter side, Amy Poehler‘s Yes Please and Tina Fey‘s Bossypants.”

 

What are your favourite literary self care reads? Get in touch with us via our Twitter and Facebook and let us know! 

__________________________________________________________

Rachel Vorona Cote is the creator of the Fake Friends series at Jezebel, where she writes regularly. She has also written essays for The Rumpus, The Hairpin, and The Billfold. She lives in Washington, D.C., but you can also hang out with her on Twitter.

The post A For Books’ Sake Guide to Literary Self-Care appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/24/a-for-books-sake-guide-to-literary-self-care/feed/ 0
Over Easy by Mimi Pond http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/23/over-easy-by-mimi-pond/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/23/over-easy-by-mimi-pond/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:00:50 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27972 An entertaining, warm-hearted and informative graphic novel centred on a diner in 1970s California.

Over Easy by Mimi Pond
A hilarious graphic novel featuring an art school dropout in 1970s California...

The post Over Easy by Mimi Pond appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
An entertaining, warm-hearted and informative graphic novel centred on a diner in 1970s California.

Over Easy by Mimi Pond

Over Easy is published by Drawn and Quarterly, whose roll call of excellent cartoonists includes Lynda Barry, Daniel Clowes and Jillian TamakiMimi Pond’s previous works span many humor books, but she is arguably best known for writing the first ever full-length broadcast episode of The Simpsons.

Pond was forced to drop out of art school in the 1970’s due to lack of funds, and consequently embraced a new lifestyle as a waitress in a diner full of eccentric characters. Over Easy is a colourful and immersive musing on this time in Pond’s life.

Over Easy encapsulates an interesting time in history, when hippies are falling out of fashion and punk rock is starting to permeate alternative scenes. The cartoonist herself is happy about this due to a pre-existing distaste for hippy attitudes, which she describes to comic effect.

The introduction notes: “From the very first day I knew that I was part of a story”. It’s easy to see why, with our young protagonist thrown headfirst into a cast of hippies, disco rollers, punks and poetry-writing chefs as they experiment with drugs and casual sex.

The café where she ends up working is staffed by a host of hilarious characters whose working relationships are complicated by their labyrinthine romantic entanglements.

Pond has a knack for bringing dialogue to life with an appealing chattiness and sense of humour.

The regulars and passing customers of the Imperial Café also inform part of the story. Pond has a knack for bringing dialogue to life with an appealing chattiness and sense of humour, alongside her own narration and inner reactions to events.

Oakland is portrayed in exquisite detail, and sharply contrasted with a night out in the city (a footnote states that “the city” always means San Francisco) which ends badly when the protagonist’s ride home decides to abandon her. However, despite this and some of the other characters’ bad behaviour, Pond’s acquaintances are depicted with an obvious affection.

Over Easy is incredibly keenly observed – it can only be assumed that Pond kept plenty of notes at the time, or has an excellent memory for detail. Even allowing for artistic licence, the characters and story are so believable that it’s hard not to imagine the scenes taking place.

Pond restricts her colour palette to whites and blue/greens and this, together with her lively and evocative drawing style, adds to the book’s immersive effect.

Very much a coming-of-age story, it’s fascinating to see how the main character adapts and blossoms under her new circumstances. Gradually she begins to see the many flaws in the older people she looks up to and her naivety is replaced by self-confidence.

Ultimately, Over Easy is a comical look at everyday life during an exciting and tumultuous time, rendered with skillful artwork and a keen eye for detail.

The post Over Easy by Mimi Pond appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/23/over-easy-by-mimi-pond/feed/ 0
The Shore by Sara Taylor http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/19/the-shore-by-sara-taylor/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/19/the-shore-by-sara-taylor/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 10:00:13 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27932 The Shore is a group of three islands off the coast of Virgina: Accomack, Assateague and Chincoteague. It is a place wrought with violence and subject to wild turns in the weather.

The Shore by Sara Taylor
The Shore is a group of three islands off the…

The post The Shore by Sara Taylor appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
The Shore is a group of three islands off the coast of Virgina: Accomack, Assateague and Chincoteague. It is a place wrought with violence and subject to wild turns in the weather.

The Shore by Sara Taylor

Sara Taylor opens on Accomack island in 1995, when Chloe Gordy overhears the news that Cabel Bloxom has been found face down in the mud, castrated and shot in the back of the head. Her father works at the chicken-killing factory, the island’s principal employer, and smuggles chicks back to Chloe and her sister in their ramshackle house at the end of the oyster-shell road.

