For Books’ Sake http://forbookssake.net Championing Books by Women Fri, 22 Jul 2016 12:38:29 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 For Books' Sake: Championing Writing by Women since 2010. Your regular monthly dose of brilliant books, fierce feminism, music and more. Presented by Zoe Grisedale-Sherry. For Books' Sake For Books' Sake jane@forbookssake.net jane@forbookssake.net (For Books' Sake) Books, Feminism, Music and More For Books’ Sake http://forbookssake.net/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/Podcast_Logo.jpg http://forbookssake.net #4: Just F***ing Do It at Grrrl Con 2016 http://forbookssake.net/2016/07/18/grrrl-con-2016-podcast/ Mon, 18 Jul 2016 15:21:41 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31743 The first ever Grrrl Con took place in Edinburgh in June 2016, and we've only just recovered. Here, Grace and Lauren interview speakers, attendees and get the ultimate in writing advice from authors Denise Mina, Kirsty Logan and Marjorie Lofti-Gill, along with tips from lit agent Jenny Brown.

Radio-Studio
The lowdown from the authors at the first ever Grrrl Con...

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The first ever Grrrl Con took place in Edinburgh in June 2016, and we've only just recovered. Here, Grace and Lauren interview speakers, attendees and get the ultimate in writing advice from authors Denise Mina, Kirsty Logan and Marjorie Lofti-Gill, along with tips from lit agent Jenny Brown.

Radio-Studio

In this episode…

Interview with Jenny Brown:

Founder of Jenny Brown Associates, one of the UK’s leading literary agencies, Jenny was previously Head of Literature at the Scottish Arts Council, presenter of book programmes for Scottish Television, and founder Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. She is also a former Committee member of the Association of Authors’ Agents and was shortlisted in 2014 for the Agent of the Year Award. In this interview, Jenny Brown outlines the role of an agent, gives more insight into the world of publishers and tells us what writers we should look out for in the coming months (including Chitra Ramaswamy, who wrote about her book Expecting for For Books’ Sake recently).

Independent Publishers:

Throughout Grrrl Con, lots of the speakers gave shout-outs to the work of publishers. Lauren talks about a few independent publishers based around the UK. Her list is by no means exhaustive (of course!) and we would love to hear from you about any publishers that you really rate, so email us with your suggestions.Here are the publishers mentioned in the podcast, with a few resources thrown in there for good measure too…

Independent publishers:

Virago
Peepal Tree Press
Dahlia Publishing
Jacaranda
Tilted Axis Press
Galley Beggar Press

Additional resources
Spread the Word
Writers and Artists
Forgot to mention: Creative Access

Top Tips from Kirsty Logan and Marjorie Lofti Gill

Kirsty Logan – who shares her top four tips for writing magic realism in this episode – is the author of the short story collection The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales (Salt, 2014), which was recently awarded the Polari First Book Prize, and debut novel The Gracekeepers (Harvill Secker, 2015). Her latest book, A Portable Shelter (ASLS, 2015), is a collection of stories inspired by Scottish folktales.

Marjorie Lofti Gill is the poet in Residence at Jupiter Artland and co-founder of The Belonging Project, which reflects on the flight, journey and assimilation of refugees, and Open Book, a charity running shared reading and writing groups for adults in the community. Marjorie’s poems have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies in the UK and US, and have been performed on BBC Radio 4. Marjorie ran a workshop on how to construct the perfect sentence, and gives us some advice on how to craft our words.

Interview with Denise Mina

Dame Denise Mina is a critically acclaimed Glaswegian crime writer. Her novels include The End of the Wasp Season and Gods and Beasts, both of which won the prestigious Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award in consecutive years. Denise also writes short stories and plays, and is the author of the Garnethill trilogy. She was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2014. Grace and Lauren got to chat to Denise after her talk on the final day of Grrrl Con, asking for advice on how to just get on and do it, in what ways can we prioritise our writing, and how to take critical feedback. She advised ditching the gym and bribing ourselves with KitKats alongside other essential tips.

A big thank you to all of our featured guests for sharing your words of wisdom with us and for taking the time to sit down with us and chat. A special thanks has to go out to Grrrl Con organisers Jane Bradley, Claire Askew and Kerry Ryan, for a fabulous weekend. Also thanks to all of the volunteers over the weekend for making sure we knew where we were to go and what was coming next (Charlotte Forfieh, we’re looking at you!) And finally to the amazing grrrls, all those who agreed to be a part of our podcast and everyone else for making the weekend such a success. It was great to meet you all – roll on next year!

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Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy http://forbookssake.net/2016/06/24/expecting-chitra-ramaswamy-pregnancy/ Fri, 24 Jun 2016 07:00:50 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31643 In the pregnancy and birth sections of bookshops, "women - always straight, usually white, often pony-tailed - smile serenely from the covers of big, heavy authoritative books while stroking their big, heavy, authoritative 'bumps'."

