Reading Around the Web

Just some fun links for a Saturday afternoon. Enjoy!

The WoMentoring Project

Elena:

I just read this amazing post by Naomi and I wanted to share it in case any of you needed it. I think creating a supportive sisterhood is key and we can help each other much more than we think!

Originally posted on The Writes of Woman:

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Today sees the launch of a brilliant new initiative, The WoMentoring Project. The project came about when Kerry Hudson, author of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma and the forthcoming Thirst, identified a need for peer-mentoring for female writers at the beginning of their careers. I was on Twitter when Kerry mentioned the idea and watched offers come in from so many brilliant women – writers, editors, agents – offering their time and expertise for free.

I’m one of a significant number of bloggers promoting the project today and I’m doing so for two reasons: one is because I set this blog up to promote writing by women and I know how many brilliant females there are writing and working in the publishing industry who can help other women find a place; two is because I was lucky enough to do an MA in Creative…

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Spring Break

Hi, everyone!!

It has been a while since I last blogged, but there were a lot of things going on. So, here’s a little update in the middle of my Spring Break:

  • I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to fill in the form to be a TEDx speaker. Lucky me, I got chosen and a month later I was on the stage talking about my passion: crime fiction. It was scary and amazing, but above all, I learnt that stepping out of your comfort zone is something we should all do more often.
  • I finally started watching True Detective and the first thing I have to say is that I want a leather notebook to bring to my crime scenes. I know I do nto have any crime scenes… but can I least have the Southern drawl, please? Bear with me, I am still on episode 2 and then we can talk about that amazing finale you all talk about.
  • I managed to get a review copy of the following books:
  1. Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary.- I heard about this on Twitter and I almost harrassed the Sam, the publisher, for a review copy. Lucky me, I got one (and Sam was amazing.)
  2. Linda, as in Linda the Murder by Leif G W Persson.- I read about this at a few blogs and I loved the idea of a murder at a police academy.
  3. Blue Monday, Tuesday’s Gone and Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French.- I was emailed by the publisher to review Waiting for Wednesday and, cheeky me, I asked for the two previous books in the series. Luckily, I was emailed the three of them.
  • I finally discovered that I need writing to be happy: a writing day is a happy day.
  • I no longer have to attend lessons… in 3 years, which is kind of bittersweet, but I can’t wait to start this new chapter!

So, are you enjoying your Spring Break?

 

Anorexic by Eavan Boland

I am not a huge fan of poetry and I do not really know why. I guess I tend to read novels since I still have to find crime-fiction- poems. Or maybe I should write some myself. Anyway, I have this professor who loves poetry and every time I attend her lessons I wonder why I find it so hard to read poetry when it is so inspiring. Yesterday, we analyzed this poem with her and I fell instantly in love with it. I do not want to write the analysis here, but just its context so that you interpret it yourself and see what it means to you. Eavan Boland writes in 1980′s Catholic Ireland where women’s bodies were silenced. Here it is:

ANOREXIC (Eavan Boland)

Flesh is heretic.
My body is a witch.
I am burning it.

Yes I am torching
ber curves and paps and wiles.
They scorch in my self denials.

How she meshed my head
in the half-truths
of her fevers

till I renounced
milk and honey
and the taste of lunch.

I vomited
her hungers.
Now the bitch is burning.

I am starved and curveless.
I am skin and bone.
She has learned her lesson.

Thin as a rib
I turn in sleep.
My dreams probe

a claustrophobia
a sensuous enclosure.
How warm it was and wide

once by a warm drum,
once by the song of his breath
and in his sleeping side.

Only a little more,
only a few more days
sinless, foodless,

I will slip
back into him again
as if I had never been away.

Caged so
I will grow
angular and holy

past pain,
keeping his heart
such company

as will make me forget
in a small space
the fall

into forked dark,
into python needs
heaving to hips and breasts
and lips and heat
and sweat and fat and greed.

 

Borrowed from Elite Skills

Reading Around the Web

I have been doing some very interesting reading around the web of lately, so here it is a compilation of the posts that I liked the most and that I think you will enjoy as much as I did:

  • O tweeted a link to this article on The Guardian: Don’t stop prisoners receiving books, they’re a vital rehabilitation tool. I am appalled by the Ministry of Justice not allowing prisoners to receive books anymore. I visited the state prison’s women section over here last year and they were very proud about their library although it mainly contained romance novels. One of the women said to me that she had rediscovered reading and, in a more practical way admitted that either you kept yourself busy while in there or you went crazy, and books worked perfectly for this.
  • Sam Baker also twitted a link to an inspiring Gloria Steinem quote on the event of her 80th birthday, but the link was not working, so instead I found it here. Happy birthday, Gloria!

“I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.”