The stories then hop across families and between generations, from Sally the storm-brewer in 1992 to her Native American ancestor Medora, who barters her way past father and husband in 1873. In 1937, Nancy suffers from a nervous condition and sees wild faces in glass windows and in 1982, Benny Gordy saves his sister from a no-good gambling husband.

the story of a place plagued by drugs and violence and disease, where her protagonists find small remedies in the herbs of the land that binds them togetherIn 1919, eleven-year-old Jackie watches a church float from Assateague to Chincoteague and makes a precarious living in bootlegging apple brandy. In 2037, the plague arrives and it is sexually infectious. In 2143, the bootleg brewery returns for half-man Sim, whose right side is withered, and who distils apples to make the ‘tears of god’.

In 2010, Chloe returns to Accomack to trace her family. She visits Sally, who is preparing for an apocalyptic plague with a book of medicinal herbs, and finally returns to her old house, where she may or may not bring her fiancé, and considers telling her betrothed the truth about who killed Cabel Bloxom.

Throughout the stories, Taylor switches deftly between character and era to conjure the story of a place plagued by drugs and violence and disease; where her protagonists find small remedies in the herbs of the land that binds them together.

Taylor leaves puzzles in the plot, and the multiple angles of her storytelling make for a thorough investigation of blame as each hard life negates another. Already on the longlist for the Baileys Prize, this is an island story told in daisy-chain sequence, a series of succinct vignettes that come together as a vivid portrait of the Shore itself, until you can almost smell the salt air and the stench of slaughtered chicken.

The post The Shore by Sara Taylor appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/19/the-shore-by-sara-taylor/feed/ 0
Writing Against the Grain: Contemporary Korean Women to Watch http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/17/writing-against-the-grain-contemporary-korean-women-to-watch/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/17/writing-against-the-grain-contemporary-korean-women-to-watch/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 10:00:53 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27857 Han Kang's recent novel, 'The Vegetarian' was hailed by The Guardian as "an extraordinary experience". Now, its translator Deborah Smith explores the changing literary landscape of South Korea and the unsung women at its forefront.

Writing Against the Grain: Contemporary Korean Women to Watch
After the success of Han Kang, who are South Korea's brightest female writers?

The post Writing Against the Grain: Contemporary Korean Women to Watch appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Han Kang's recent novel, 'The Vegetarian' was hailed by The Guardian as "an extraordinary experience". Now, its translator Deborah Smith explores the changing literary landscape of South Korea and the unsung women at its forefront.

Writing Against the Grain: Contemporary Korean Women to Watch

Whenever I am asked to name my favourite Korean writers, the women inevitably outweigh the men. Best of all, unlike with other national literatures, this doesn’t require any deliberate bias-redressing on my part. These days, the shortlists for the most prestigious South Korean literary prizes have women in the majority year on year, with a similar ratio for those awarded the top spot. But this wasn’t always the case.

During the latter part of the 20th century, the tendency for Korean mainstream literature to focus on the psychological chasm left by the division of the peninsula, privileged fiction dealt with politics, ideology and war – themes that were generally considered to be the preserve of men. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the real boom in women’s writing came about.

Authors like Shin Kyung-sook, recasting the recent societal upheavals as a more personal, mutable experience, consequently contesting and complicating the previously dominant ‘grand narratives’. Today, there’s a general feeling that this thematic division has largely been overcome, that female writers have shaken off the gender tag and are now seen simply as “writers”.

Whether or not this is strictly the case is still debatable, and of course, this accepted narrative of recent Korean literary history is necessarily a simplification. As with any country, the more interesting authors have always been those who wrote against the grain – here are a handful of the best.

Han Kang

HanKang

I am clearly biased with this one. My first ever published translation is of Kang’s novel, The Vegetarian, just out from Portobello Books. A brutal triptych of taboo and transgression, art and eroticism, the book follows a young wife’s decision to give up eating meat – a subversive act of radical passivity which undermines South Korea’s patriarchal society, and provokes a chillingly violent response from her conformist husband.

