For Books’ Sake http://forbookssake.net Championing Books by Women Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:00:32 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 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...

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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!

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The First Bad Man by Miranda July http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/26/the-first-bad-man-by-miranda-july/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/26/the-first-bad-man-by-miranda-july/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:00:25 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27656 The début novel from acclaimed filmmaker and artist Miranda July is a bold and taboo-shattering grope into the underbelly of human experience.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The début novel from acclaimed filmmaker and artist, Miranda July.

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The début novel from acclaimed filmmaker and artist Miranda July is a bold and taboo-shattering grope into the underbelly of human experience.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

Editor and actress Tavi Gevinson defines nostalgia, fantasies and the act of forgetting, as “holes in the universe”, and The First Bad Man operates in the same way.

The protagonist Cheryl Glickman’s globus hysetricus (the lump in her throat) acts as a supporting character to the unsayable words and unthinkable thoughts (“should I introduce myself or try to kill him?”) that live in limbo in this novel’s many-roomed universe, with babies slotted inside other babies like babushka dolls, lives that hint at other lives, ones with fancy costumes and ye olde English, where “seaweed hands [live] inside normal man hands”, thoughts have implied British accents, the act of chewing lives in double quotes, smoothies makers are emotionally manipulative and feminism is prefixed with etc., etc. This is the banal ritualistic magic of survival: what we do and what we mean, in short, the simple, strange subjectivity of being human.

The first question you used to get on creepy mid-noughties chatrooms was A/S/L: age, sex, location, and Miranda mushes these up with a ‘cat sat on the mat’ kind of precision. A shifting grossness found in both the craft of writing, the sentence structures, the languages utilized, but also in the themes and ideas conveyed, all are a compact contradiction.

There is a “backbone without a back”, a man named Gary who “looked like he was wearing sunglasses even without them”, Cheryl’s roommate Clee who “the more pregnant she became the less like a woman she was”, the confusion between “boo like a ghost” and “boo, like you’re my boo.” Julia Kristeva says a lack of borders is where abjection lies, but here it seems these strange contrasts, the ‘this’ and ‘that’, mine and yours and him and hers, are where the bad things (the bad men) live.

This extends into questions of power, of sex, submission and dominance, masochism and feminist empowerment, where misogyny is a sexual orientation and middle aged manhood is the ultimate sexual fantasy.This extends into questions of power, of sex, submission and dominance, masochism and feminist empowerment, where misogyny is a sexual orientation and middle aged manhood is the ultimate sexual fantasy. As a survivor I have always been struck by the implied theme of childhood sexual abuse that runs through July’s work; the intergalactic trauma of Getting Stronger Every Day, and the imagined Lolita lust of her short story The Man on the StairsThe First Bad Man continues this with its baby boyfriends, “tiny husbands” and actual girls for girlfriends. Age is both rigidly definite and horribly mutilated, like that episode of The Twilight Zone, where one lover stays very young and the other gets very old.

Cheryl’s love is not airy, not flighty, not fleeting. It possesses the heavy set determination of a particularly strong willed child: “I knew that he loved me more” (he being a child, who would later be many children). The immaturity of the adult love of all these babies, of ‘I want that one’, that thing, that man, that baby and I want him NOW. It slots in her with her 2005 movie, Are You The Favorite Person of Anybody? Because are you, though? Are you? And, as Cheryl sings, will you stay in our lover’s story? Will you? Will you?

Love is constructed from two parts, the dream of the lover and the dream of the self, so whilst this story may be of love (even if it is the scary kind non-Nicholas Sparks kind) it is not about togetherness. Cheryl is a study in self-hood, in isolation: she is her own servant, her own dog; but twoness, not oneness, is the goal.

Because in this book one is not peaceful, one is not whole, it is weird and sad and worrying, a “sorrowful creature putting itself together” in strange systems and inside jokes and loud incessant internal voices. Like the bit in Ghost World where Steve Buscemi says “You think it’s healthy to obsessively collect things? You can’t connect with other people, so you fill your life with stuff?” And despite the enforced emptiness of Cheryl’s system even the words have stuff, “a silly clown nose on the thought”, “kisses placed on lids like boxes.” Emotional clutter still counts, even if your house is super tidy.

A common dismissal of Miranda July is that her sole defenders, the ones who write the rosy reviews, who buy her DVD’s, are uncritical consumers, unlocking their jaws for any kind of output, in any kind of medium, but this is untrue, and unfair, as misogynistic a portrait of her audience as the supposedly “quirky” misconceptions of the artist herself. This is not simply a good work ‘for Miranda July’ (a mean-spirited comment that makes her seem like a brand of microwave meals, rather than a multi-faceted artist) but a good novel full stop. (Pun intended).

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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/25/spool-blue-thread-anne-tyler/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/25/spool-blue-thread-anne-tyler/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 10:00:34 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27651 Now on her twentieth novel, Anne Tyler is still going strong. A Spool of Blue Thread traces several generations of a Baltimore family with Tyler’s trademark warmth and wit.

