Tag Archives: reading

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

Oh my frickin’ god, go and buy this book immediately and read it. It’s a brilliant book about race relations in Britain today.

Despite abolition, an Act of Parliament was not going to change the perception overnight of enslaved African people from quasi-animal to human. Less than two hundred years later, that damage is still to be undone.

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The cover is utter genius, but consequently difficult to photograph.

Eddo-Lodge originally wrote a blog post, in 2014, with the same name as the book, and it was this that sparked the process of writing the book. Eddo-Lodge says that since writing the original post, she has seemingly done nothing but talk to people about race.  She doesn’t want the tears or guilt of white people, of course not. But that’s basically why she decided she no longer wanted to talk to white people about race, and I don’t blame her either.

…white privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism.

The idea of white privilege forces white people who aren’t actively racist to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence.

The idea that so many people have that they are colour-blind, when it comes to race, is discussed, and I hear this one so often…

I think we placate ourselves with the fallacy of meritocracy by insisting that we just don’t see race. This makes us feel progressive. But this claim to not see race is tantamount to compulsory assimilation. My blackness has been politicised against my will, but I don’t want it wilfully ignored in an effort to instil some sort of precarious, false harmony.

Colour-blindness is a childish, stunted analysis of racism.

Colour-blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance.

In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

Yes, my review is going to end up very quote heavy!

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The first thing that has to be mentioned about Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, is its phenomenal cover. It is brilliant and also quite difficult to photograph.

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One of the points made is that black history is not taught very well. I don’t think I was taught any black history at all at school. I was shocked to see a town local to where I grew up making an appearance. I had no idea about its involvement in the slave trade, and I should have known.

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PLF making an appearance

Facts like:

…the election of Britain’s first black Members of Parliament in 1987 – Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant.

are surprising for being not just in my lifetime, but in a time I can clearly remember. Similarly, the Stephen Lawrence murder is examined and that all takes place in the 1990s to the 2010s. This is yesterday, not the distant, dim past.

We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power.

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books make the park bearable 

There is a chapter on feminism and why intersectionality is so important. White feminism is discussed and it is explained why this isn’t an insult to individual white people (as the term is often taken) but is a way of exploring the structural issues around white supremacy and its role in feminism. Eddo-Lodge explains it all so much better than I can, so go and read her explanation in the book!

Far from shutting down debate, incorporating the challenges of racism is absolutely essential for a feminist movement that doesn’t leave anyone behind. I’m not sure our most popular versions of feminism are currently up to that task.

There is so much in the book I haven’t  gone into in this review too. There’s a lot on class that is really interesting too.

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As you can imagine, a lot of people have reacted very strongly to the book title, without reading the contents, of course. It is provocative, but the message is not. It’s a sensible, clear, important discussion of race relations in Britain today and I think everyone can benefit from reading it. As a white person, there’s part of the book where Eddo-Lodge explains what white people can do to help (because clearly she is asked this often!).

White support looks like financial or administrative assistance to the groups doing vital work. Or intervening when you are needed in bystander situations. Support looks like white advocacy for anti-racist causes in all-white spaces. White people, you need to talk to other white people about race. Yes, you may be written off as a radical, but you have much less to lose.

and if it needs a reminder:

If all racism was as easy to spot, grasp and denounce as white extremism is, the task of the anti-racist would be simple.

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This Must Be the Place – Maggie O’Farrell

Another book club read. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t completely blown away by it. I think it was just because one of the main characters just irritated me!

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From the back of the book:

A reclusive former film star living in the wilds of Ireland, Claudette Wells thinks nothing of firing a gun if strangers get too close to her house. Why is she so fiercely protective of her privacy, and what made her disappear at the height of her cinematic fame?

Her husband Daniel, reeling from a discovery about a woman he last saw twenty years ago, is about to make an exit of his own. It is a journey that will send him off-course, far from home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

This Must Be the Place crosses continents and time zones, creating a portrait of an extraordinary marriage, the forces that hold it together and the pressures that drive it apart.

I really liked the structure of This Must Be the Place. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. Some main characters get a few chapters, but many minor characters get their own chapters too, and it often gave an interesting perspective on the story.

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book club snacks!

A couple of my favourite chapters were stories that really didn’t have anything to do with the main plot! I loved Ari, Claudette’s oldest child from a former relationship, when he is sent to his school councillor and he just displays maximum intelligent teenage arrogance. He totally owns the councillor in a way I shouldn’t have enjoyed quite as much as I did, being a teacher!

