Posted in arc, arc review, Diversity

Throwback Thuraday

Both of these books were given to me by the publisher in the hope of an honest review.I have chosen to review, Black, Listed Black British Culture Explored, by Jeffrey Boakye, Little, Brown Book Group UK, Dialogue Books and Taking Up Space the Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change, by Chelsea Kwakye, Ore Ogunbiyi, Random House UK, Cornerstone together.  Since, their themes gel together really well. 

I

Russell Group Universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, are elitist institutions whose studentship mainly comprise; rich, white, heterosexual, Cis, men. Taking up space is written by a group of Black women who have bucked that trend by attending these Elite Universities. It takes the form of letters written to; Black girls who wish to follow in the footsteps of the authors, and those individuals who wish to help them accomplish that goal.   The letters take the reader through every step of the process; applying to the university, arriving at the university, Fresher’s week, leaving university, and finding a job.  It gives advice on; how to tackle Fresher’s week, finding your tribe, socialising, balancing work and personal time, issues around mental health, and dealing with institutions that are imbued with hidden and not so hidden Racism.  It clearly outlines the barriers faced by this group of students.  It’s a condemnation of these institutions and an inspiration for those students wishing to survive and thrive in institutions that are hostile to their very existence.  This book was aimed at Black women.  However, many of the issues raised in the text resonated with my experience of being; a working class, queer, state educated woman who attended a Russell group University. It is a thought-provoking work.  That inspires and reproves in equal measure.

Blacklisted is another book on Race.  But, while Taking up Space explores practical experiences of racism, Blacklisted looks at the language we use to describe and explain issues of Race.  It explores the words we use to describe ‘Black’ people.  It looks at words, such as; Black Ethnic Minority, Black Minority ethnic, ‘other’, and African American, exploring the various ways that society creates and reinforces racial hierarchies.  Each word is given its own essay.  Each essay weaves together personal narrative and cultural criticism to form a picture of the word and its place in both; cultural discourse and lived experience. It is a very worthwhile read. I highly recommend both books. What are you reading? Talk to me in the comments.

Posted in arc, arc review

Throw Back Thursday

I received these books from the publisher in the hope of an honest review. This post will be an update on what I have been reading.     I DNF’d We are the Weather Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer, Penguin Books (UK) and Deeplight  by Frances Harding, Pan Macmillan, Macmillan Children’s Books.    Neither of these books managed to keep my attention. Deeplight is a fantasy novel.  It is set In a world in which the Gods have destroyed themselves. The novel follows the attempts of a group of humans to survive in this new world. The novel was interesting.  However, I couldn’t connect with either; the setting or the characters.  So, I lost interest and couldn’t gain the motivation to keep reading.

We are Weather seeks to argue that we have become disconnected to the issue of climate change.  The author argues that we need to be given clear guidelines concerning, both; what we can do as individuals, and what we can do as a collective. However, ironically, the opening arguments of We are Weather felt disjointed and muddled, making the reader disconnected from the text and its important arguments. In addition, there’s a lot of stuff about the author here.   We hear endlessly about how guilty HE feels about global warming and how great he is at being vegetarian.  It would have been nice to hear about those people already suffering the effects of climate change.  Therefore, I soon became disconnected to the text and stopped reading.

The Nuremberg Trials: Volume I, Bringing the Leaders of Nazi Germany to Justice by Terry Burrows.  Following the Second World war, prominent Nazi officers were put on trial for war crimes. This book follows; the lead up to the trials, the decisions made, and the characters who made those decisions. The text makes a detailed analysis of the primary documents surrounding these trials. It is an interesting read. However, its detailed nature may prove off putting to some readers.

I hope that you enjoyed this post. What are you currently reading?