But until Chitra Ramaswamy wrote Expecting, there were no books describing the experience of pregnancy from the inside. Here, she explains how pregnancy was nothing like she imagined, and how it prompted her to explore art, literature and family history...

Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy
"It was nothing like I imagined it would be." Chitra Ramaswamy explains why she wrote Expecting...

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In the pregnancy and birth sections of bookshops, "women - always straight, usually white, often pony-tailed - smile serenely from the covers of big, heavy authoritative books while stroking their big, heavy, authoritative 'bumps'."

But until Chitra Ramaswamy wrote Expecting, there were no books describing the experience of pregnancy from the inside. Here, she explains how pregnancy was nothing like she imagined, and how it prompted her to explore art, literature and family history...

Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy

I was 34 years old when I became pregnant. I had spent more than three decades walking around in my body, inhabiting my skin as unthinkingly as I had lived in my home as a child. The wallpaper so familiar I no longer felt the embossed ridges beneath my fingers (it was the eighties – textured walls were a thing), the smells so intimate they had long become indecipherable to my nose.

Then I got pregnant – not easily either, but that’s another story – and for nine months the home became hotel. Suddenly I had a longterm guest, this peculiar little character banging against the walls of my womb and demanding, well, everything from me: room service, 24/7 concierge, blood, organs, the lot. It was nothing like I imagined it would be.

Meanwhile, the rest of me was changing too. Not just my body but my perspective. Not just the stretching skin, mysterious rashes, nausea, quickening, glossy hair, hands on fire, fattening feet, monstrous hormones, bleeding gums, pelvic girdle pain, and, always, always the marvellous and relentless ballooning of my belly.

Other changes were less visible but no less powerful. A fascination with my family history, illness and death. A heightened awareness of the business of being alive that was not unlike falling in love. Joyous, but painful too because it carried within it, always, always the threat of loss.

It seemed the more the baby fattened inside my body, stubbornly and mysteriously becoming itself, the less I knew myself. And the more I wanted to know.It seemed the more the baby fattened inside my body, stubbornly and mysteriously becoming itself, the less I knew myself. And the more I wanted to know.

“The face / Went on shaping itself with love, as if I was ready,” wrote Sylvia Plath in her only play, Three Women, a remarkable account of three very different pregnancies.

This was not the pregnancy I had unwittingly imagined from the outside, the beatific and hermetically sealed state constructed by books, films, news, and a society bent on monitoring, controlling and misrepresenting it.

This was so much more weird, difficult and interesting than that. It was the curiously silenced story of how each and every one of us began.

I went looking for a book that might tell this tale in those oddly sanitised pregnancy and birth sections of shops. Where women – always straight, usually white, often pony-tailed – smile serenely from the covers of big, heavy authoritative books while stroking their big, heavy, authoritative ‘bumps’ (as they’re known in the disembodied language of pregnancy).

What did I find? A whole industry’s worth of manuals, month-to-month, week-to-week and even day-to-day guides, humorous books, pink books, frustrated books, fertility books, medical books, and the occasional feminist polemic.

What I didn’t find was a book that illuminated the experience from the inside, spilling the secrets of what it felt like to inhabit a pregnancy in the same way a foetus inhabits a body. A book that told the story of a woman’s pregnancy but also delved into some of the history and literature that had constructed it, or perhaps papered over it.

In the spirit of Toni Morrison, who famously said “if there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” I decided to do just that.

To write a book of nine chapters for the nine months of pregnancy and birth. A memoir of sorts that would also be a travelogue, a philosophical inquiry, an extended piece of nature writing where the gravid body stood in for the landscape.

The idea, at least, was born. The book, like the baby, took longer. In the end I started to write Expecting weeks after my son was born. Though I had tried to write it while I was pregnant I was too exhausted, too consumed by the thing itself to make sentences out of it.

Instead, while I was pregnant, I read books. Birth scenes in Anna Karenina, Ulysses, The Handmaid’s Tale and Beloved. The poetry of Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds and Muriel Rukeyser whose laconic poem, Islands, opens with the wonderfully fractious lines: ‘O for God’s sake / they are connected underneath’. The perfect metaphor for the pregnant state, which is one of both isolation and deep belonging.

I read and reread Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, a masterpiece of nature writing and a love letter to the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands that has zilch to do with pregnancy but somehow become the overriding metaphor of those nine months. The pregnant body as living mountain: the mysterious insides that can never be truly revealed.

I watched All About My Mother by Pedro Almodovar and thought about how anyone can be a mother. Like my partner, who as a woman would be our child’s mother though the baby would not be birthed from her belly.

I watched Gone With The Wind for the millionth time in my life (what is it about that long, cruel, deeply dodgy film?) and realised how much of my misunderstanding of childbirth was born from that dark scene in Atlanta when Scarlett is forced to deliver Melanie’s baby amidst the death throes of the Old South. I wondered how on earth I would write the story of my own labour. I wondered how I would live it.

Expecting is a strange book, which seems appropriate for such a strange subject. Like most books – and indeed children – it started off as mine and then scooted off in its own direction.