But you don’t have to take my word for the quality: translations into several other languages have been published to strong reviews, the film adaptation competed at Sundance Film Festival, and now it’s garnering fans among UK readers too. Reviewers praised the novel’s “complexity and beauty” and regarding it as“startling” and “multi-layered”. You can read an excerpt in The White Review

In her longstanding preoccupation with art and artist-characters, in her disruptive narratives exploring the psychology of desire, she's uncannily similar to another novelist-cum-poet, Deborah Levy. Kang debuted in the 1990s, when the vogue was for witty, lighthearted takes on contemporary social mores, frequently loaded with postmodern gimmicks. In contrast, her own writing has a classical feel, and its emotional landscape is deeply felt. Part of this comes from having a poet’s sensibility – she’s been writing poetry throughout her career, though her first collection was published only last year.

In her longstanding preoccupation with art and artist-characters, in her disruptive narratives exploring the psychology of desire, she’s uncannily similar to another novelist-cum-poet, Deborah Levy. I’m particularly thrilled, then, that the two of them were in conversation at January’s launch at the London Review of Books Bookshop

Portobello will also publish my translation of Kang’s latest novel, which centres around the 1980 massacre in her home city of Gwangju, in January 2016.

Bae Suah

bae_suah

Bae Suah is recognised as one of the most radically experimental writers active in Korea today, the list of authors she’s translated, from German, should give you some idea of her affinities: Peter Handke, W.G. Sebald, Jenny Erpenbeck, Franz Kafka.

Suah, whose slim novels abandon straightforward chronology, favours narratives more akin to musical compositions than stolid plot-progressions. Her lyrical, yet dissonant explorations of identity – a glorious challenge to translation – relating to language and voice, place her firmly with the modernists. All packing a strong emotional punch.

One of my favourites, which I’ve translated, is The Essayist’s Desk, in which a Korean writer living in Berlin falls in love with her female German teacher. Semi-autobiographical, the book contains some breathtakingly beautiful writing on love, art, and linguistic borders. Her early novella Nowhere To Be Found is forthcoming from Amazon Crossing, translated by Sora Kim-Russell, and provides a brilliant introduction to her work.

Ch’oe Yun

ChoeYun

Ch’oe Yun, an author-translator, and professor of French literature, writes singularly cool, dispassionate prose. Yun who eschews sentimentality in favour of a monochrome emotional palette, has netted both of South Korea’s top literary prizes.

Debuting in the 1980s, when the major trend was for realist women’s writing on memory and interiority  – think: sepia-tinted nostalgia for lost ideals, lost innocence, lost boyfriends –  Ch’oe instead got busy writing fragmented postmodern narratives dealing with Korean political violence in Korean history and satirising national obsessions.

In There A Petal Silently Falls, translated by Bruce and Ju-chan Fulton, and published by Columbia University Press, stylistic rupture mirrors the traumatised mental state of its protagonist, a young girl wandering the countryside in the aftermath of the Gwangju Massacre. In this and subsequent books, her fiction was seen as breaking new ground in its focus on the role of gender in the making of Korean history.

Kim Hyesoon

KimHyeSoon

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that today’s South Korea is still in many ways a patriarchal society, it’s relatively rare to find writers who self-identify as feminists. Kim Hyesoon is the exception.

Her poetry is radical, not only in its style, but in its embodiment of ‘the female grotesque’, bursting at the seams with violence, decay, garbage, and death. In this, Kim is writing in direct opposition to the tradition of Korean female poetry, which was expected to be pretty, sentimental, and passive.Her fantastic translator, Don Mee Choi, is a poet in her own right, and has made sure that she’s well-represented in English translation. Most recently, Bloodaxe brought out I’m Okay, I’m Pig! – her first UK publication.


Deborah Smith is the translator of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. She is a PhD candidate in Korean Literature at SOAS. Find her on Twitter at @londonkoreanist

 

The post Writing Against the Grain: Contemporary Korean Women to Watch appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/17/writing-against-the-grain-contemporary-korean-women-to-watch/feed/ 0
Dogwood by Lindsay Parnell http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/13/dogwood-by-lindsay-parnell/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/13/dogwood-by-lindsay-parnell/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 10:00:49 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27901 Dark, disturbing and heady with the scent of sweat, dogwood trees and damnation, this emerging author's debut novel is Southern discomfort at its most potent and intoxicating. A story of 'sin, guilt and resurrection,' it's a harsh tale of intense teen friendships and survival in an arid small-town setting, and it's definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Dogwood by Lindsay Parnell
An "uncomfortably, painfully brilliant" debut that's not for the faint-hearted...

