Posted in Book review, Uncategorized

Our Women on the Ground Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World by Zahra Hankir

We all believe that we know the Arab world. We see it on our screens and in our newspapers. We see Arab men fighting. We see other men, generally white western men, filming those male fighters. It’s easy to believe that women don’t exist within this world. We imagine that, if they do exist, they are absent from the public life of the realm. Actually, this is far from the truth. Female journalists are very active in this part of the globe. We just don’t see or notice them. They are reporting for; the international press, local media, blogging outlets, personal blogs, and, social network platforms. They have a wealth of experience to share. But, that experience often goes unreported. This book seeks to put that right.

‘Our Women on the Ground‘ is made up of the stories of the female journalists who have experience of reporting on, and from, this region. It includes women from all, or at least many of, the countries that make up this diverse part of the world. There are the stories of journalists who are active. There are the reminiscences of those who have retired. There are essays from women who still live in the region. There are articles from those women who are now, sadly, in exile.

Each essay has a different tone and focus. Some focus on the choice, or dilemmas, involved in juggling work and family life. Others speak of being active in a world that expects women to be passive. They speak of fighting, family editors and other journalists, for the right to write. They speak of the perils of being an out-spoken journalist in a world hostile to journalists. These women talk of; hope, despair, fear, and burn out. But, most are imbued with a sense of survival and resistance. They are totally different. They are all indispensable reading.

Posted in Book review

Frankissstein A Love Story By Jeanette Winterson

This book, based on Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein, has two narrative streams. The first, follows the circumstances around Mary Shelley’s creation of the book Frankenstein. The second centres upon the narrative of a transgender doctor, called Rye, and their relationship with the AI specialist Victor Stein. It poses two questions. What will a future, dominated by AI look like? And, will that future hold a place for women? Along the way, it looks at; Bodily autonomy, gender, sexuality and performance.

This book is an interesting read, but there’s very little new stuff here. Winterson is being Winterson. We have her standard stylistic tics, combining a modernist structure with a lyrical, almost Victorian writing style. After a lifetime of reading this author, her writing feels like a comfortable blanket rather than a shocking ride. In addition, the stories, and themes of this book have been covered time and time again. There have been many tales of the creation of Frankenstein and many retellings of the Frankenstein story.

In addition, there have been many books dealing with AI. The science fiction canon is full of them. Writers, such as; James Tiptree and Madeleine Ashby have all looked at issues around AI. This is not to say that there is no room for another book. It is just that the themes feel familiar.

However, Winterson’s focus on the main transgender character and her emphasis on women’s future give this work a slight edge. It’s always nice to get something new from this author, but this work didn’t blow me away.

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 Book review, Uncategorized

Transitioning; a review of queer sex (by juno roach) and written on the body (ed. Lexie Bean) trigger warnings the books reviewed here contain discussions of sexual violence and other issues that may cause concern to certain readers. Read when you feel strong enough

Please be aware that I Recieved these books from the publisher, via NetGalley, in the hope of an honest review and that both of these books, and this review, could be triggery for sexual violence etc Since these books, share a similar focus, I am going to review them together. They both deal with transgender experiences of all kinds, outlining; the physical nature of living as a transgender individual, the violence that the authors have experienced as a product of society’s hostility to their identity, the authors’ experience of the various aspects of the transgender/queer experience, their feelings concerning their own identity, the authors’ relationships with their physicality, and the variety of changes that can occur within bodies undergoing a varied array of transitioning experience.

Written on the Body is in the form of letters to various parts of the physical torso. They look at the authors’ ambiguous relationships with various aspects of their physicality. Some authors explore the effects of physical, and sexual violence, on their feelings towards the chosen body part. While others, discuss what happens when a body part feels wrong or uncomfortable. They discuss their struggles to come to terms with a body that feels at odds with their perceived identity. These letters are moving and insightful. They are a must read for anyone; undergoing transition, anyone who is thinking of undergoing the process, those who identify as transgender/queer, or anybody who simply wishes to get a glimpse into the experiences of queer/transgender individuals.