I ended up telling the story of my mother’s birth in her grandmother’s house in Bangalore and my father’s arrival in London from that same southern Indian metropolis in autumn of 1967.

I ended up criss-crossing the world from a small curve of sand in the Maldives to a egg-shaped island off Mull in the Hebrides where I spectacularly lost the plot in my eighth month of pregnancy. And then ate a load of shellfish.

I ended up writing about a shark dive in the Firth of Forth, my mother’s breast cancer, and a mind-blowing nineteenth century painting by Gustave Courbet called The Origin of the World.

Expecting became a book about death as much as birth. It became a book about life.


Expecting by Chitra Ramaswamy is out now, published by Saraband 

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Basma Abdel Aziz on writing The Queue http://forbookssake.net/2016/06/09/basma-abdel-aziz-writing-queue/ Thu, 09 Jun 2016 14:51:19 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31574 In an unnamed Middle Eastern city, in the aftermath of a failed uprising, an authority known as the Gate has risen to power Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate for even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the building never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer and longer.

Egyptian author Basma Abdel Aziz tells us more about the real-life queue that inspired her debut novel, a book that's already been compared to dystopian classics including Kafka's The Trial and Orwell's 1984...

Basma-Adel-Aziz-The-Queue
The Egyptian author on the real-life queue that inspired her debut novel...

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In an unnamed Middle Eastern city, in the aftermath of a failed uprising, an authority known as the Gate has risen to power Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate for even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the building never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer and longer.

Egyptian author Basma Abdel Aziz tells us more about the real-life queue that inspired her debut novel, a book that's already been compared to dystopian classics including Kafka's The Trial and Orwell's 1984...

Basma-Adel-Aziz-The-Queue

I began writing The Queue in September 2012, shortly after returning to Egypt from France. One sunny day, I went to Downtown Cairo, where numerous battles between revolutionaries and security forces had taken place since the revolution began in January 2011.

While walking down a main street, I came across a long queue of people waiting in front of a closed governmental building. The gate to the building would certainly open shortly, I thought to myself; after all, it was nearly midday.

Two hours later I walked back the way I came, only to find the same people standing exactly where they had been. They hadn’t moved. There were more of them now, yet the gate was still closed.

“I didn’t know what they were waiting for, and why they didn’t leave”

Some sat on the ground, some leaned against cars parked by the sidewalk, and some had retreated under the shade of nearby trees, seeking shelter from the heat. I didn’t know what they were waiting for, and I didn’t understand why they didn’t leave. Noon had turned into afternoon, yet nothing had changed.

The people seemed bound there – to that patch of ground, and to the gate which was still closed – by the hope of having their needs met. I thought the scene would make a good short story, one I might include in the next collection I wrote, so I wrote down my observations on scraps of paper I always keep in my bag, and when I got home I started writing.

I was primarily interested in what all these different people in this strange queue had in common; there didn’t seem to be any connection between them.

Some seemed financially comfortable, while others looked poor, there were women and men, elderly and young people, and even children playing nearby.

I wondered why they stood there so long in vain. Why didn’t any of them speak up in protest or frustration about the delay; why didn’t anyone suggest they all leave?

“The queue extended through the novel, crossing into other cities”

This thread was just the beginning, not for a short story, as I had intended, but for my first novel: The Queue. I spent two whole months writing without pause; I was seized by the desire to follow the fates of these characters that had appeared and taken shape on the page.

I didn’t plan it in advance, or sketch out their lives before starting to write. The queue extended through the novel, crossing into other cities, and my imagination extended further and further with it.

I spent eleven hours a day with the queue and the people waiting in it; I experienced their relationships and interactions, until I nearly felt like I had become one of them.

I developed patience and perseverance, just like the characters who rescheduled their lives so they could stand in front of the Gate and fruitlessly wait.

On the verge

It reached the point that I felt I was on the verge of becoming someone like many of the characters, a dutiful and submissive citizen whose life is dictated by totalitarian authority.

The closed gate slowly came to symbolize a regime that represses people, determines their behavior, turns them into identical copies of one another, and strips them of their will.

Meanwhile, the queue became a parallel society for which the people waiting had exchanged their normal lives: they began to eat, drink, sleep, conduct business, negotiate with each other, and worship there.

The protagonist of the novel is a man in his late thirties with a bullet lodged in his body. He cannot have it removed without permission from the authorities, who, of course, are represented by the Gate.

People rose up against the regime in power, and as a result, the Gate closed. It hasn’t opened since, as if it were punishing them; as long as the Gate is closed, people’s affairs are delayed.

The number of citizens gathered in front of it, each with his or her own aim, begins to multiply. Some want certificates certifying that they are True Citizens so they can find a job, some want medical treatment, and some simply want a permit to buy food.

“No more than shadows of themselves”

In writing The Queue, I drew on my experience in psychiatry, my specialization and the field in which I work. I also drew on my later studies in sociology, to establish the means by which authority dominates and controls citizens.