The post Dogwood by Lindsay Parnell appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Dark, disturbing and heady with the scent of sweat, dogwood trees and damnation, this emerging author's debut novel is Southern discomfort at its most potent and intoxicating. A story of 'sin, guilt and resurrection,' it's a harsh tale of intense teen friendships and survival in an arid small-town setting, and it's definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Dogwood by Lindsay Parnell

Dogwood is not like most books set in the American South. Other novels set in Virginia are stories of Southern belles or debutantes. Or murder mysteries. Those are popular too.

Then there’s the more traditional incarnation of Southern gothic and grotesque; Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, Katherine Anne Porter.

And while Dogwood absolutely has elements of the decay, displacement and anxiety common to those classics, it’s not the same.

Dogwood is bolder, brasher, brighter; a stolen car on a collision course with death and disaster, driven by bombed-out adolescent girls with no hope but each other.

The novel begins with a letter from protagonist Harper Haley. It details the death of Tara Hackett, a murderer who’s been given the lethal injection. From the conflicted, roundabout accounts that follow, we learn Harper’s relationship with Tara was complicated.

That’s to be expected, since they met in prison, where Harper was incarcerated for her own misdeeds. And because most of Harper’s relationships are complicated, especially with her mother (a grotesque caricature who Harper idolises to such an extent she’s referred to throughout as ‘She’ or ‘Her’), and her two best friends, Caro and Collier.

At only nineteen, Harper is released from prison on probation, and Dogwood recounts her homecoming between flashbacks to earlier misadventures with Collier and Caro.

It was the first summer we got lazy enough to start acting like the women who made us, and the first summer we started being bad.According to Harper, “nothing much happened before Caro… the day Caro showed up was the first summer we started. Slinking from house to house like lizards hiding under rocks to escape the stink of heat… It was the first summer we got lazy enough to start acting like the women who made us, and the first summer we started being bad.”

The girls are ‘seven, seven and nine’ when they meet for the first time, and between braving relentless heat and broken homes (‘my daddy Dennis smoke more dope than Satan do’) they form an intense, enduring bond that sees them sharing everything in the years that follow; mothers, pills, secrets, booze, beds, boyfriends and blows.

Over time, the trio’s exploits become more extreme, and Dogwood chronicles it all in unflinching, lurid, pitch-perfect detail.

More than anything, Caro, Collier and Harper are thirsty. Given the climate (‘the sun’s never weak, not never’), it’s understandable, but they’re thirsty for more than just liquor; they’re thirsty for experience, adventure, and escape (physical, sexual, emotional or chemical) from the suffocating claustrophobia of their small town where lives are essentially predestined and there’s ‘nothing to do but be bored.’

Exploring issues of family, identity, poverty, abuse and survival, Dogwood is uncomfortably, painfully brilliant; introducing a distinctive new voice while taking the reader on a dangerous joyride sure to leave them reeling despite the damage sustained en route. Powerful, bruising, brutal and perfect.

Dogwood is published by Linen Press later this month. Follow Linen Press and Lindsay Parnell on Twitter for updates, or read an extract from Dogwood at Bookoxygen.

The post Dogwood by Lindsay Parnell appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/13/dogwood-by-lindsay-parnell/feed/ 0
Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 Longlist Revealed http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/11/baileys-womens-prize-fiction-2015-longlist-revealed/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/11/baileys-womens-prize-fiction-2015-longlist-revealed/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 16:16:49 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27887 As a fresh crop of writers begins vying for the prize, Shami Chakrabarti leads the charge for awards for women's writing.

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015 Longlist Revealed
Who's made the grade for 2015?

The post Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 Longlist Revealed appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
As a fresh crop of writers begins vying for the prize, Shami Chakrabarti leads the charge for awards for women's writing.

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015 Longlist Revealed

It’s that time of year again; the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist of nominees has been announced, with 20 women writers in the running for the £30,000 award. This year however we have some refreshing candour along with the celebrations from chair of judges Shami Chakrabarti.

The civil liberties campaigner and Director of Liberty has rounded on criticism of the need for a women-only award, saying that “We are still nowhere near where we should be” when it comes to recognition for women in literature. “I also don’t think women are getting their due in other literary prizes. I am still surprised at some of the lists and comments made by judges and chairs of judges elsewhere, so I don’t think it’s time to end a women’s prize.”