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Ultimately, even with the interesting way it’s narrated by many characters, I couldn’t forgive Daniel for just being a bit pathetic, and Claudette for her wildly over-the-top and unforgiving character. Out of our book club discussion, we think we just don’t quite get the detail of these character’s motivation for some important decisions, just because we are seeing it through other peoples observations, so we didn’t get inside the characters heads enough.

I also found it unbelievable that Claudette could disappear as effectively as she did. Perhaps in the 90s it would have been ok, but getting into the modern day, with the internet, I have no doubt she would be easily found. She still travels on commercial air flights, and her great deception seems to be that she bought her house in her brother’s name. It’s really not that sneaky.

Finally, it’s just over 500 pages long, which is a bit much when you don’t absolutely love a book!

Our Endless Numbered Days – Chloe Benjamin

This was an enjoyable book club read. The story is of 8 year old Peggy who is taken to live in the wilderness by her survivalist Father. It’s also the story of her reemergence into ordinary life at age 17. Until then, she had believed the rest of the world had perished in some big disaster, and only herself and her Father were left.

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The cover of Our Endless Numbered Days is gorgeous, silver and shiny, and is very evocative of fairy stories like Hansel and Gretel. It’s so pretty I took loads of photos of it while I was reading the book. Consequently, this review is mostly going to be pictures. 😀

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You get the story of how Peggy disappeared, and how she is adjusting to being back, interchangeably from the beginning of the book. I’m glad that you know from the start she makes it back, because otherwise I don’t think I’d have been able to take some of the later events. Lets just say living alone in the woods for 8 years makes people go a bit doolally. There’s some really grim events later in the story.

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At book club, many people talked about how they have thought about running away from it all, and how idyllic that idea seems. I don’t get that at all. I can cope with camping for a week, but no more thanks!

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The story is told from Peggy’s perspective and I think this gives the whole going to the woods thing a great sense of adventure, and it really works for this story. I was itching to know more about the Father’s motivations though. Why he leaves the rest of his family? Such a bizarre decision.

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This is the second book by Fuller I’ve read (the other being Swimming Lessons, which I really enjoyed.) and once the story got going, I didn’t want to stop reading until I’d discovered what happened. A great choice for book club.

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2018 Reading Goals

Well look what I found languishing in my drafts folder! My reading goals that I thought about and typed up and never posted. So here goes! and because it’s actually already March, I already know I’m not doing so well on some of these. But here they are as written at the very start of the year:

My 2018 goals can be summed up by:

Read what I want. Read diversely.

To expand on this a little bit:

  • Don’t try to plan too far ahead and embrace reading what I feel like reading. So no restrictive reading lists. They don’t work for me. This means I need to be careful with requesting NetGalley books. I try to make sure there’s a good amount of time between dates the books are published, and I must make sure I really want to read it. It’s also helpful to have quite a long time between requesting  book and the date it’s published so I don’t feel pressured to read it when I don’t really feel like it.

 

  • Read diversely. By this I mean read men and women,. Read books written by LGBTQ+ authors, and books with LGBTQ+ characters. Read books by BAME authors. Read books written by authors from different parts of the world. Read more translations. Read more genres. I’m hoping the PopSugar challenge lists will help with some of these goals.

 

  • Read at least 75 books. I read 65 this year. I think I can do better.

 

  • Read books I already own and try not to buy more (though inevitably I will, I will just try and minimise it). Here are the scary stats:
    • unread books on my shelves today( I know this will be too low because a load of my books are still hidden away waiting to go on my shelves after decorating. They are mostly reference books, but there’s bound to be some fiction hidden in there) : 201
    • unread kindle books: 178
    • unlistened to audio books: 11
    • total TBR: 390
  • yes that is an obscene amount of books.

 

  • Read at least one book that’s over 1000 pages. 2666 by Roberto Bolano has been on my bookshelves unread for about ten years. Maybe this year is its year.

 

  • Read some authors I have wanted to read for ages, but haven’t got round to. This could be so many! Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Roberto Bolano, Virginia Woolf, any Bronte.. and so many more.

 

  • Read the Iliad. This is primarily to start helping me with answering quiz questions in an online quiz league I’m in. 😀

 

  • Not strictly a book reading goal, but a related one. I’ve signed up to do a short introductory course in creative writing. I’ve never done anything like this since secondary school – I’ve been all maths and physics in my education after school!