I examined the complex mechanisms which, in the end, make people accept the reality they find themselves in, even if it is dire. I also built on my experience working with victims of torture.

For over ten years I have worked at El Nadeem Centre, which offers support and psychological rehabilitation for those who have been subjected to torture in police stations and detention camps.

I have seen with my own eyes how major psychological trauma can change people. I have witnessed how continuous repression and humiliation can drive them to become no more than shadows of themselves, not venturing beyond the lines their oppressor has drawn for them.

Ruler and ruled

In both my fiction and my academic writing, I have long been interested in the mutually constitutive roles of ruler and ruled. I am intent on exploring how this manipulates people’s fates, and am determined to resist the ways it reshapes their understanding of the world.

Egypt is currently going through a tumultuous period, but I believe this has the potential to inspire writers and thinkers, and motivate them to produce exceptional creative and intellectual work.


The Queue is the debut novel by Egyptian author, journalist, academic and artist Basma Abdel Aziz, published last month by Melville House.

Both this feature and The Queue were translated by Arabic translator, writer and researcher Elisabeth Jaquette.

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#3: Megaphone, Mental Health and More http://forbookssake.net/2016/06/03/3-megaphone-mental-health/ Fri, 03 Jun 2016 07:00:13 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31558 Megaphone founder Leila Rasheed talks writing, diversity and representation, then we round up the best books on disability, and take a look at what's happening in the land of lit over the next couple of months...

#3: Megaphone, Mental Health and More
We talk to Leila Rasheed and round-up the best books on disability...

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Megaphone founder Leila Rasheed talks writing, diversity and representation, then we round up the best books on disability, and take a look at what's happening in the land of lit over the next couple of months...

#3: Megaphone, Mental Health and More

In this episode…

Interview with Leila Rasheed

Leila Rasheed is a young adult and children’s author of numerous publications, including Chips, Beans and Limousines, which was awarded the Red House Read of the Year in 2009 and shortlisted for the Wigan Explore Book Award.

Leila is the Founder of Megaphone, a new writer development scheme for BAME writers who want to write their first children’s novel. She was born in Libya to English-Bangladeshi parents and lives in Birmingham with her husband and child. She tweets at LeilaR.

Feature on visible and invisible disabilities

Books mentioned:

  • Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me by Ellen Forney
  • 72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell
  • The Madolescents by Chrissie Glazebrook
  • Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability by Shelia Black (ed) Jennifer Bartlett (ed) & Michael Northern (ed)
  • The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Journals and Magazines

  • Pentimento
  • THE FEM focus on minority groups in general, but keen to accept stories by women writers with disabilities.
  • Wordgathering – primarily accepting submissions from writers with disabilities

Organisations and Resources

Bonus book recommendations:

  • Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within by Gayathri Ramprasad
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

News and what’s coming up

  • Grrrl Con: Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 June. Two day festival in Edinburgh championing women writers, presented by For Books’ Sake and Write Like a Grrrl. Now sold out but keep an eye on the hashtag #GrrrlCon for quotes, news and more.
  • Scot Lit Fest 2016: Friday 24 – Sunday 26 June The virtual literary festival will be bringing some of Scotland’s most exciting and much-loved authors to an online audience, meaning that anyone in the world is able to take part. Participating authors so far include A.L. Kennedy, Kirsty Logan, Helen McClory and more.
  • The Leeds Big Book End and the Northern Short Story Festival: Talks, book launches, spoken word performances, children’s workshops and a creative writing bilingual workshop.
  • Salena Godden is on tour across the UK throughout the summer. The next episode of the podcast will feature an interview with Salena and a recording of her performing My Tits are more Feminist than your Tits.
  • Curtis Brown Scholarship

Until next time…

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Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay http://forbookssake.net/2016/06/02/panty-sangeeta-bandyopadhyay/ Thu, 02 Jun 2016 07:00:39 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31513 A woman moves into a Kolkata apartment. She's alone and has brought no luggage. She's waiting for a surgery that may or may not go ahead, and often in pain.

On her first night in the city she finds a discarded pair of leopard print panties in the wardrobe, stained by their former owner, and begins to fantasise about this other woman, imagining a life that begins to overlap with her own.

Panty  by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay
A 'disorienting, sensual yet sad' novella from the celebrated Bengali author

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A woman moves into a Kolkata apartment. She's alone and has brought no luggage. She's waiting for a surgery that may or may not go ahead, and often in pain.

On her first night in the city she finds a discarded pair of leopard print panties in the wardrobe, stained by their former owner, and begins to fantasise about this other woman, imagining a life that begins to overlap with her own.

Panty  by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay

Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, this is a disorienting, sensual yet sad and lonely novella. Its story has to be pieced together, and I’m still not sure whether the non-sequential chapter numbers are clues as to the order of events or a sign of character disintegration. Both seem possible.

The woman is from an unspecified elsewhere and unaccustomed to Kolkata. She watches a homeless family who live on her street as if they are a TV soap.