An analysis by the Guardian certainly bears this out, as since the Baileys Prize’s inauguration in 1996, there have been just seven women winners of the Man Booker prize, (the 1991 all-male shortlist of which was the inspiration for the creation of the Baileys prize) to twelve men. The track record of the Booker shortlists is even worse, revealing only 25% of authors included since 1996 have been women.

"Literature ought to be further on than it is, given how long women have been writing brilliant stuff...there's an ocean of talent to be discussed and shared and celebrated, and this is one way of doing it." So it would seem gender bias is still alive and well in judging panels, which, if you’re reading For Book’s Sake, will not surprise you, but Chakrabarti’s conviction that celebrating women’s writing is still vital is a welcome inspiration. She calls gender injustice “the greatest human rights violation in the world…it’s global in reach and millennial in duration. It’s certainly not a time to be doing anything less.”

So who have the judges selected? There is certainly a mix of smaller names and well-established authors, with five debut novels selected including Emma Healey‘s Elizabeth is Missing and PP Wong‘s The Life of a Banana (from tiny publishing house Legend Press) alongside writing veterans Ali Smith, Sarah Waters and Anne Tyler, whose entry A Spool of Blue Thread marks the 20th novel from the American author.

The list is still dominated by British and American writers, so diversity in terms of nationality, gender identity and sexual orientation could obviously be improved. We’re also expectant that the same high-flyers such as Smith and Healey might breeze onto the shortlist. But with so much verve and vitriol from Chakrabarti, and presumably the other judges Laura Bates; Grace Dent, Helen Dunmore and Cathy Newman, we’re certainly fired up for the shortlist unveiling on April 13th.

“Literature ought to be further on than it is, given how long women have been writing brilliant stuff…there’s an ocean of talent to be discussed and shared and celebrated, and this is one way of doing it.” We agree Shami; if next time we could plumb those depths a little deeper for diversity, then all the better.

Good luck to all the nominees!

The list in full:

Rachel Cusk: Outline

Lissa Evans: Crooked Heart

Patricia Ferguson: Aren’t We Sisters?

Xiaolu Guo: I Am China

Samantha Harvey: Dear Thief

Emma Healey: Elizabeth is Missing

Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven

Grace McCleen: The Offering

Sandra Newman: The Country of Ice Cream Star

Heather O’Neill: The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

Laline Paull: The Bees

Marie Phillips: The Table of Less Valued Knights

Rachel Seiffert: The Walk Home

Kamila Shamsie: A God in Every Stone

Ali Smith: How to be Both

Sara Taylor: The Shore

Anne Tyler: A Spool of Blue Thread

Sarah Waters: The Paying Guests

Jemma Wayne: After Before

PP Wong: The Life of a Banana

Who would you like to see on the shorlist? What books do you think the Baileys panel missed?

The post Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 Longlist Revealed appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/11/baileys-womens-prize-fiction-2015-longlist-revealed/feed/ 0
Appropriating (F)acts in Feminist Fiction II: Juliet’s Nurse http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/11/juliets-nurse/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/11/juliets-nurse/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 10:00:23 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27862 In part two of her series for For Books' Sake, author Lois Leveen explores intersectionality through the character of Angelica, perhaps better known as Juliet's nurse in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Angelica's story is an interesting one for feminists as her class and gender have a significant impact on her position in the play. Over to Lois...

Juliet's Nurse Book Cover
Author Lois Leveen explores intersectionality in Juliet's Nurse...

The post Appropriating (F)acts in Feminist Fiction II: Juliet’s Nurse appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
In part two of her series for For Books' Sake, author Lois Leveen explores intersectionality through the character of Angelica, perhaps better known as Juliet's nurse in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Angelica's story is an interesting one for feminists as her class and gender have a significant impact on her position in the play. Over to Lois...

Juliet's Nurse Book Cover

I became a novelist so that I could use fiction to share multicultural feminist history with an audience beyond academia.  So how did I end up writing a novel inspired by the most canonical of dead white male authors?

I’d assumed I’d always write about intersections of gender and race in US history.  But in making the transition from writing non-fiction to writing fiction, I’ve had to accept that serendipity plays a significant role in the creative process.  After my first novel, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, was published, I struggled for months on a book that just wouldn’t come together.  And then the title Juliet’s Nurse suddenly came into my head, leading me to do something I hadn’t done since high school: re-read Romeo and Juliet.