A Spool of Blue Thread
Tyler's twentieth novel, about a dysfunctional Baltimore family.

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Now on her twentieth novel, Anne Tyler is still going strong. A Spool of Blue Thread traces several generations of a Baltimore family with Tyler’s trademark warmth and wit.

A Spool of Blue Thread

“The Whitshanks weren’t a melodramatic family,” the gently sardonic narrator assures readers early on. Rather, they are an entirely ordinary American family in both their complications and their achievements.

Matriarch Abby Whitshank is a social worker with a penchant for attracting “orphans” – refugees and eccentrics beyond the pale of society. Her husband Red runs a respected family construction firm. They are pillars of their Baltimore neighbourhood.

Their four children, however, are a different story. Denny impregnates a girl while in high school, drops out of college, and adopts a vagrant lifestyle. He flits between jobs and cities, never putting down roots; his parents can lose track of him for years at a time.

It seems like the family upheaval is finally settling down when Abby, now 72, starts disappearing and acting absent-minded. Meanwhile Red, 74, has had a minor heart attack. Concerned about their parents living alone, sons Denny and Stem move in.

Amid a welter of minor offences, the kids know it’s time to put the house up for sale and find a modest apartment to replace it. A family funeral sparks a wave of nostalgia for two defining family stories, and as the novel progresses backwards in time, we finally hear these in full.

First comes the story of how Abby fell in love with Red; it’s tied up with the infamous incident of Red’s sister Merrick stealing her best friend’s rich fiancé.

Abby always prefaces the memory with “It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green morning.” She’d gone over to see her friend’s wedding preparations, and found that Red was avoiding family drama by counting tree rings. Appreciating his peaceful tack, she fell in love.

The most central story of all, though, is of how Red’s father Junior got his dream house. He’d reluctantly married Linnie Mae, a much younger girl from back home, and for years they struggled to make ends meet.

Junior was a dutiful carpenter, and his break finally came when he built his perfect home – for the Brill family. And then, oddly enough, the Brills had a burglary scare and decided they couldn’t live there; the house was his.

This is the same Baltimore home Abby and Red inherited, and while it is a symbol of achievement and togetherness, it is also a reminder that nothing ends perfectly: for as long as he was alive, Junior couldn’t stop tinkering with the house, desperate to make it just right.

What do these foundational stories say about the Whitshanks? Primarily, they reveal an insecure, nouveau riche family. Ambition and envy are endemic vices, inevitably leading to disappointment in this fable-like moral set-up. What do these foundational stories say about the Whitshanks? Primarily, they reveal an insecure, nouveau riche family. Ambition and envy are endemic vices, inevitably leading to disappointment in this fable-like moral set-up. For instance, Linnie Mae had their porch swing painted just the right shade of Swedish blue, but Junior objected and wouldn’t let it stand.

Tyler’s novels are always wry and observant, but this perhaps isn’t one of her best. Meandering and somewhat melancholy, it doesn’t go anywhere in particular.

The opening scene creates a huge plot hole, never addressed, and the backwards chronology means you come to care about the present dilemmas faced by Abby, Red and their children, only to have them diminish in importance as the novel moves deeper into the past.

Still, this is a pleasant ramble, and it asks important questions about family inheritance, assumptions of social class, and the stories we tell ourselves.

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Local Lit: Bristol http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/23/local-lit-bristol/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/23/local-lit-bristol/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 10:00:12 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27707 Bristol is well known as a hub of creativity. From Aardman, the creators of 'Wallace and Gromit', to graffiti artist Banksy and the bands Portishead and Goldfrapp. With a sizeable chunk of the BBC based in Bristol, there is no shortage of artistic types in this city, but what of the literary scene? Bristol may be more famous for film and music, but bookish events are popping up everywhere. Read on to find out more!

Bristol Cathedral
We look at Bristol's finest literary offerings...

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Bristol is well known as a hub of creativity. From Aardman, the creators of 'Wallace and Gromit', to graffiti artist Banksy and the bands Portishead and Goldfrapp. With a sizeable chunk of the BBC based in Bristol, there is no shortage of artistic types in this city, but what of the literary scene? Bristol may be more famous for film and music, but bookish events are popping up everywhere. Read on to find out more!

Bristol Cathedral

WRITERS

Bristol has a long literary history, with both Wordsworth and Coleridge writing some of their work in the city and Jane Austen featuring the folly at Blaise Castle Estate in her gothic parody, Northanger Abbey.

These days, Bristol is home to the poet and novelist Helen Dunmore, who won the Orange Prize for A Spell of Winter in 1996 and was again shortlisted for The Siege in 2002. Flash fiction pioneer, short story writer and poet, Tania Hershman, is also based in Bristol, as is the wonderful Beatrice Hitchman, whose debut novel Petite Mort is reviewed here.

INDEPENDENT BOOKSHOPS

Bristol is home to the only branch of Foyles outside the capital, which opened in 2011. The shop has two floors and an impressive range of books, as well as a café and event space for storytelling sessions, reading groups and author events.