She seems to have nobody, except possibly the man whose apartment she is staying in, but whether he was real and if so who he was I was never able to pin down.

I picked it up. Imported. Soft. Leopard print. At once I wanted to know who the owner was. Many years ago I had found a blue bangle in a bedside drawer in a hotel room. When I took it in my hand it seemed to be dripping blue water. That day, too, I'd felt an urge to find out who the owner was.From another writer this might be a slow, thoughtful, cold tale. But Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay fills it with life, with disarming frankness about the woman’s body, her thoughts about sex, her longings and her reservations.

For such a short novella it truly packs a punch, leaving me feeling discomfited but moved. It is at times erotic, sometimes explicit, but it is too shadowy and obscured to be just that.

There is a background of complex social issues, from poverty to religion to Kashmir and terrorism, but these are just part of a life that is at this moment overwhelmed by something more private, though whether that is the surgery or something else is again never quite made clear.

“You said nothing. She was the one to break the silence. ‘I ran away. I escaped to the centre, inside the fire that rages at the circumference of life.’ ”

If you like stories with a clear beginning, middle and end, with no ambiguity, this is not for you. But if you are open to obfuscation, to outright bafflement even, it’s certainly worth giving this celebrated Bengali writer a try.

In this new edition from brand new publisher Tilted Axis Press, Panty is packaged with a short story by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, “Sahana, or Shamin”, which is uncomfortable in a very different way.

Again, a woman is at its centre, a woman struggling to be her true self while facing down centuries of religious rules and traditions. It is the most honest acknowledgment I have read of that personal conflict.

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‘Most women still have a terror of fat, even if they are allies’: why feminists still can’t handle fat girls http://forbookssake.net/2016/05/31/women-still-terror-fat-even-allies-feminists-still-cant-handle-fat-girls/ Tue, 31 May 2016 08:00:28 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31474 For many women, fat remains the stubborn last sticking point in the argument for equality. Three new books explore the topic in detail...

Books About Fat
What's behind feminists' fear of fat girls?

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For many women, fat remains the stubborn last sticking point in the argument for equality. Three new books explore the topic in detail...

Books About Fat

Unable to accept our fear of fat and sidetracked by straw man arguments about public health, many of us fail to see the vital role of self-acceptance in our politics – not to mention the many unique wisdoms and strategies that third wave feminism has yet to learn from fat activism.

Nowhere is this issue more engaging than in contemporary writing, and – for American authors Sarai Walker and Mona Awad, fat characters in Dietland and 13 Ways of Looking At a Fat Girl – have been a source of huge creativity.

Remarkably, both authors describe the same experience when they sat down to write: their lead characters appeared to them out of the blue as visual images.

Walker started writing what was to become Dietland on an MFA but initially abandoned the draft. Years later she was walking down Lamb’s Conduit Street in London when, she says, she had a strong sense of the presence of Plum, the lead character in Dietland, confronting her: “It was like I could see her. She was all of a sudden in my head, really clear, and she said, ‘you’d forgotten about me’.

“I don’t know what to make of it. She was clearly just in my subconscious and fought to get out.”

Awad recalls: “I first started with the image of a young woman in a dressing room staring at a piece of clothing she already knew wouldn’t fit while her mother and a saleswoman waited outside.

“She actually sort of appeared to me during a long car ride in Utah. She wasn’t particularly specific in terms of her exact body size and her physicality. But I knew this was a woman for whom body image was a deep struggle.”

Awad’s confrontational title already starts to unpack issues around body image before the reader opens the collection: “That was very important to me. I wanted to challenge and complicate all of the assumptions, images, and simplifications that come with this term, to explore how “fat girl” isn’t simply a question of flesh.

“It’s a far more dynamic, psychological and relative state than this, one that can hold contradictions, is internally and externally constructed.”

Walker wrote most of Dietland in London – a city she’s now widely reported as calling the worst place for fat-shaming she’s ever lived in.

She recalls: “There were overtly sexualised images of women, fuckable women, all over the place and if you don’t fit into that mould in some way you are open to attack.

“It was like: ‘Why do you exist? I don’t find you pleasing, so why are you here walking down the street?’, and [strangers] feeling this sense of entitlement to actually say that to a person.”

The fear of fat she experienced, she says, creates an environment in which it’s nearly impossible to actually be fat. Fat people face endless talk about diets, as well as people comparing fat-shaming to skinny-shaming, pathologising or ‘reading’ fat as something ‘bad’ and assuming that the default person is thin.

Walker also warns that body positivity – which has been a breakthrough for many women – is not the solution it’s been hailed as. Co-opted by fashion brands, marketing and advertising – it becomes a kind of positivity where any size is OK, as long as it’s an hourglass (and not too, you know… fat).

One of the big influences Walker cites is the activist Charlotte Cooper, who has just written a new guide to fat activism.

Asked about how fat activism does (and doesn’t) intersect with feminism, she says that movement has struggled to gain acceptance and recognition, particularly when writers (originally, Susie Orbach) pathologise fat as a sign of something being ‘wrong’ with a person.