Like many people, I’d remembered the nurse as a minor comic character.  In fact, she has the largest number of lines after the title characters, and Juliet actually speaks more lines to her than to Romeo. 

She even has a name: Angelica, although it’s mentioned only once in the play—so much easier just to refer to a servant by the labor she provides to the wealthy family! Angelica also has an amazing but often forgotten backstory. In the very first scene of the play in which she appears (Act I, scene iii, which is also Juliet’s first scene), she reveals that she had a daughter, born at the same time as Juliet, who died.

This struck me as an incredibly compelling seed for a novel. What would it be like to lose your own infant, and then be given another child to nurture in the most physically and emotionally intimate way possible, yet always know you are only a servant in her home? 

I considered giving my novel a contemporary setting. After all, huge numbers of women from poor countries and poor communities routinely “lose” their own children to the economic necessity of migrating to wealthy countries and wealthy communities, where they raise other people’s children (often for oppressively low wages). But the historian in me wanted to understand what women’s lives were like in the late 14th century, the period in which Shakespeare’s play is set. What could I, as a feminist, learn and teach others about how gender shaped people’s experiences in this era—by using the most canonical dead white guy as my hook?

Comparing my two novels—one about slavery, the other about suicide—I realised I put the women I write about up against hard situations, in order to explore what it reveals about them.

In imagining Angelica’s story, I incorporated research on everything from breastfeeding, childbirth, and marriage contracts, to the aftermath of the plague (which killed 40% of Italy’s population in the years just before the novel is set).  But good historical fiction is always about the moment in which it is written as well as the era about which it’s written, and as a feminist writer, I want my work to engage with contemporary social issues. 

As I drafted Juliet’s Nurse, I realised that Romeo and Juliet is (spoiler alert!) the most famous literary work about suicide, and in telling Angelica’s story, I was writing a book about what it’s like to survive the suicide of a child you love. With suicide rates, especially youth suicide rates, on the rise globally, this is an all too relevant topic. 

Comparing my two novels—one about slavery, the other about suicide—I realised I put the women I write about up against hard situations, in order to explore what it reveals about them.  Although Shakespeare’s play is a tragedy, I wanted Angelica to have a more hopeful story, one in which she, and the reader, learn about how to survive suffering rather than succumbing to it.  In the months since the novel has been out, I’ve heard from parents of teenagers, from people who’ve lost loved ones to suicide, and from many other readers about how powerful that message has been.

It’s not clear to me why Shakespeare imbued the nurse with such a complex and compelling backstory.  It renders her one of the most deeply drawn female characters in his oeuvre. And yet, in many of his scenes she’s an object of derision, speaking at best in sexual innuendo and at worst in malapropisms. The play’s treatment of Angelica suggests that there is something laughable about the female body, the working-class body.

I gave Angelica a different relationship to language, to physicality, to sexuality, to mothering.  She may not be educated, but she is outspoken.  She is not young or thin, but she is comfortable in her physicality, able to enjoy both love and lust. Her capacity for caretaking leads her to nurture children who are not her biological offspring—what African American feminists refer to as “other mothering”—but she ultimately refuses to sacrifice herself to them. I’m not sure I would call my Angelica a feminist, because the term seems too anachronistic for that era. But she is keenly aware of what we call intersectionality, the way gender and class combine to shape women’s live, and she is never shy about challenging those who seem to have power over her.  She is, in some ways, a role model for me, and a reminder that feminist authors need to keep ourselves open to the many stories there are for us to tell.

For more on women’s lives in this era:

Not surprisingly, I relied heavily on works by women historians, including Jacqueline Musacchio’s The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy (which documents the spaces occupied by and objects used by nurses, infants, and new mothers); Iris Origo’s The Merchant of Prato (which draws on letters between Margherita Datini and her husband Francesco to detail family life in late fourteenth-century Italy); Christiane Klapisch-Zuber’s Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy (which includes a quantitative analysis of wet-nurse contracts); and especially Monica Green’s research on The Trotula, a group of medical treatises that incorporates work by a woman healer who lived in Salerno, Italy, in the twelfth century.

 

ICYMI: Read the first half of this series (Approproating (F)acts in Feminist Fiction: Excavating The Life of Mary Bowser) here.