Slightly less mainstream is the bookshop at the Arnolfini, one of Europe’s leading centres for contemporary arts. This shop stocks over 100 magazines and periodicals on art and literature, as well as a huge range of books on contemporary art and culture.

Finally, based to the north of the city centre, Durdham Down Bookshop is a long-established Bristol indie, hosting a monthly book group as well as author events.

FESTIVALS

Women’s Literature Festival (March)

Siân Norris, tired of book festival line-ups and literary review sections being dominated by men, decided to take action, and in 2013 the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival was born (she talked to us about the process here). With a fantastic line-up including Bidisha, Stella Duffy and Helen Dunmore, the festival was a massive success and is returning again this year with more superstar names. Leading academics, campaigners and award-winning novelists and poets, such as Michèle Roberts, Helen Mort and Nimco Ali, will take to the stage to celebrate the work of women writers and promote women’s writing and history.

Unputdownable: Bristol Festival of Literature (October)

This not-for-profit, nine-day annual festival is organised by local writers, publishers and bookish-types and takes place at venues across the city, from cafés and theatres to schools and prisons. The best UK and international authors are invited to perform at readings and discussions, but there are also community events and writing masterclasses for all levels, which aim to encourage fiction to engage with the real world. Previous participants have included Vanessa Kisuule, Anna Freeman and Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Mervyn Morris.

Bristol Poetry Festival (April/May and September)

Run by the Bristol-based charity Poetry Can, which promotes poetry across the South-West, the Bristol Poetry Festival aims to deliver a programme of readings, performances and activities to showcase the most inspiring and entertaining contemporary poets working locally, nationally and internationally.

BRISTOL OLD VIC

Britain’s oldest theatre and home to the highly respected drama school that gave us Patrick Stewart, Miranda Richardson, Olivia Coleman among others, is also a centre of literary creativity. As well as providing opportunities and support for writers, Bristol Old Vic also provides the venue for Blahblahblah, a monthly spoken-word event, organised in collaboration with Word of Mouth.

WORD OF MOUTH

Word of Mouth is a partnership between local publishers City Chameleon and Tangent Books to promote regular literature events in Bristol, creating a platform for both local artists and those touring nationally and internationally. They have a regular performance evening at the Thunderbolt pub and have hosted writers such as Tania Hershman, Lucy English and Molly Naylor.

UNIVERSITIES

Bristol is home to two universities: the old one, which offers no fewer than six different undergraduate degrees in English, and the newer one – UWE (University of the West of England) – which offers at least ten undergraduate courses in literature and creative writing-based subjects.

LIBRARIES

Bristol is home to 27 local libraries and the impressive Bristol Central Library stands proudly next to the cathedral on College Green in the city centre. Built in 1906 and considered influential in the development of Edwardian Free Style architecture, the library is now designated a grade I listed building. Various literary readings and events take place here, including book groups and services for ethnic minorities, disabled and LGBT communities.

 

 

Are there any literary hot spots or Bristol-based authors we’ve missed? Get in touch on Twitter or Facebook and let us know!

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Fashion Unpicked: Have We Been Stitched Up by The Fashion Industry? http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/19/fashion-unpicked-stitched-fashion-industry/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/19/fashion-unpicked-stitched-fashion-industry/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 10:00:16 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27606 Fashion's a billion-dollar business , and an inescapable aspect of modern life. But who's pulling the strings, and what's the damage being done? Tansy Hoskins, author of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, compiles the best books to unpick the industry and its impact...

Overexposed-Fashion-Week
The best books to unpick the fashion industry and its impact...

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Fashion's a billion-dollar business , and an inescapable aspect of modern life. But who's pulling the strings, and what's the damage being done? Tansy Hoskins, author of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, compiles the best books to unpick the industry and its impact...

Overexposed-Fashion-Week

No Logo by Naomi Klein (1999)

Let’s start with the original wake-up call: contrary to what they want you to believe, brands are not your friends, rather they are destroying your community and planet and stealing your soul. Still brilliant after fifteen years, this anti-corporatist book is a powerful first step on the way to anti-capitalism.

A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America by Leila Ahmed (2011)

A book on the article of clothing that columnists and (mostly male) politicians and their F16 bombers just won’t leave alone. Leila Ahmed start out writing this book being disturbed by the hijab’s resurgence but what she found made her change her mind and led to a thoughtful and revealing book about the hijab as a symbol of rebellion in the face of global oppression and of pride, faith and choice. You’ll also meet British colonialist Lord Cromer, and see how women’s bodies and clothing choices have been used to justify war and occupation for centuries.

Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress edited by Jean Allman (2004)

This book explores fashion as an expression of power and shows how relegating people outside ‘Euroamerica’ to being “the people without fashion” is a key part of also making them “the people without history”. This is also a brilliant book for exploring the visual side of politics and recognising women and their chosen dress as agents of resistance against colonialism and oppression.