Posted in arc, arc review

Forgotten Arc Thursday

Forgotten Arc Thursday

AIl books provided by netgalley in the hope of an honest review. seem to have gotten back on a semi regular posting schedule. So, I am reinstating Throwback Thursday. However, I have given it the new name of Forgotten Arc Thursday, which makes more sense. Firstly, Modern Sudanese Poetry an Anthology Translated and edited by Adil Babikir.  This book was an interesting read and had some fairly good poems.  However, it wasn’t very memorable.  I don’t have much to say about this work.  I can say the same for Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith.  I loved Just kids  and M Train , Therefore, I was really excited when I saw that Patti Smith had another book available. The first two books were inspirational to me.  They showed me the creative life, inspiring me to be more imaginative in my life and work.   This book is very different to the other books.  The first two books have a conventional structure. They follow a life journey.  However, while this is still a memoire, this is less linear.  It takes the form of a stream of consciousness narrative, combining real life with dreamscape.  I liked this book and found it intellectually intriguing.  However, it did not have the same emotional punch of the first two books. 

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World and The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World explore the cultural narratives  of this route and the nations that have; thrived, died, and recreated themselves alongside it.  As a rule, history is a story that centres on Europe and its off shoots.  These books change that focus, expanding the cultural story to embrace other countries, including; Russia, China, and the Middle East.  They show how these countries have always been at the centre of history and will be the centre of any, future, global order. 

These books were all good.  However, I didn’t have much to say about them.  Therefore, I put them here. I Hope you find something that you want to read.  Leave a comment down below if anything is calling to you.  What are you reading? ֣1��

Posted in arc, arc review

Notes to self Emily Pine

Notes to self

Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm-chair and confuse his ‘Rinse the mouth—rinse the mouth’ with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us—when we think of this, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.

Virginia Woolf 1930 On Being ill  Hogarth house


“What if my body could tell the story? What would it say? I think it would talk about blood. Its mesmerising flow and its ebb. About ending and renewing. I think it would talk about the touch of my fingers and my hands and another’s lips. The feel of skin on skin. Wet and slow. Soft and hard. The shock of cold, the pleasure of warmth. I think it would talk about the delight of orgasm and the delight of laughter and the delight of sating hunger. About tasting sharp and spicy, soothing and creamy. I think it would talk about looking out and pulling in. I think it would talk about perfume and stink. About clean and dirty. I think it would talk about illness and recovery, about fortitude …. I think it would talk about loss and grief. About standing solo and holding together. About longevity and transformation. About satisfaction. About happiness. About joy. I think it would sound strong. I think it would sound loud. I think it would sound proud.” P. 130

Emily Pine 2019

Notes to self by Emily Pine foregrounds the embodied, every day, experiences of being an adult woman living in the 21st century.  Exploring, physicality, pain, grief and hope, these essays vividly bring the modern world to life. We are all made up of mind and body.  However, they are not two spheres.  They are two interconnected parts of one organism. Each part shaping, delineating, and limiting the other.  We are both; our mind and body. Their interconnections and interactions shape our very being.  Yet, as Virginia Woolf argues, the body, and its weaknesses, are often ignored in literature.  However modern female writers, such as Emily Pine, are writing about the body.  In this study Pine writes to, and about, the self; a self-description that acknowledges the body.  She writes of; the sick body, the caring body, the childless body, the mothering body, and the ageing body.   

The first essay, NOTES ON INTEMPERANCE, (p.3) looks at her relationship with her alcoholic father.  The story begins at her father’s sickbed. We see Pine’s experiences of caring for a sick father who is suffering from the effects of a life spent with ‘alcohol.  The essay then hovers between past and present, looking at how her father’s alcoholism affected our authors; childhood, adulthood, and her relationship with her troubled parent.  This essay moves seamlessly from: heartbreakingly moving, through the darkly funny, to a place of peace and hopefulness.  This essay, like the rest of the collection, is, at once, painfully honest and compellingly hopeful. In addition, these essays do not flinch on the physical detail. Such as the humiliation faced by her sick father when he does not receive the care he needs “By the time we find him, he has been lying in a small pool of his own shit for several hours.” (Pine 2019; p.3.]