- Lois Leveen

Lois Leveen is the author of Juliet’s Nurse and The Secrets of Mary Bowser.  Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Review of Books, the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Atlantic. You can find out more about her work on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

The post Appropriating (F)acts in Feminist Fiction II: Juliet’s Nurse appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/11/juliets-nurse/feed/ 0
Local Lit: Nottingham http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/05/local-lit-nottingham/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/05/local-lit-nottingham/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 10:00:15 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27851 From the world's first computer programmer, to the host of some of our very own Furies contributors, this city should be a must on any lit-lover's travels.

Local Lit: Nottingham
Move over Robin, there are some new heroines in town...

The post Local Lit: Nottingham appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
From the world's first computer programmer, to the host of some of our very own Furies contributors, this city should be a must on any lit-lover's travels.

Local Lit: Nottingham

Writers

Nottingham has recently launched a bid to become a UNESCO city of literature. Its famous sons – Lord Byron, D. H. Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe – are regarded as the famous faces of Nottingham writing, but there are plenty of women writers in Nottingham who ought to be celebrated too.

Mary Howitt lived in Nottingham when she published the poem ‘The Spider and the Fly’ in 1829. ‘The Spider and the Fly’ has been referenced by everybody from The Cure to Doctor Who. Howitt’s Nottingham-born daughter, Anna Mary Howitt, was an early feminist, painter and writer of spiritualist books.

Ada Lovelace is often described as the world’s first computer programmer. In 1842, Lovelace translated and greatly expanded an Italian article on an Analytical Engine and her finished work is recognised as the world’s first computer programme. She is buried in Hucknall, a short tram-ride away from the centre of Nottingham.

Dorothy Whipple, who has eight titles republished by Persephone, lived in Nottingham for most of her life. Two of her novels, They Were Sisters and They Knew Mr Knight, were made into films in the mid-forties; after years of being caught in book-wilderness, they are now thankfully back in print.

Universities

Today there is a thriving writing scene in Nottingham, much of it spearheaded by women. The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University host wonderful creative writing courses; notable alumni include Nicola Monaghan (author of three novels, including the wonderfully gritty The Killing Jar) and Kim Slater (author of the acclaimed YA book, Smart).

Sarah Jackson teaches on Nottingham Trent University’s creative writing course, and her first collection of poetry, Pelt, won the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry in 2012. Her writing is haunting yet beautiful; often examining the uncomfortable in everyday life.

Communities and Writing Workshops

Nottingham Writers Studio is a place for Nottingham-based writers to work and discuss their writing, and is home to many great writers, including the wonderful Alison Moore. Moore’s second novel, He Wants, was published in 2014. And her first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Nottingham’s biggest bookshop, Waterstones Nottingham, hosts writing courses set up by Writing East Midlands. These courses are taught by local authors; a recent class completed by poet Jacqueline Gabbitas focused on contemporary environmental poetry, and how nature poetry can be written whilst living in a city.

Mouthy Poets is a poetry group, currently on tour, set up by Deborah Stevenson for people aged 15 – 30 who want to write and perform their own poetry. Through Mouthy Poets, young people can have their voices heard.

Local Bookshops

Five Leaves Bookshop is the ‘first independent general bookshop in Nottingham this century’ and is fantastic. Five Leaves hosts many talks and poetry events featuring people such as Helen Mort and Jo Dixon; both of whom were featured in For Books’ Sake’s own poetry anthology, Furies. Five Leaves also has an excellent section on women’s issues.

Libraries

Bromley House Library is a beautiful refuge in the middle of the city, founded in 1816. It hosts many events and even has its own secret garden.

Bromley House’s writer-in-residence is Judith Allnatt, a short story writer and novelist. Allnatt’s second book, The Poet’s Wife, focuses on Patty Turner, the wife of John Clare, as Clare falls into madness and believes himself married to his childhood sweetheart; Allnatt says that she had to ‘give Patty a voice.’

Festivals

Nottingham’s second Festival of Words happened in October 2014 and hosted a diverse selection of wonderful local and not-so-local authors. From Ali Smith, who discussed her amazing novel How to be Both, to Sujata Bhatt, who discussed her eight volumes of evocative poetry, the events were creative and exciting and a real boost to all of the literary based groups in the area. We’re looking forward to the third!