Bodies by Susie Orbach (2009)

When did the body become a job? Where does the desire for ‘perfection’ come from? Is it real or created by the constant talking, writing, picturing, and criticising of bodies? Yes humans have always been into adornment but why is capitalism making us hate ourselves? Full of alarming case studies that explore race, gender and age at the ‘epoch of body destabilisation’.

Femininity and Domination by Sandra Lee Barkty (1990)

There is nowhere to hide with this book and I warn you that if you read it you won’t be the same by the end. Have you, for instance, ever kidded yourself that you enjoy wearing makeup because it’s a creative aesthetic activity? Bartky will challenge you on that – makeup, she says, is the equivalent of painting the same watercolour over and over again forever, there is little to no artistic variety allowed and while we’re at it – the woman who chooses not to wear cosmetics faces sanctions of a sort which would never be applied to someone who chose not to paint a watercolour.

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? by Lucy Siegle (2011)

The depth of research and sheer scope of this book make it a terrifying read in terms of the damage fashion is wreaking on our planet. What are the consequences of making 80 billion garments every single year? What are the consequences of fashion using up 132 million tonnes of coal and 9 trillion litres of water per year? What really goes on in fur farms and cotton fields? This is first class journalism with a global reach and whilst I wish this book talked about capitalism and I don’t believe we can shop out way out of this crisis, we need more wake up calls like this book.

Sweatshop Warriors by Miriam Ching Yoon Louie (2001)

It has always been the case that women have spearheaded change in the fashion industry. This book is from that front line, a compendium of some of the hardest fought battles for women’s rights and dignity in the workplace. Spanning the Global South from Latin America to Asia, this book is packed full of real women and their workplace campaigns. A great book for getting a sense of the power of global capital and of how it is possible to fight back against exploitation.

Students Against Sweatshops by Liza Fetherstone (2002)

Talking of fighting back, this is another brilliant book about student solidarity campaigns with garment workers. Full of moving personal testimony, it is a watertight case for the need for organised campaigns in the ‘West’ that can work alongside garment worker unions to ensure, for example, that brands don’t cut and run from factories when caught mistreating workers. Also if you had any doubt that Nike is evil, check out why they get targeted for sweatshop abuse, and their attempts to discredit campaigners and corporatise universities.

Ain’t I A Beauty Queen? Black Women, Beauty and the Politics of Race by Maxine Leeds Craig (2002)

An unflinching look at the persistent dominance of Eurocentric standards of beauty, the stigmatising of black bodies, and the social construction of race. Detailing the history of resistance within fashion and beauty – from Miss Black America pageants organised by the NAACP when Miss American was white-only, to Angela Davis and the ebb and flow of the Afro as a political statement. This book also covers the tough questions of whether integration within dominant beauty standards should be a goal and whether black women who reach the top can actually make a structural difference.

Cosmetics, Fashions and the Exploitation of Women by Evelyn Reed and Joseph Hansen (1986)

If you can track down a copy of this little book, grab it with both hands. In 1954, Joseph Hansen published an article in a socialist paper about cosmetics companies making huge profits by exploiting women’s insecurities. His article sparked multiple letters from female readers working in factories and shops, who felt that Hansen was mocking them and had no understanding of their need to wear makeup in order to get a job under capitalism.
The brilliant Evelyn Reed then weighed in to support Hansen’s position and one result was this lively and lovely book of all the articles, letters and controversy.

Vogue Magazine

No seriously. Buy back copies of Vogue from charity shops if you don’t want to give money to Conde Nasty, but make sure you read it. As you turn the pages count how many adverts you see, which multinational owns those brands? Which corporation bought the magazine this month – are you reading makeup articles next to their makeup adverts? Also count the number of women in there who don’t fit within a tiny beauty paradigm. Are you holding a magazine without a single model of colour? What about the age ranges of the models, is there anyone with a disability? And what about the clothes? Add up the total for the clothes in the magazine and see if they are ‘worth’ more than the house you are sitting in. Now tell me what the fashion industry is really for.

Tansy Hoskins is the author of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion. Read our review or grab your own copy and join us next week on Twitter to discuss it, in the latest instalment of #FBSBookClub. Find out more here.

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Beyond the Border edited by Farhana Shaikh http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/18/beyond-border-edited-farhana-shaikh/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/18/beyond-border-edited-farhana-shaikh/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 10:00:01 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25681 Edited by Farhana Shaikh, this diverse collection of new short stories by British Asian women presents a wide variety of view points and issues. A passionate, moving and intricate selection, it provides an insight into the work of some truly unique writers.

Beyond the Border
New writing by British Asian women.

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Edited by Farhana Shaikh, this diverse collection of new short stories by British Asian women presents a wide variety of view points and issues. A passionate, moving and intricate selection, it provides an insight into the work of some truly unique writers.

Beyond the Border

As a whole, Beyond the Border is a refreshing taste of authenticity, offering brief glimpses into the worlds of characters of many different ages, genders and ethnicities. The stories do not bleed into each other, but rather stand strongly on their own, clearly distinguishable from each other, though joined by the common traits of their authors.

