Six Degrees of Separation: from The Arsonist to Shrinking Violets

 

I’m late to the March Six Degrees of Separation party because I’ve been struggling to get a jump from the first book in the chain. I haven’t read The Arsonist, only meme-coordinator Kate’s review of it.

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BRIT(ish)

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Read 17/01/2019-26/01/2019

Rating 4 stars

In BRIT(ish), Afua Hirsch has written a sort of memoir, sort of political appraisal, sort of social history of race and racism in the UK. There’s a bit of travelog in there as well. I struggled to get to grips with it at first, finding it a little piecemeal in its approach, jumping from personal experience peppered with historical context to historiography peppered with personal experience to journalistic investigation of specific aspects of racism in Britain. Each piece had its merits, but for me they didn’t always hang together as a whole. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s articulate, it draws out different strands of the issue, there were lots of things that I learnt from reading it. Hirsch clearly has something she wants to say, and has struggled to understand her own existence, and there is value in what she extracts and shares from that personal struggle. Continue reading

Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

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Read 14/11/2018-16/11/2018

Rating: 3 stars

This letter written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to her friend doesn’t say anything new. It doesn’t, as the blurb on the back states, start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today. That conversation is ongoing. Women are having it every day. The book is part of that conversation, though, perhaps in a way Adichie didn’t intend and the publishers didn’t recognise. Continue reading

Animal

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Read 16/06/2018-27/06/2018

Rating: 5 stars

I love Sara Pascoe. I think she’s one of the funniest people working in comedy. I follow her on Twitter. I love her on QI and Frankie Boyle’s New World Order. I’m going to see her live for the first time in October.

I borrowed her book Animal from the library after I saw a quote from it Tweeted by Pascoe, which I’ll talk about later. I thought it was going to be a straightforward memoir of Pascoe’s life and adventures as a funny feminist woman in the male centric world of British comedy. It is, in a way, but it’s also so much more than that. Continue reading

When I Hit You

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Read 13/05/2018-17/05/2018

Rating: 5 stars

Meena Kandasamy’s fictionalised account of her abusive marriage is on the short list for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Knowing what it’s about, in very broad terms, I’ve been reluctant to read it, but a couple of glowing reviews piqued my curiosity.

The book describes four months and eight days of domestic abuse and marital rape. It describes why a woman in that situation might not be able to leave, and might not want to leave. It describes how abused women easily disappear from their social circles because the other people in those circles don’t want to look for reasons why.

I found it eye-opening. It made concrete something that I have only thought about abstractly. I’m thankful that I have never been raped, that the worst things I’ve experienced have been isolated incidents of physical and verbal abuse. I read this book from a relatively safe space. I can’t say whether a woman who has experienced or is experiencing the things Kandasamy describes would find it a help or a source of further distress to read this book. I can say that I found it well balanced and honest. Continue reading

I Was Told to Come Alone: My journey behind the lines of jihad

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Read 14/04/2018-22/04/2018

Rating: 4 stars

All you need to know is, you need to read this book.

I became aware of I Was Told to Come Alone when it was included in the March Madness Reading Challenge. After I read Home Fire, I felt like I needed to read something based on the real experience of the young men who become jihadis and the young women who become jihadi brides. So I reserved it at the library. And I’m very glad that I did. Continue reading

Negroland: A Memoir

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Read 14/03/2018-21/03/2018

Rating: 5 stars

I can’t remember where I found out about Margo Jefferson’s memoir Negroland. I thought I’d read a review on one of the book blogs I follow, but a search threw nothing up. Maybe I found it when I was searching for more to read about black experience in a white-dominated society. Maybe I saw it on someone’s Instagram. However it crossed my radar, I’m glad it did. Continue reading