 

That’s all I can think of right now. Think I can manage all of these in 2018!

 

Books Bought and Read – February 2018

Still managing to not go too mental with buying books, and managing to read more. Phew!

Books Bought

Not for me, but I bought Inferior by Angela Saini and Hope In The Dark by Rebecca Solnit as gifts for a friend because I love these books with all my heart. 🙂

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A Woman’s Work – Harriet Harman. 99p kindle deals strike again.

I also picked up a copy of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver for a pound in a second hand book sale!

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Books Read

Click  each title for a link to the review

On Tyranny: 20 Lessons From the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

The Book of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch

Frankenstein in Baghdad – Ahmed Saadawi

 

 

My 2017 Reading in Statistics

This is my review of my reading year. I’ve loved keeping this blog to help me with reading more and tracking what I’ve read. I’ve read 65 books this year, compared to 20 in 2016, and 19 in 2015 (so glad for the goodreads challenge to help me keep count!). I’m delighted to be back reading regularly after many years of feeling like I wanted to read more, but just not fitting it in. I have been regularly blogging this year, but didn’t create my blog last January. I had done the odd book review before this – twelve in total form 2015 and 2016.

The Books

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How have I managed to read so much more?

Several things have helped. The first, and probably most important, is I am no longer in a job that requires me to work most evenings and some of the weekends. I changed jobs to one where I have an amazing amount of work-life balance compared to the eight years before. I also watch much less TV, sometimes spending a few hours in the evening reading instead. Finally, my children are slowly getting better at sleeping and I’m less completely knackered all the time!

The Statistics

 

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I’m more than happy with the amount of non fiction I have read this year.

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I’m equally happy with the gender split of authors I’ve read this year.

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Here is somewhere I could definitely do better on. I need to prioritise reading more BAME authors.

Nationality of Author

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It’s very clear that I mostly read British or American authors. It’s embarrassing how there’s no South American or African authors, and only a few from the entire of Asia. Definitely something I need to do better on next year.

2017-10

Very happy with this. I’ve been discovering lots of authors this year, and have read a lot I just hadn’t got round to yet!

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Sorting my books into genre was very difficult! I had to put a few categories together or I was going to end up with a lot of genres with just one entry and the pie chart would have been a complete mess! I already knew I had read a lot of literary fiction. I’ve probably put quite a few books in this section that shouldn’t strictly be there. I’m happy with the amount of other types of books I’ve read.

My top book reviews of 2017

Click the text to go to the review.

  1. The Power – Naomi Alderman IMG_6128
  2. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor 33283659
  3. Nasty Women – 404Ink 41aalgyb8hl-_sx317_bo1204203200_
  4. Inferior – Angela Saini saini-inferior
  5. Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain 17204619
  6. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes me-before-you
  7. American Gods – Neil Gaiman american gods
  8. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead IMG_7025
  9. Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet – Dallas Campbell AdAstra1
  10. The Girl On the Train – Paula Hawkins girl-on-the-train

Most of this top ten is not a surprise. Many are my favourite books of the year and also ones that I’ve felt have had a bit of a buzz around them that I have read quite soon after they came out (Inferior and Nasty Women are two examples).  Some won big awards (The Power and The Underground Railroad) and so people were generally interested in them. There’s a couple of the big bestselling type of books here (The Girl on the Train and Me Without You), and a few that I think my friends would be particularly interested in (Quiet, American Gods, and Ad Astra – science geeks yo). More cringingly, the second most popular review of the year is a book I really did not get on with very well. I write honest reviews, but I am very careful writing negative ones. I didn’t hold back much on this one for a few reasons: it’s a hugely popular author and my small opinion will not even register on anyone’s radar, plus generally the literary community bloody loved it.

But none of those are the most popular post of 2017, in fact one post got 14 times more views than the most popular book review… 

My Review of Rebellion Punk Festival

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My review of this music festival got an incredible number of views in the week after I wrote it. I did a very short analysis of the gender makeup of the bands and their order of billing. I describe how I set out to support the female artists and musicians over the weekend, and also the BAME musicians (of which there were only a handful out of hundreds of performers). This post got shared amongst some (thankfully private) facebook groups and some people found it erm… not to their taste shall we say. I had some of the comments reported back to me, and lets just say I’m glad I couldn’t read them. They weren’t very nice. I saw some incredible bands over the weekend and will do exactly the same sort of analysis next time I go, because that’s what I enjoy doing!