There are thirteen stories in total, ranging in subject from serial killers to curses, from post-natal depression to homosexuality. They cover a vast area, dipping into each specific world in the brief time that they have, arranged in a climactic fashion. Each story has a distinctive voice, the characterisation being the strongest aspect of many of these fictions, and each is completely individual in its exploration of a particular theme.

Amna Khokher’s You, In the Fading Light is the literary highlight of the collection, drawing upon a skilful use of narrative and an intricate weaving of ideas to create a convincing and compelling story. Exploring issues of arranged marriage and homosexuality, it is a sensitive and sensual piece of work that successfully navigates a highly emotional narrative to give an understated message of loss and yearning.

Set against an impending backdrop of an unwanted arranged marriage, it questions heteronormative values and invites the reader to consider new concepts. In the midst of this fast-paced tale, Khokher’s characters are thoughtful and fatally human, bringing a true sense of realism to this brief encounter.

In the midst of this fast-paced tale, Khokher’s characters are thoughtful and fatally human, bringing a true sense of realism to this brief encounter.Another flash of reality can be seen in Rosie Dastgir’s Runaway, in which a boy’s reluctance to run away from India to England proves to be his downfall. The story focuses first on the decisions of the boy, then on the moral dilemma of the taxi driver who turns him in to a local police station, and finally on the regrets of the boy’s father.

This brief snippet of narrative is perfectly formed, and Dastgir excels at pacing, structure and dialogue. Her bursts of conversation are not only realistic; they also reveal the nature of her characters and show how a series of unconsidered decisions can have an irreversible impact on their lives.

In The Baby, Huma Qureshi presents the stigmatised problem of post-natal depression in a measured, unflinching way. Her central character is incredibly relatable and intensely flawed, earning a strong sense of empathy from the reader as the story progresses. Considering issues relating to rejection, alienation and recovery, this is a thoughtful, compelling piece of fiction that offers true insight into the life of its protagonist.

Although these stories offer only brief looks into a particular idea or theme, they succeed in creating complete narratives that house well-crafted, lively characters. The structuring of this collection by Farhana Shaikh offers a twisting journey through the highly contrasting lives and topics that it covers, gaining emotional momentum as it progresses, culminating fittingly in a starkly human story about the end of life.

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The Best Women Writers of Scandinavian Crime Fiction http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/17/top-five-women-writing-scandinavian-crime/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/17/top-five-women-writing-scandinavian-crime/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 10:00:08 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=25667 Beginning in the 90s with Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's 'Martin Beck' series, the Scandinavian crime fiction phenomenon really took off with the arrival of Stieg Larsson’s 'Millennium' trilogy. If you're curious to know more about the women writers of this popular genre then you're in the right place...

Camilla Lackberg
Beginning in the 90s with Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's…

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Beginning in the 90s with Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's 'Martin Beck' series, the Scandinavian crime fiction phenomenon really took off with the arrival of Stieg Larsson’s 'Millennium' trilogy. If you're curious to know more about the women writers of this popular genre then you're in the right place...

Camilla Lackberg

Scandinavian crime fiction has become one of the new fashionable trends in book publishing over the last ten years.

These novels are usually much darker, with more tension than your crime novel, but there is a reassuring structure to the plots which makes them exceptionally addictive. Scandinavian crime fiction often explores very dark themes, and is often greatly concerned with social issues and the problems the practicalities of living in the democratic, left wing political status which Scandinavia defines itself by.

However, no pre-existing knowledge of Scandinavia’s social policies is required thanks to expert storytelling on the part of the authors and translators. Women writers are as common as men in this genre and their writing is incredibly popular. Here’s an introduction to five of the best Scandinavian authors and our choice of novel to start off with:

Maj Sjöwall

In collaboration with her husband, Per Wahlöö, Sjöwall created the Martin Beck series, one of the most famous series of Scandinavian crime fiction. These novels are essential reading for anyone interested in crime fiction and, despite at times being dense, serve as both stunning critiques of 1960s Swedish society and deftly crafted crime novels.

Must read: The Laughing Policeman. A mass shooting on a public bus leads Beck and his team to suspect that the entire affair was orchestrated to disguise one murder. The slow unravelling of a motive for the shooting is a testament to the brilliant slow burning nature of Sjöwall and Wahlöös’ storytelling.

Karin Fossum

This incredibly successful Norwegian author is an excellent introduction to Scandinavian crime fiction. Her detective, Inspector Konrad Sejer, is unusually polite, a very nondescript man with admirable dedication to his job whose overbearing niceness contrasts with the dark themes Fossum threads through her narrative. On the surface these novels are not typical of this genre but there is an essential creepy atmosphere which renders these novels excellent examples of why Scandinavian crime fiction is so popular.

Must read: Don’t Look Back. A young girl disappears, only to return with the strange tale of a corpse. This novel is brilliantly twisted and full of red herrings.