She warns that there’s an agenda behind ‘fat panic’ (often outed by anxiety about an ‘obesity epidemic’), which makes fatness out to be an issue of personal responsibility. Fat people are branded a ‘burden’ on the NHS and urged to ‘treat’ their size with surgery – risks for which are often played down.

She recommends that people learn how better to advocate for themselves at the doctor’s, and to practice acts of radical pushback – refusing to have BMI data gathered on you, for example. And the age-old argument that people are just worried about their health? “The question is irrelevant and controlling,” Cooper says. “Don’t engage.”

Sarai Walker also warned of feminists who struggle to accept or listen to fat women.

“I know lots of thin women who are so supportive of fat activism and everything but I know that they themselves never want to become fat,” she reveals. “They would be very upset if they were all of a sudden fat. You know: ‘Fat activism: that’s great for you but I don’t want to be fat myself!’”

“It’s not condescending but it is a little bit like, ‘Oh that’s great, I’m so glad you’re doing that, but I would never want to be like that’. That goes unsaid.

“Fat phobia is just so ingrained. Most women still have a terror of fat, even if they are allies to people in fat acceptance.”

——————————-

Charlotte Cooper’s book Fat Activism is published by HammerOn Press.

Sarai Walker’s Dietland is published by Atlantic.

Mona Awad’s 13 Way of Looking At A Fat Girl is published by Penguin Random House.

Ellie Broughton is the Lead Features Writer for For Books’ Sake. 

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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua http://forbookssake.net/2016/05/25/thrilling-adventures-lovelace-babbage-sydney-padua/ Wed, 25 May 2016 07:00:46 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31327 The entertaining story of the eccentric scientific duo who pioneered the ‘first computer’.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
A highly entertaining graphic novel celebrating the inventors of the 'first computer'

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The entertaining story of the eccentric scientific duo who pioneered the ‘first computer’.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

 

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage started as a webcomic, taking a lighthearted look at compelling Victorian-era scientific collaborators Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.

Writer and artist Sydney Padua ended up falling in love with her subjects and creating a hefty tome based on their antics, real and imagined.

Ada Lovelace, daughter of infamous romantic poet Lord Byron, became a collaborator and friend to renowned mathematician Charles Babbage when she was a teenager. He was a bitter older man who retained his passion for maths despite multiple setbacks.

Lovelace was a mathematician in an era when it was frowned upon for ladies to do such work. Not only that, but she was an incredibly accomplished ‘enchantress’ of mathematics (in Babbage’s words). She was also a pioneer of the idea of software.

Lovelace is now often referred to as ‘the world’s first computer programmer’ and Babbage the inventor of the machines which predate today’s computers.

The author’s enthusiasm for the duo is infectious, creating a desire for them to live longer and achieve more. This is satisfied by the section of the book set in ‘the Pocket Universe’, a steampunk dream which in fact comprises the majority of the book.

The author’s enthusiasm for the duo is infectious

Padua’s animation background shines through in the artwork. The black and white drawings are fun and lively, displaying the movements and mannerisms of the eccentric characters. There are also diagrams explaining some of the mechanisms invented by Babbage.

The author’s breadth of research is incredibly impressive, to the point where even the imaginary parts of the story provide opportunities for education. Unfortunately the many footnotes, endnotes and appendices can disrupt the flow of reading at times.

However, the amusing heroes and nerdy jokes ensure the story doesn’t drift off into dry history book territory. The footnotes also provide an opportunity for the author’s likeable personality to shine through, in the form of her palpable enthusiasm and comedic self-deprecation.

Historical illustrations combine with Padua’s own, alongside some amusing asides from Victorian newspapers, creating a visually interesting compendium. Flicking through the book at random can also be entertaining, given that the storyline isn’t too plot-driven and there are some great images to be found (a reason in favour of the hardcover rather than the Kindle edition).

An impeccably researched and lively tale full of worthy and entertaining characters.

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Extract: The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery http://forbookssake.net/2016/05/18/extract-life-elves-muriel-barbery/ Wed, 18 May 2016 07:00:07 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31432 One autumn night, a small village in Burgundy is astonished by an unseasonable snowfall. On that same evening, a baby is found in the woods: the dark-eyed Maria, who has an uncanny ability to communicate with the natural world...

From the bestselling author of the international 'publishing phenomenon,' The Elegance of the Hedgehog, comes a new novel, The Life of Elves, translated by Alison Anderson. And we're excited to share the opening extract with you so you can see what all the fuss is about.

Extract: The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery
The new book by the bestselling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog...

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One autumn night, a small village in Burgundy is astonished by an unseasonable snowfall. On that same evening, a baby is found in the woods: the dark-eyed Maria, who has an uncanny ability to communicate with the natural world...

From the bestselling author of the international 'publishing phenomenon,' The Elegance of the Hedgehog, comes a new novel, The Life of Elves, translated by Alison Anderson. And we're excited to share the opening extract with you so you can see what all the fuss is about.

