International Women’s Day Part 2!

I didn’t quite have the writing stamina to complete my descriptions of all the books I pictured on Friday so I gave myself a little break and now we’re ready to roll…..                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pocket Maya Angelou Wisdom by Maya Angelou                                                      Wonderful snippets from Maya Angelou’s body of work which is vast and amazing, so dip into this as and when you need some wisdom and read her other works too! You’ll find both poetry and prose, biography and thoughts on everything from love, friendship, self-worth, racism, womanism and more.                                                                                                                                                        A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir                                                                  This is the second book in the An Ember in the Ashes series which I bought purely because I loved the title so much, and it lived up to it! It’s a fantasy set in a world based on the Roman Empire with themes of war, occupation, exploitation, slavery, abuse, love and a seriously deranged villain, with the addition of magic and the afterlife. It’s special because it has so many fully realised characters, who face incredibly difficult choices and use their small amount of agency within a much wider arch of history. It also includes magic and mythical creatures from Muslim fairytales, based on the authors Pakistani heritage. It’s at once familiar and unique and I’m so excited for the next book.                                                                                                                                                  Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterley                                                                      This is the true story of the four black women who helped America win the space race,and it’s written by a black woman. This is significant because often well – meaning white writers ‘discover’ important black historical figures and write their stories for them, which may not necessarily lead to a mis-representation, but it often can. It’s a person’s story of their life, from what they remember, interpreted and edited by another person, read and interpreted again by the reader…. there’s a lot of space for mistakes! Short of hearing the story from the women themselves, a person who is of a similar cultural background, and who is an avid researcher and committed to the integrity of the story is the next best thing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Beneath the Skin by Sandra Ireland                                                                              Books exploring PTSD as a part of a human being are difficult to find – often mental illness is used as a way to excuse of understand the violent behaviour of a villain and perpetuate the idea that mentally ill people are dangerous. In this book, everyone has trauma, and they deal with it in different ways. I haven’t actually read it yet but it has had reviews highlighting the fully rounded characters so I’m looking forward to it!                                                                                                                                                                                                        Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker                                                          Jes Baker is a wonderful advocate for the rights of fat people, especially women, to be given the respect, rights and care that they deserve, and is battling fatphobia wherever she finds it. This book concentrates on what the individual can do to help improve their self-worth and has a lot of different perspectives included through guest chapters by different writers. I think it’s an excellent introduction to fat activism, and I love her funny, chatty style of writing that made me happy. Much like books on mindfulness for mental health however, body positivity is valuable but it’s not enough on it’s own! So if you read this and still feel bad, it’s not you ‘failing’ it’s society being cruel and wrong, and social and political changes are needed to address that. She also includes a chapter on mental health that made me happy as it’s called ‘100% of people have brains’ so we should all be kind to our minds.                                                                                                                                                                      Race by Toni Morrison                                                                                                      One of the Vintage Mini books, this includes selections from her books Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Beloved and her essay ‘Making America White Again’, about race relations in Trump’s America. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature which is pretty awesome. This is a great little book to peruse before diving in to her full works.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa                                                                        This book makes my heart ache. It begins with the occupation of Palestine by Israeli soldiers, the creation of the ‘refugee camp’ Jenin, and the atrocities that occur through the war between Israel and Palestine, that is still going today. The author says it’s not exactly biographical but rather a compilation of true stories woven into one narrative. It one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read, because it’s written with such poignancy, and you know that these things really did happen. It also has moments of hope, fun, tenderness and always a fierce and beautiful expression of love between each character. It also demonstrates that life really does go on no matter the circumstances, children will play, people with fall in love, have children, make friends, grow families, laugh together… There’s an extraordinary normalcy alongside searing tragedy. She also manages see the pain and terror that lead to the creation of Israel as a result of the holocaust, and how that lead to the pain and terror experienced by Palestinians, and the terrible irony of the continuing conflict. Her empathy and hope carry the novel through so that you feel as though the struggle to end conflict will be tremendously difficult but still achievable.                                                                                                                                                                              The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord                                                          This is Afrofuturist sci-fi at it’s finest. The scope of her world building is extraordinary, and is combined with multi-faceted characters who are both completely relatable and both figuratively and literally alien. It creates and intertwines both the individual struggles against prejudice and oppression and the wider structural, social and political oppression and complex diplomatic intricacies in a way that mirrors but also transcends our own world. You become completely invested in the well-being of the main characters and the societies as a whole, which are often at odds with each other. Completely breathtaking.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Six of Crows by Leigh Bardago                                                                                        Magical queer heist thriller with amazingly diverse characters. The complex relationships are beautiful and unfold amazingly, and is often hilareous. Kaz, one of the main six characters is physically disabled and walks with a cane, which is a deliberate representation by the author as she has a physical disability. He also suffers from severe PTSD which alongside other examples of trauma and mental illness represented in the book are portrayed with sensitivity and care, being a part of the character but not the whole of them. One of my favourite ever books and it’s a duology so you get twice the amount of your favourite criminal anti-hero shenanigans.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi                                                            Glorious Afro-futuristic magical realism, complex and diverse characters within a tale of oppression, rebellion, fate, magic, love, hope, and the complexity of human experience that transcends the hero/villain vitim/perpetrator binary. I particularly love the progression of the relationship between the two main female protagonists, one who is feisty, headstrong and impulsive, and one who is cautious, quiet and gentle, but much stronger than she is given credit for. This made me happy because I’m always looking for female characters who are ‘traditionally feminine’ but who are also courageous, resilient and determined, as well as kind and gentle. The author has a PhD and researched extensively on the West African spirituality and culture she takes inspiration from, as well as her own Nigerian heritage.                                                                                                                                                    Revolting Prostitutes by Molly Smith and Juno Mac                                                An accessible, academic text critiquing the way sex workers have been excluded from mainstream feminism, and the way some feminist activism that claims to be for female sex workers actually harms them. Focusing on the material impact of activism, policy and legislation around prostitution in particular, and written by women who have been/are prostitutes themselves, it is one of the most important books to be published in women’s studies and feminist writing. We must listen to the voices of those who are the most vulnerable in our communities and centre their lived experience above our theoretical prejudices, making space for them to represent and speak for themselves. Women are literally dying as a result of this marginalisation and it has to stop.

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