Karin Alvtegen

Alvtegen’s novels are tightly wound psychological thrillers that analyse human behaviour and are often terrifyingly identifiable. Her writing translates brilliantly and novels are always terse, taunt and highly dramatic. The plots race along and the conclusion is always a dramatic, surprising climax. These novels are great for anyone who enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s novels.

Must read: Missing. A homeless young woman is suspected of murder, and goes on the run. This novel is a tense psychological thriller you’ll want to read in one sitting.

Åsa Larsson

Larsson has won numerous awards for her crime writing and is a highly successful international crime fiction author. Her novels are defined by the detail she puts into her setting and the atmosphere this creates almost seeps from the page. Her work is instantly recognisable, and her use of language and beautiful construction make her novels a prime example of the atmospheric and grimy Scandinavian crime fiction that has made this genre so popular.

Must read: The Savage Alter or Sun Storm. A struggling young lawyer is forced to confront her past when she defends an old school friend suspected of killing her preacher brother. Larsson uses the religious element to create a creepy atmosphere that lingers long after you’ve finished the book.

Camilla Läckberg

The undisputed Queen of Scandinavian Crime fiction, Läckberg deploys depth in her characterisation which, married with her experienced storytelling, makes all of her novels immediately classic. Her work is both stunningly human, yet simultaneously rich with an ethereal darkness which makes for a captivating read. There’s a very human element to Läckberg’s writing which makes the novels brilliantly plausible despite the dark and twisted plots. Her atmospheric use of setting also makes her writing so engaging it’s hard to put her novels down.

Must read: The Ice Princess. When Erica Falck returns to her small town home to bury her parents, she becomes embroiled in the suspicious suicide of her old friend. Any fans of Henning Mankell will feel right at home withLäckberg’s use of her small town setting and the vivid characterisation.

 

 –  Hannah

Hannah is a 22 year old MA graduate. She’s a massive fan of crime fiction, primarily Scandinavian crime fiction and golden age crime fiction. She tweets at @HelplmHannah

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Adamtine by Hannah Berry http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/16/adamtine-hannah-berry/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/16/adamtine-hannah-berry/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 10:10:11 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27532 An atmospheric graphic novel centring on a mysterious train journey and the way people cope with unexpected events.

Adamtine by Hannah Berry
A graphic mystery featuring strangers who disappear from a train...

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An atmospheric graphic novel centring on a mysterious train journey and the way people cope with unexpected events.

Adamtine by Hannah Berry

Hannah Berry’s first graphic novel, Britten and Brülightly, was a neo-noir tale of a private investigator which established her as a cartoonist to watch. Both are published by Jonathan Cape, the biggest graphic novel publisher in the UK, which has a wealth of exciting cartoonists on its books.

Adamtine has a similarly noir feel to its predecessor, though a different type of narrative structure. An atmospheric and enthralling tale of horror, it focuses on what at first appears to be a mundane train journey. Gradually we learn about an event that happened a few years previously in which people disappeared from a train; strangers, seemingly unconnected. The story takes place partly in flashback, as details are revealed about the mysterious events surrounding the disappearances.

Rodney Moon, ‘The Postman’ is accused of involvement, but many believe he was merely the accomplice to an otherworldly being; delivering notes to the doomed victims on its behalf. Cynics joke about the ‘bogeyman’, but this feels like a world where terrifying creatures could easily be lurking in the shadows.

Cuts to a press office show the dilemma of journalists revealing what they know of the truth, and issues of corruption arise. The editor of the paper herself ends up on the fateful train journey, vexed by a socially awkward man who mistakenly thinks she’s interested in him and unnecessarily points out that he’s not interested in ‘mature women’.

Reading becomes a balancing act between needing to find out what happens next and wanting to savour the artwork.

There are three people in the train carriage and all have backstories which are explored in between the increasingly frightening developments in the present. The dialogue is realistic and at times comical as the characters try to navigate the unexplained events while getting to know each other.

Adamtine‘s narrative is gripping; reading becomes a balancing act between needing to find out what happens next and wanting to savour the artwork.

The images are beautifully hand-painted (and the text hand-written). There are several pages featuring wordless panels. Multiple symbols and motifs register subconsciously and drag the reader further into the dark ambience of this peculiar world.

It’s an impressive achievement to make a comic that has a genuine sense of dread running through it. It’s not the easiest medium with which to instil any kind of fear in the reader, but Berry has achieved this while also creating a beautiful and compelling work.

An aesthetically pleasing venture into atmospheric horror, the noir approximation of contemporary life gives Adamtine a timeless feel. It will be interesting to see what Berry does next.

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Cat Winters: U.S Suffragettes in YA Fiction http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/13/suffragettes-in-ya-fiction/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/13/suffragettes-in-ya-fiction/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 10:00:15 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27418 After watching the film Iron Jawed Angels, YA author Cat Winters was keen to find out more about the Suffragist movement in the US. Her research of the powerful feminist movement would become the setting for her latest novel ‘The Cure For Dreaming'. There's a link to the first chapter of the novel at the end of the feature, but for now it's over to Cat...