The second essay FROM THE BABY YEARS (p. 39] explores the author’s attempts to have a child and to come to terms with her body’s inability to conceive.  The essay does not shy away from  a description of the physical ordeal suffered by Pine as she goes through the process of IVF and the ordeal of the physical, invasive exams undergone by a woman who is trying to have a child; “I pee on sticks and into sample cups. I pee on my own hand when the stream won’t obey. I open my legs wide for sex, for the doctor’s speculum. I hold my arm out for needles and blood pressure monitors and sometimes to grasp onto my partner as he sits next to me.”  (Pine 2019; p39]. She is honest about her feelings. Firstly, she is thoughtfully honest about her indecision regarding motherhood “together we talked, almost nostalgically, about our lives as people who loved quiet, and calm, and the space to read and write. On the page those may seem like little virtues, but that list represented for me, for us, a peaceful, happy, fulfilling life. A child would mean giving all that up for years. Would it be worth it?” (ibid 39-40).   Secondly, she is viscerally honest about her yearning for motherhood “I am fearful and hopeful and shameful. I worry that I am empty, or that I am full of the wrong things. I worry that I am disappearing, eroding, failing. I do not know what to do with all these feelings. I only want to be a mother. Why is that so easy for some people and so hard for others? Why is it so hard for me?” ibid

These essays foreground the embodied, every day, experiences of being an adult woman living in the 21st century.  Exploring illness, physicality, pain, grief and hope, these essays vividly bring the modern world to life.  Brutally honest, viscerally physical, and ultimately hopeful; these essays make for powerful reading. 

Posted in arc, Book review

Throwback Thursday

Sight
by Jessie Green grass

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018

John Murray press

Early 2018

Source Netgalley (in the hope of an honest review)

This is the first of a series that I shall entitle ‘Throwback Thursday’. I will use these reviews to catch up on un-reviewed ARCS. This review was written a year ago and has been languishing on my hard drive ever since. So, I thought that I would post it now.

This book centres on a woman who is contemplating: motherhood; and her memories of her mother and grandmother. Her mother seems to be ill, weak and mostly absent. On the other hand, her grandmother seems ever present and dominant. The narrative floats between; the far past of her childhood, the close past of the time before her first pregnancy, and the period when the story is being told.

This book is an interesting exploration of the relationships between women. It explores issues around: motherhood; parenting; the expectations that we place on each other; and the way that our experiences of childhood shape our expectations of parenthood, both; good, and bad.

Nevertheless, this is a very literary novel. There is very little plot and it is simply the, almost stream of conscious style, narration of the inner thoughts of the protagonist. If you like books that have a linear, action packed plot, then, maybe, this book is not for you. However, if you like books that explore human experience and human relationships; and if you enjoy lyrical, thoughtful writing then this novel is for you.

Posted in arc, Book review, Diversity

We Are not Refugees by Agus Morales


This book gives the stories of refugees. It explores; the trends that lead the refugees to leave their homes, their journeys to ‘safety,’ and the welcome which they receive from their new country.

This book gives the stories of refugees. It explores; the trends that lead the refugees to leave their homes, their journeys to ‘safety,’ and the welcome which they receive from their new country.

We are Not Refugees explores the language that these individuals use, to tell their tale, recounting the stories of individual refugees. Agus Morales places these tales within a wider immigrant narrative, outlining the histories of many of the world’s trouble spots.

This book manages to be, at the same time; both, incredibly compelling and informative. I highly recommend this work.

Posted in arc

First Ladies of the Republic Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic American Role by Jeanne E. Abrams

The publisher kindly let me see a copy of this book, hoping for an honest review. What do you think of when you hear the phrase American political history? Who are the people you think of? I’m guessing that you think of; the founding fathers, followed by a succession of white, male, presidents. This book seeks to rectify this by looking at the women who shaped Washington, America, and the world. It looks at the wives of the first presidents; Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison.

It outlines; their lives, how they met their husbands, their role within their partners’ journey to power, their feelings towards their role of first lady, their relationships with each other and the ways that they shaped Washington.

The works only flaw lies in its structure. At times, it gets repetitive. Each first lady gets her own section, outlining her biography. However, since many presidents served in the administration of their predecessor, many of their stories overlap and repeat. With the end of one narrative being repeated in the middle of the next narrative. For example, you are told the story of Martha Washington, which was a really interesting read, but then part of the narrative was retold in the story of Abagail Adams when John Adams became Washington’s vice president. This narrative flaw had a negative impact on the readability of the work. But, that said, I am really glad that I read this book.

This book is a useful addition to a cannon of historical literature whose main aim is to celebrate Womens’ contribution to the world. In addition, it is a valuable contribution to the Political history of the USA. I recommend it to history geeks like myself.