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Feminist Sunday

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Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB AND AIDS

Last Saturday I finally watched Dallas Buyers Club, a movie that I had long wanted to see because it speaks of an era that changed the world. For those of you who do not know about it, Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof who has recently been diagnosed with AIDS and is looking for a way out of the system that, he thinks, is just killing AIDS patients with their drug testing. This all takes place in Dallas in 1985 when AIDS was still not completely understood and people were afraid of those suffering from it. But since it is a movie, here is the trailer.

Now, why this movie and this theme? First of all because of a personal interest since my mom has been a nurse since the early 1980′s and the chaos and confusion that she and medical staff had to face until they discovered what was AIDS and how it was transmitted is epic. I do not know how they made it, but these people deserve all my respect and love. Secondly, because at the time AIDS was a “queer/fagot’s disease”. The movie makes a great point of who and how were affected: Ron is a heterosexual man, but the people surrounding him are transsexuals, homosexuals and some women. If you still haven’t figured it out it was society’s outcasts. Ron himself refuses to believe he suffers from AIDS because he is not gay and he feels free to insult others suffering from the disease as well. But, as time goes by, the disease proves to be a far stronger link than what differentiates them. That is how the relationship between Ro and Raynon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who is friends with Eve, emerges.

But, there is also a missing link here and that is professional women. If you are a fan of Grey’s Anatomy you can see how women doctors were treated in the character of Ellis Grey. In this film, Jennifer Garner plays Eve, a young, hopeful and hard-working doctor who has to fight against her boss and the chemical industry personified in middle-aged, white men in suits who just want to make the most of the AIDS epidemic. She joins Ron, Raynor and the whole buyers club who are just looking a day more to live.

Eve and Raynor at the hospital.

Eve and Raynor at the hospital.

All this came to my mind after thinking of the book Queer Theory by Donald E. Hall. I read the chapter “Who and What is Queer?” where he mentions the 1980′s as a decade that saw the emergence of AIDS and, as a consequence, the criminalization of homosexuality. That the disease was at first linked mainly to homosexual men did not help and a kind of hysteria was unleashed putting AIDS victims into the “outcast” group that already contained women, transsexual and travesties. So, queer theory is the name given to those theories and approaches that study – in the case of literature and movies- the representation of outcast groups in society and how they create their identities. AIDS patients became a part of these theories as they developed in the 1990s because along with other groups they were being misrepresented in both art and life. In the movie, Eve, Ron and Raynor stand for the three groups that suffered the most repression and criticism in this period: professional (medical) women, transsexuals and AIDS patients no matter their previous identities: Ron was well-respected in his misogynist, drug-dealing group until they knew he suffered from AIDS. Then, they repudiated him.

So, this is why I thought it was important to devote a Feminist Sunday to Dallas Buyers CLub. Because, not so long ago – and sadly still nowadays – AIDS has labelled people as outcasts usually in relation to their sexual orientation or even their gender. I think it is important for feminism to remember those battles that seem won but that still need to be fought and, above all, those battles that unite us rather than divide us.

The Dead Wife’s Handbook

My Twitter feed went crazy a few weeks ago with the release of Hannah Beckerman’s debut novel The Dead’s Wife Handbook. So, I joined them all and asked for a review copy that the amazing publishers agreed to send me. I was not really sure what the book was about apart from the obvious title, but I thought it would make a great change to hear the dead for themselves rather than through a detective just for once.

From Goodreads:

“Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive.’

Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life – until the night Rachel’s heart stopped beating.

Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can’t forget her, Rachel can’t quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems.

As Rachel grieves for the life she’s lost and the life she’ll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.

First things first: this is not the kind of book that I would normally choose, not because of any prejudices, but because there are topics that I would rather stay away from in order to prevent myself from sobbing for days – just for your information, the other category apart from “poignant dead people’s accounts” is WWII – but everyone I trusted had loved this book and I wanted to know why. Plus, Hannah is on Twitter and she gives a pretty wonderful and unglamourized sneak-peek into a writer’s life.

So, The Dead Wife’s Handbook is the poignant description of dead Rachel seeing her family adapt to life without her. Beckerman wisely explores the feelings that she goes through as she sees her husband and child suffer and be happy, both without her. This is not obviously something easy to read. The main theme in the book is love and what comes along, because if Beckerman does something is dwell into the characters’ psychology. Rachel is not happy to see her family suffer, neither is she when she sees them be happy without them. So, the complexity of her situation could easily be translated to someone who has lost a beloved one recently: the need to move on, but the sadness and the happiness that come when you do.