Cat Winters: U.S Suffragettes in YA Fiction
After watching the film Iron Jawed Angels, YA author Cat…

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After watching the film Iron Jawed Angels, YA author Cat Winters was keen to find out more about the Suffragist movement in the US. Her research of the powerful feminist movement would become the setting for her latest novel ‘The Cure For Dreaming'. There's a link to the first chapter of the novel at the end of the feature, but for now it's over to Cat...

Cat Winters: U.S Suffragettes in YA Fiction

I grew up not knowing much at all about the women’s suffrage movement. In schools in the U.S we learned that Susan B. Anthony fought for equality at the polls, but we never actually read any books about her, and by all accounts she was the only major voice in the U.S. suffrage movement.

As an adult, my eyes were opened when I watched the movie Iron Jawed Angels, a 2004 HBO production that begins with a pivotal 1913 women’s suffrage parade in Washington, DC, and moves toward the passage of the U.S. women’s suffrage amendment in 1919.

I learned about real-life suffragists Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Ida B. Wells, and countless others. I then turned to the film’s source material, a book called Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman’s Party, 1912-1920, by Linda G. Ford (University Press of America, 1991).

The mental and physical anguish that these early-1900s suffragists endured – imprisonment, hunger strikes, force-feedings, family opposition – deeply moved me, and I thought, “Why on earth didn’t I hear of these women before I reached adulthood?”

Suffragettes casting votes

An Idea Emerged…

I realised I’d never seen suffragists portrayed much in fiction, and novels are one of the ways that I myself discover underrepresented moments in history. As a writer of historical fiction, I knew that one day I’d want to tackle the subject of the fight for women’s suffrage, but I didn’t yet have a plot in mind.

In 2011, I felt the urge to write a book about a Victorian stage hypnotist. Initially, I didn’t even think of the suffrage movement for such a novel, but then I asked myself the following questions:

“What if I make the protagonist of this new story a budding young suffragist who attends her first women’s rights rally the same day a hypnotist arrives in town?” “What if the suffragist’s father is the type of Victorian gentleman who’s terrified of modern women?” And “What if that father hires the hypnotist to remove the rebellious thoughts and dreams from his daughter’s head?” Thus, my newest novel, The Cure for Dreaming, was born.

The Research…

To learn what it was like to be a suffragist in the 1800s and early 1900s, I first went to sources that allowed me to read the words of those women who fought for equality. I turned immediately to publications by a local suffragist leader, Abigail Scott Duniway, who helped bring the vote to the women of Oregon eight years before equal suffrage reached the entire U.S. in 1920.

I also read “Yours for Liberty”: Selections from Abigail Scott Duniway’s Suffrage Newspaper, (edited by Jean M. Ward and Elaine A. Maveety), Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words, by Lynn Sherr and Ten Days in a Mad-House, by Nellie Bly which exposed the Victorian tendency to ship women—even completely sane ones—to mental institutions with appalling conditions and practices.

And on a slightly lighter note, the popular suffrage anthems written and sung in the era—such as “Keep Woman in Her Sphere,” by D. Estabrook, and “Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?” by L. May Wheeler—showed me how women used music and satire to spread the word about their plight.

Other helpful texts included Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith Devoe, by Jennifer M. Ross-Nazzal and, surprisingly, The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation, by Carry Amelia Nation, the latter of which was written by a woman who demolished saloons with an axe as part of the U.S. temperance crusade—a movement closely tied to the fight for equal suffrage.

Suffragettes campaigning

What Surprised Me Most Upon Publication…

As The Cure for Dreaming’s October 2014 release date drew nearer, interviewers started asking me what I thought of the current “Women Against Feminism” movement in social media.

Anti-feminist campaigns have been around since the earliest days of the suffrage movement, but what’s so shocking about the modern movement is that it’s come at a time when we’ve learned so much about injustices against women. We’re aware of the mistakes of the past, and yet those mistakes continue to get made in the present.

Furthermore, during the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, voter turnout reached the lowest levels in seventy-two years. Less than one hundred years after women risked with their lives and their mental well-being to bring equality to the voting polls, over half of eligible U.S. voters—both male and female—chose not to utilise their right to vote.

Why it’s important to read about the history of Suffragettes…

Suffragists not only gave us groundbreaking new opportunities to let our voices be heard, but they left their own voices behind in print to remind us how far we’ve come and to inspire us to keep voting and fighting against injustices.

In the U.S., books and pamphlets from the suffrage movement are available online here. In the UK, resources can be found here.

The writings of the suffragists continue to be vibrant, relevant, and empowering, even in this modern age. My sincerest hope is that when women read The Cure for Dreaming, they will find themselves inspired to learn more about this too-often-overlooked movement in history and they’ll feel compelled to make their own voices heard with a roar that future generations will hear.

US Suffrage parade

 

 

 

 – by Cat Winters

Cat is the authors of The Uninvited and YA novels The Cure for Dreaming and In the Shadow of Blackbirds. You can find out more about Cat on her website and she tweets at @catwinters.