Extract: The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery

The little girl spent most of her hours of leisure among the branches. When her family were looking for her, they would go to the trees, the tall beech to start with, the one that stood to the north above the outhouse, for that was where she liked to daydream while observing the activity on the farm; then it was the old lime tree in the priest’s garden beyond the low wall of cool stone; and finally—most often in winter— among the oaks in the combe to the west of the adjacent field, a hollow planted with three of the most majestic specimens in all the region.

The little girl would nestle in the trees, all the hours she could steal from the village life of booklearning, meals, and mass, and not infrequently she would invite a few friends to come along, and they would marvel at the airy spaces she had arranged there, and together they would spend glorious days in laughter and chat.

One evening as she sat on a lower branch of the middle oak, while the combe was filling with shadow, aware that they would soon be coming to take her back to the warmth, she decided for a change to cut across the meadow and pay a visit to the neighbour’s sheep.

She set out as the mist was rising. She knew every clump of grass in an area extending from 16 the foothills of her father’s farm all the way to Marcelot’s; she could have closed her eyes and known exactly where she was, as if guided by the stars, from the swelling of the field, the rushes in the stream, the stones on the pathways and the gentle incline of the slope; but instead, for a particular reason, she now opened her eyes wide.

Someone was walking through the mist only slightly ahead of her, and this presence tugged strangely at her heart, as if the organ were coiling in upon itself and bringing curious images to her: in the bronze glow of undergrowth she saw a white horse, and a path paved with black stones gleaming under foliage.

Who was that child, on the day of this remarkable event? The six adults who lived on the farm—father, mother, two great-aunts and two grown-up cousins—adored her. There was an enchantment about her that was far from that found in children whose first hours have been mild, that sort of grace born of a careful mixture of ignorance and happiness; no, it was, instead, as if when she moved she carried with her an iridescent halo, which minds forged in pastures and woods would compare to the vibrations of the tallest trees.

Only the eldest auntie, by virtue of an abiding penchant for anything that could not be explained, thought to herself that there was something magical about the little girl; but one thing was certain: for such a young child she bore herself in a most unusual way, incorporating some of the invisibility and trembling of the air, as a dragon!y would, or palms swaying in the wind.

Otherwise, she was very dark and very lively, rather thin, but with a great deal of elegance; two eyes of sparkling obsidian; olive, almost swarthy skin; high Slavic-looking cheekbones flushed with a round rosiness; finally, well-defined lips, the colour of fresh blood. She was splendid. And what character! Always running through the fields or flinging herself onto the grass, where she would stay and stare at the too vast sky; or crossing the stream barefoot, even in winter, to feel the sweet chill or biting cold, and then with the solemnity of a bishop she would relate to all assembled the highlights and humdrum moments of her days spent out of doors.

To all of this one must add the faint sadness of a soul whose intelligence surpassed her perception and who—from the handful of clues that, although weak, were to be found everywhere, even in those protected places, however poor, in which she had grown up—already had an intimation of the world’s tragedies.

Thus, at five o’clock it was that glowing, secretive young sprig of a girl who sensed the nearby presence in the mist of an invisible creature, and she knew more surely than the existence of God proclaimed by the priest that this creature was both friendly and supernatural. Thus she was not afraid. Instead, she set off in the direction she had determined shortly before, towards the sheep.

Something took her by the hand. Something like a large fist wrapped in a soft warm weave, creating a gentle grip in which her own hand felt lost. But no man could have possessed a palm that, as she felt through the silky skein, had hollows and ridges that might belong to the hoof of a giant wild boar.

Just then they made a turn to their left, almost at a right angle, and she understood that they were heading towards the little woods, skirting round the sheep and Marcelot’s farm. There was a fallow field, overgrown with sleek serried blades of grass, rising gently to meet the hill through a winding passage, until it reached a lovely copse of poplar trees rich with strawberries and a carpet of periwinkles where not so long ago every family had been permitted to gather wood, and would commence with the sawing by first snowfall; alas, that era is now gone, but it will not be spoken of today, be it due to sorrow or forgetfulness, or because at this hour the little girl is running to meet her destiny, holding tight to the boar’s hoof.

And this on the mildest autumn evening anyone had seen for many a year. People had delayed putting their apples and pears to ripen on the wooden racks in the cellar, and all day long the air was streaked with insects inebriated with the nest orchard vintage. There was a languidness in the air, an indolent sigh, a quiet certainty that things would never end, and while people went about their work as usual, without pause and without complaint, they took secret delight in this endless autumn as it told them not to forget to love.

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The Life of Elves, written by Muriel Barbery and translated by Alison Anderson, was published earlier this month by Gallic Books.The highly anticipated new novel from the acclaimed author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog has been described as ‘an enigmatic and beguiling fairy tale,’ (New York Times) and ‘a rallying call to the return of an affinity of mind and body with nature,’ (Le Figaro), along with being compared to the work of Rowling, Milton and Tolkein.