Looking forward to 2018

Next year I want to read more. I want to make sure I read more BAME authors and also more authors from around the world – I will have to include lots of translations to make sure I do this. There are no graphic novels, horror (eeek!), or poetry in this years book – need to sort that out! No romance? I’m not keen, but I’ll have to give some a go. Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

My Top Politics and Feminism Reads for 2017

Having looked at all the non-fiction I’ve read this year, I’ve decided to split them up into science, politics and feminism, and biography and memoir, otherwise I would have a really long blog post summing it all up! I can’t quite believe I’ve managed to read 22 non-fiction books this year! and there’s still a few weeks left… what if I read another incredible book before January?

These are my favourite non-fiction politics and feminism reads for the year, out of the ones I have read this year, not that they were necessarily published this year. I can’t believe I thought I didn’t like books about politics before this year… how very wrong I was! Click on the images to go to my longer reviews.

Politics

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Hope In The Dark – Rebecca Solnit

I came to this after hearing it mentioned on the Bookshambles podcast many, many times by Josie Long (this is also why I now have the first Elena Ferrante book on my shelves waiting to be read!). I loved reading this this book with every fibre of my being.

It’s under 150 pages and is a collection of essays on the role of hope in politics, environmental issues, and social problems. The dark is the unknowable future. It’s about how small acts of activism can have huge consequences. It’s about how hope is what’s needed to be an activist. There are examples of all of these things in Hope in the Dark.

Hope in the Dark was written in the aftermath of the re-election of Bush as President of the USA in 2004. I read a version updated to 2016 with a few extra essays about the intervening years. It inspired me to become more politically active – even in small ways – because that can make a difference. While it’s easy to feel like the world is falling apart around us – politically, socially, and environmentally – rather than stepping back and feeling despair and hopelessness (because that shit will get nothing done), we all need to feel hope and take steps to change the future to help change these things. I feel like I can do that after reading Hope in the Dark.

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What Happened – Hillary Rodham Clinton

17 hours of Hillary Rodham Clinton reading her book to me (audiobook!) and I feel sadness at what american voters did last year, I feel like I understand the issues much better than I did before reading this. I know much more about her Clinton’s whole career and the chapters on feminism are excellent. I cried several times during this audiobook, I was so moved by how she talks about the loss of the election and compares it to personal grief, but I left this book feeling hopeful, and empowered.

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The Good Immigrant – ed. by Nikesh Shukla

I wasn’t sure where to put The Good Immigrant in my crude categorisation of all non-fiction books, but I decided on politics because immigration is political. Brexit is political and has negatively impacted of the lives of BAME people in the UK. So here it is, in the politics category.

The Good Immigrant is 21 essays by BAME writers living in the UK. The stories deal with many themes, often about how feeling ‘other’ is rubbish, and stories about racism, but there’s also plenty celebrating positive aspects of being an immigrant in the UK. I enjoyed every single essay and it has also given me more writers to follow and find their other work. I would class The Good Immigrant as essential reading for anyone living in the UK. I’ve bought it for several people already! My longer review also inspired some good post-Brexit swearing *bonus*.

Feminism

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Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit

Another collection of essays, another by the amazing Rebecca Solnit, from 2014. This time she is dealing with feminism, and she does it so well. I read Men Explain Things To Me and wished I could have all these perfect arguments at the tip of my tongue whenever I talk about feminism.

The title essay is the one that brought about the phrase mansplaining (though Solnit dislikes the term) and highlights this phenomena many of us have experienced.  The rest of the essays deal with other aspects of just why feminism is still needed and necessary. There is also beautiful artwork between the essays by Ana Teresa Fernandez.

She has a new collection of feminism essays out: The Mother of All Questions : Further Feminisms. I have a copy of this but haven’t started it because I already don’t want it to be over!

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Nasty Women – 404Ink

I love this collection of essays (theme!!! I didn’t even know how much I like essay collections before this year!). This time the essays are about being a woman in the 21st century. It was inspired by the Trump election, and of course his nasty woman jibe to Hillary Clinton.

The essays cover a huge range of themes: being fat and taking a flight, gendered violence in punk rock, being Puerto Rican and living under a Trump presidency, contraception, pregnancy, class, racism, loving Courtney Love, being a black woman in Scotland, and many more.

It also introduced me to the music of The Petrol Girls, and I am very grateful for this because they are brilliant!

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Here are all the non-fiction books I read this year (click to go to my review):

What were you favourite politics and feminism reads this year?