You can access a pdf copy of the first chapter of The Cure for Dreaming here: Chapter One Extract.

 

All photographs used with permission from the Library of Congress via Cat Winters.

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Asylum and Exile by Bidisha http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/12/asylum-exile-bidisha/ http://forbookssake.net/2015/02/12/asylum-exile-bidisha/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 10:00:06 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=27617 Know anyone who thinks refugees and asylum seekers are a homogenous blob of scroungers and terrorists? Make them read Bidisha’s latest book.

Asylum and Exile by Bidisha
Bidisha helps tell the stories of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in London.

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Know anyone who thinks refugees and asylum seekers are a homogenous blob of scroungers and terrorists? Make them read Bidisha’s latest book.

Asylum and Exile by Bidisha

For the benefit of readers who aren’t experts on this topic, it’s worth starting with a clarification of the difference between asylum seekers, refugees and migrants:

Asylum seeker: any person who is waiting for the outcome of a claim for asylum (for the attention of the right-wing press: claiming asylum is never illegal).

Refugee: a person who is outside their country of nationality and unwilling / unable to use that country for protection “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted.” In UK terminology “refugee” generally means someone who’s had a successful asylum claim.

Migrant: someone who choses to move country for work or family reasons.

In Asylum and Exile: the hidden voices of London kick-ass author and journalist Bidisha documents her experience as a teacher of all three groups in two separate London locations, adding some eloquent critique of the UK asylum system along the way.

It’s a little book, but in its 150-odd pages it manages to be wide in scope yet intimate; funny, warm, sad and horrifying.

The stars of Bidisha’s narrative are from countries as diverse as Cameroon, Uganda, Iran, Hungary, Kosovo, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Syria and Sudan, and to lump them together as “refugees and migrants” is to ignore the individual personalities Bidisha is at pains to evidence. The only reason they’re together in her classes is because the majority have sought sanctuary from war, genocide, torture, religious persecution and gender-related atrocities.

‘You’ve been raped by soldiers, why would you tell that to a man from the Home Office on your first meeting? But she tells him on their sixth meeting and he uses the delay to say she made it up.’ Bidisha doesn’t patronise her subject by pretending that survivors of such horrors are automatically nice people. One woman in her classes, Jeanne, is abrasive and generally disliked by her classmates; while one of the men is over-familiar and makes the women uncomfortable. However, in the first class Bidisha is understandably outraged to learn that several of them have been in detention, and that they live hand-to-mouth in temporary accommodation.

In the research she undertakes (and references), she learns that asylum seekers are subject to a system that sets them up to fail; the vast majority of asylum claims in the UK are ultimately turned down because stories are simply not believed. As Bidisha says, “You’ve been raped by soldiers, why would you tell that to a man from the Home Office on your first meeting? But she tells him on their sixth meeting and he uses the delay to say she made it up.” To make matters worse, asylum seekers cannot work while they wait for decisions, and the boredom is destructive.

One of the most satisfying elements of the book is Bidisha’s refusal to pretend she was perfect. She made embarrassing mistakes, like trying to gift books to a student when all her class members were destitute, or asking insecurely-housed students where they lived, but by taking readers through her learning experience she makes her story seem relatable.

She generally knows better than to pry, though. “[T]he worst thing you can do,” she says, “is go in as a sort of emotional tourist wanting to soak up and be thrilled by other people’s stories,” so we get snippets of back stories.

We find out that Kafele probably had links with the Malawian army, Gloria was raped by rebels and disowned by her husband, and that a young Japanese man fled to the UK after leaving a long letter telling his parents he’s gay. Beatrice Tibahurira, a star of the book whose life story deservedly gets its own chapters, is from Uganda but we never get to the heart of her story, and one of the most affecting passages comes from a Hungarian woman called Tünde, who writes a poem about her unnamed brother’s “37 Dreams”:

“31. To stop the dictatorship.
32. To stop the dictatorship.
33. To stop the dictatorship.
34. To stop the dictatorship.
35. To stop the dictatorship.
36. To stop the dictatorship.
37. To stop the dictatorship.

My brother was 37 when he died in the dictatorship.”

After her launch event at Asia House, Bidisha told For Books’ Sake that teaching refugee / asylum seeker classes got scarier the longer she did it: “As I grew to learn more about what my students had been through in their home countries and what they were now living through every single day, I realised how serious and important the work we were doing together was.”

Throughout the book the students laugh, take the piss out of Bidisha and joke with each other, but they also write painful stories and talk openly about being destitute. She knew her classes had to be something students wanted to come to, and it was a great responsibility.

“They were coming to the workshops, after long bus journeys which used up £2 of their daily £6 or £7 budget – a huge proportion – and for no tangible gain. I wasn’t running literacy classes or anything like that… It seems to me that I learned much more from them than they did from me.”

That’s probably no bad thing. Asylum and Exile is a 4 star read, with an additional star because it’s so fundamentally important. Anyone who is even considering a job in politics or the media should be obliged to read it and learn from Bidisha’s students.

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