The post Local Lit: Nottingham appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/05/local-lit-nottingham/feed/ 0
Publisher Spotlight: World Editions http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/02/publisher-spotlight-world-editions/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/02/publisher-spotlight-world-editions/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:00:32 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27827 World Editions is a new publishing house from Dutch publisher Eric Visser, whose 'De Geus' list in the Netherlands is well-known for its international and multicultural focus and includes celebrated writers such as Alice Munro, Henning Mankell and Colm Tóibín.

World Editions are translating some fantastic women writers to English right now and specialise in bringing unique and boundary-pushing titles to new audiences. There is plenty of fiction, quality crime, non-fiction on offer from all cultures and we're here to take a look at some of their latest titles and giveaway some amazing prizes...

Publisher Spotlight: World Editions
Check out some of the most amazing women in translation from World Editions...

The post Publisher Spotlight: World Editions appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
World Editions is a new publishing house from Dutch publisher Eric Visser, whose 'De Geus' list in the Netherlands is well-known for its international and multicultural focus and includes celebrated writers such as Alice Munro, Henning Mankell and Colm Tóibín.

World Editions are translating some fantastic women writers to English right now and specialise in bringing unique and boundary-pushing titles to new audiences. There is plenty of fiction, quality crime, non-fiction on offer from all cultures and we're here to take a look at some of their latest titles and giveaway some amazing prizes...

Publisher Spotlight: World Editions

Saturday’s Shadows

 

Saturday's Shadows

Ayesha Harruna Attah’s first novel Harmattan Rain, was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and now her latest novel Saturday’s Shadows follows the lives of four characters in 1990s West Africa following a 17 year dictatorship. Theo Avoka, his wife Zahra, their son Kojo and house help Atsu narrate their struggles for love, identity and closure in a world where madness is only ever moments away. Whilst the stories are intimate they are bound by a shared backdrop of a country coming to terms with a changing political landscape.  Read the first ten pages here.

The Helios Disaster

The Helios Disaster

‘A father gives birth to a twelve-year-old girl and after they become separated the girl is placed into foster care. When she starts speaking in tongues, she’s admitted to a psychiatric ward’ reads the blurb for Swedish author Linda Boström Knausgård’s novella The Helios Disaster. This short, sharp book is dark and mesmerising and transports you to an Atwood-esque world where the lines of reality are blurred and the reader must put their faith in a vulnerable 12 year old narrator. Read the first ten pages here.

Gliding Flight

Gliding Flight

This is Anne-Gine Goemans’ second novel and has won the Dioraphte Literary Prize and the German M Pionier Award for new literary talent. It follows the story of Gieles, a lonely 14 year old who lives next to an air strip with his flock of geese. The book has both a whimsy and nostalgic feel and seeing Gieles’ world and relationship with his parents through his eyes definitely pulls at your heartstrings, but will his plan to use the geese to try to get his mother’s attention pay off? Read the first ten pages here.

Craving

Craving

Esther Gerritsen’s novel Craving was nominated for the Libris Literature Prize, the Opzij Prize and the Dioraphte Literary Award and sold more than 20,000 copies in the first six months upon its Dutch publication in 2012! It tracks the fragile relationship between Coco and Elizabeth (daughter and mother) and their hugely complex relationship. When Elizabeth reveals she is terminally ill, Coco moves in her erratic moods become are magnified. This difficult mother-daughter relationship and captured beautifully by Gerritsen’s dry humour and fantastic skill with dialogue. Read the first ten pages here.

Competition Time!

To win the four titles featured in this Publisher Spotlight piece, simply email hello@forbookssake.net with the heading ‘Publish Spotlight’ plus your name and full address for a chance to win one of the three sets of books we have to give away. We’ll pick winners at random and the competition closes at midnight on Sunday 15th March 2015. Best of luck!

More exciting titles from PR Collective to look out for in 2015…

As well as the wonderful World Editions, PR Collective represent many other fantastic women writers including Laura van den Berg whose latest book The Isle of Youth (Daunt Books, March 2015) was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and named a ‘Best Book of 2013’ by The New Republic, and O, The
Oprah Magazine. What Was Never Said is another forthcoming title (May 2015) from author Emma Craigie which is a YA novel dealing with the important subject of FGM. Keep your eyes peeled for these exciting titles!

The post Publisher Spotlight: World Editions appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
http://forbookssake.net/2015/03/02/publisher-spotlight-world-editions/feed/ 0