Queer sex begins with the author’s exploration of their relationship with their body and their physicality/ sexuality. The author then goes on a; physical, emotional and spiritual journey. In the course of their journey, the main author speaks to their mentors about their experiences of; living in their body, navigating a world that is often hostile to that body, and finding a way to live their own chosen identity. These conversations deal with issues of; confusion, pain, self realisation, growing self confidence and pride.

Queer sex deals with issues, of; self hate, social norms and their effects on our self image, self love, pride, and self empowerment. It grounds personal experience in; communal narrative, and an existing theoretical framework; thus, providing a multilayered investigation of a slice of the queer experience. It is well worth a read

As a Cis disabled woman, these books: gave me a glimpse of an experience that I cannot share. At the same time, the stories of the narrators’ lives allowed me to dwell on my own experience of living in an, occasionally, hostile body. Therefore, reading these books was an emotionally moving, challenging, empowering, and ultimately joyous experience. These books are worth a read

Posted in Book review, Uncategorized

The man who climbs trees

The Man Who Climbs Trees

By James Aldred

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pub Date 22 May 2018

Source Netgalley

James Aldred climbs trees for a living. He scout’s out trees that provide the best camera angles. He is part of a team that produces those nature documentaries that we all love. This book explores his relationship with trees. He narrates those episodes in his life that inspired his love of trees before outlining his journey to his current position. He then sketches some filming assignments, giving beautifully descriptive accounts; of the trees and nature that he encountered on his journey, the extraordinary lengths that he takes to get those shots, and the sometimes nerve jangling wild encounters that happened throughout his career. Part memoir, part nature log, this book is, above all other things, a love letter to trees and the nature that they help support

Posted in arc, Book review, books

A good time to be a girl?

A Good Time to be a Girl

Helena Morrisey

Harper Collins 4th Estate

Publication date 8th February 2018

Source Netgalley

Looking over thirty-five years in business, Morrison informs the reader that she has seen a great deal of progress. More and more, women are achieving success in the business and civic arenas. She argues, however, that women still have a long way to go in their quest for equality. There are still too few women taking their seat either around the boardroom table or in the political chamber.

Moreover, she argues that women still face a dilemma when entering public life, a dilemma that pits her public life as a worker against her private life of wife and mother. She argues that many campaigns around gender equality are based on a belief that women, who wish to succeed in the public arena, should ape the lives of their male ycounterparts, disengaging themselves from the responsibilities of the private arena and devoting themselves entirely to the public, civic, sphere. This means that women may be either: excluded from high positions in public life, left feeling lonely without the comforts that a private life may bring, or exhausted by the need to juggle two full-time roles.

In addition, she argues, equality campaigns are often seen as women’s responsibility, a side issue that can be left on the margins a business discourse, one that men, who still hold most of the levers of power, can ignore. Therefore, issues of equality and the goals of achieving gender parity are often left at the bottom of organisations to be done list. Therefore the problem remains unresolved.

Moreover, she argues that we are travelling through turbulent times. Times that see: a Trump presidency, Brexit, the rise of neo-nazism, the backlash against women’s rights, and a growth in hate crimes.

However, far from being a negative time, this could be a time of opportunity. People are beginning to fight for what they are losing. In doing so, they are beginning to rethink the very nature of politics and business, asking; why are women left with the caring responsibilities, why can’t public and private responsibilities be shared so that men and women can play a role in both arenas, why are equality issues always marginalised and left in the hands of women?

This book looks at measures that Morrison has put in place, both in her private and public life, to begin to challenge the inequalities to be found within the business world. She argues that the key is including men, both in the fight to bring women into the public arena and the private world that women leave behind.

These are not new ideas. Feminists have been advocating for this for a long time. But, it is good to see them articulated, so clearly, by a woman who lives these dilemmas every day and is actively fighting for gender parity. It is a must read.