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#2: Sonnets, Rock Life and English Homework with Tansy Hoskins and Gemma June Howell http://forbookssake.net/2016/04/27/2-sonnets-rock-life-and-english-homework-with-tansy-hoskins-and-gemma-june-howell/ Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:31:07 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31296 From poems about cider and sucking cock to the best sonnets by women, we've got it all in this episode. Grace and Lauren share the new releases, events and opportunities to get published they're most excited about, while Tansy Hoskins interviews Gemma June Howell about her poetry exploring the lives of working-class Welsh women...

Radio-Studio
Welsh women in the valleys and the best sonnets by women...

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From poems about cider and sucking cock to the best sonnets by women, we've got it all in this episode. Grace and Lauren share the new releases, events and opportunities to get published they're most excited about, while Tansy Hoskins interviews Gemma June Howell about her poetry exploring the lives of working-class Welsh women...

Radio-Studio

In this episode…

Sonnets

On 23 April it was Shakespeare’s 400th birthday and in celebration of this fact we asked you what your favourite sonnets written by women were. Thanks for all the great suggestions via For Books’ Sake’s social media accounts! Grace reads out the top 3 choices in the first part of the podcast:

· Sonnet I by Charlotte Smith from @jenny_mcauley on Twitter

· In this Strange Labyrinth by Lady Mary Wroth from Becca Emily Inglis on Instagram

· Apologies to My Hair: A Black Woman’s Sonnet by Allison Joseph

Tansy Hoskins and Gemma June Howell

Gemma June Howell is a Welsh poet, an author of experimental fiction, and a playwright. Tansy Hoskins interviews Gemma June about what drove her to write poetry from the perspective of women living in the Welsh Valleys. During the interview, Gemma June also performs some of her fantastic poems from her debut collection, Rock Life.

Read more about Gemma June Howell’s work on her website and follow Tansy Hoskins on Twitter @TansyHoskins.

Did You Forget Your English Homework?

What books do you think should be on the national curriculum? Lauren reveals what her top choice is and why.

News
We’ve introduced a news section! Listen to all the things Grace and Lauren are looking forward to in May and June…

Upcoming Events
Respectable: Lynsey Hanley with Dawn Foster
Bradford Literature Festival 20 – 29 May 2016
The Sonnet Exchange 29 May 2016
Bad Vibrations + Polyester Zine: PRINCE RAMA 31 May 2016
Submission Deadlines

Get in touch with us with details about the events you’re involved with, submission deadlines you think we need to know about or books you want to hear us promote.
(Music credit: https://www.freesound.org/people/leswagcupcakes/sounds/248144/)

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In Praise Of: Kelly Link http://forbookssake.net/2016/04/08/in-praise-of-kelly-link/ Fri, 08 Apr 2016 07:00:27 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31170 Here at For Books’ Sake Towers, we’re over the moon to be celebrating all things Kelly Link this week. She’s one of our favourite authors, and we’re not alone - many wonderful folk such as Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters and Neil Gaiman are big Kelly fans too..

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Find out why we love the author of Get in Trouble, Pretty Monsters and more...

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Here at For Books’ Sake Towers, we’re over the moon to be celebrating all things Kelly Link this week. She’s one of our favourite authors, and we’re not alone - many wonderful folk such as Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters and Neil Gaiman are big Kelly fans too..

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Kelly Link has released several acclaimed short story collections; Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, and Pretty Monsters.

This week sees the release of the brand new paperback edition of her latest short story collection, Get in Trouble, and it doesn’t disappoint.

With each story, Kelly Link takes us deep into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed universe. Strange, dark and wry, Get in Trouble stretches the boundaries of what fiction can do.

We are introduced to magical worlds profoundly steeped with the ordinary. Worlds that include imaginary boyfriends, hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers and iguanas.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Kelly Link has won three Nebulas, a Hugo and a World Fantasy Award. However, it’s not only the fantastical that ensures Kelly’s writing is a cut above the ordinary, but her brilliantly constructed sentences, her breathtaking eye for detail and sharp, meticulous characterisation.

Here are stories that explore what it feels like to be in love, to want to be in love, to be alone, to want to be alone, to be disappointed in people and to try again.

Kelly Link is the co-founder, along with her husband Gavin J. Grant, of the independent publishing company, Small Beer Press, which publishes fiction, zines and chapbooks and has been at the forefront of what some critics have named the ‘New Fabulism’ fiction that weaves the everyday with the fantastical.

Small Beer Press has won and been shortlisted for a whole host of awards and their books have published all over the world. They are also open for submissions.

To celebrate the release of Get in Trouble, Kelly’s UK publishers Canongate is offering For Books’ Sake readers based in the UK a chance to win a copy of both Get in Trouble and Pretty Monsters.

To enter, email us with the subject line ‘I love Kelly Link,’ by midnight on Friday 15th April 2016, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more ways to enter. Good luck!

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