However, I had one big problem with the book: Rachel and her family idealize the time when she was alive. Sure, this is a part of grief, but, in my family we have all been very careful not to idealize dead people because it is not healthy. Them being gone does not make them less loved or precious, but they were complex human beings and it is part of their legacy to remember them as accurately as possible. For Ellie (Rachel’s daughter) the narrative about her mother is how amazing she always was which I think is something all 6-year olds think. But, that “amazing mother” image responds to a devoted and sacrificing motherhood with which I do not sympathize. Rachel is then defined as the perfect mother, because that is the only role that she perfectly plays throughout the novel; sometimes her husband or her friends have more complex feelings about her as a wife or as a friend, but nothing negative at all. Also, Rachel grieves for her time that she would have spent with her family, but never for her own time: the books she could have read, the countries she could have traveled to, her goals and success beyond motherhood and marriage etc.

So, The Dead Wife’s Handbook makes a perfect reading for someone interested in the grieving process. It is also an amazing book to explore love and how it can change other people’s lives, but the main character is exactly what the title suggest: a wife and a mother, two categories that seem to come together no matter what.

Feminist Sunday

feministsundays2Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

As a non-native English speaker, I usually find myself surprised at how easy words can be created in the English language. One of those words that has recently called my attention is “childless”. I have seen it all over the web in good and bad contexts and it is always surrounded by a morphological debate: Why child-less? It implies a fault, a void that may no exist for the people who are said to be childless or, on the contrary, a avoid that it’s too painful to talk about. Also, last week about Helen Mirren’s interview for Vogue quoted everywhere- another outspoken lady, could it have to do with our name? ;) – where she talks about her being asked the very same question about not having had children her whole career.

As a young woman, I have issues with the word and the whole discourse surrounding it. I have been dating Mr.B&R for a long time now and my extended and lovely family know him and so do my acquaintances. So, whenever they find me playing with one of my amazing nephews or nieces – or let’s be sincere, merely out of the blue – the inevitable question comes. And it does not come in a polite way, as in “What do you think of having children?” but something more in the lines of “you are getting older, when are you having children?”. I am known for being an outspoken person and you can imagine how disappointed, angry and defensive I get when asked, if I tell you my mom usually grabs my arm to try to soothe me. It works, sometimes, and I try to excuse myself for not being old enough, for not having a house or a job yet and the like, because really, experience has taught me that’s the easy way. Other times  I say “never” to try to shut them up, when I really want to say “it is not any of your ******* business”. But apparently, that is not a polite answer to someone who is meddling with your private life, so I save that to myself, vent my anger with Mr.B&R and he tries to make me laugh at it so that we can move on, something I will be forever thankful to him.

It is not the question that bothers me, although partly it does because people do not ask me about other aspects of my life that matter to me right now as much as they do about a possible motherhood. It is the discourse behind the question, the idea that a woman in a stable relationship has to want children, because, why wouldn’t her? I am not saying I will never have children, neither am I saying I am dying to have them. But, as a young woman and as a feminist who loves working, who gets pretty good grades and feels at her best when at school (be it lessons, a meeting or just talking to my classmates and professors), I wonder what do people really think of me. And with “me” I mean what I stand for, which is a European, middle-class, white, heterosexual, young, hard-working woman.

As a feminist, I think motherhood is one of the fields where more work needs to be done because it has been culturally constructed in ways that have not proven healthy and I think it can be an amazing experience; but I’ll devote yet another Feminist Sunday to it. I am in no way suggesting that motherhood should be not talked about nor am I promoting anti-motherhood feelings; today I am just talking about being asked the question. Because maybe it is time for people to see more in a woman than a mother. And especially when that woman is young, when there are so many options in life and motherhood can come in so very different ways nowadays. What if the woman or her partner suffer from a medical condition and cannot have children? What if it is a daily struggle for them? Should they feel compelled to tell everyone asking why they don’t have children? What if they just simply do not want them? Or, what if they are hiring a surrogate mother or adopting a child? Does the “have children” in the question mean the same, then?

Extending the question out of the matrix of heterosexual couples: Would the same question be asked to a homosexual – be it gay or lesbian – couple? Would they ask the same to a single woman? Or more importantly, would they ask a single man about the possibility of adopting a child? The gap of expectations between different people, with different sexualities and different emotional situations, is huge and it is harming us a society. By setting these “standards” we are opening and closing different life paths to people depending – mainly, although not always – on their sexuality and their love lives. And it’s not fair for any of us because feeling the expectations to do something is as harmful as being told you will never have such an option in your life.

So, let’s talk! Have you experienced these kind prejudices? Have you been asked “the question”? I would love to hear from you all – men and women – and especially how your perception of this issue has changed, or not, in time :)

The Engagement

The Engagement is a novel by Australian author Chloe Hooper. I was lucky enough to win this novel at Naomi’s blog and I was really excited about it. Sadly, the book didn’t turn out the success both Naomi and I thought it would be. However, I would like to thank her for running the giveaway.

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From Goodreads (excerpt):

Liese Campbell is working as an estate agent in Melbourne when she first meets Alexander Colquhoun. The handsome scion of a prominent farming family, he is searching for a pied-a-terre in the city. At another disappointing viewing, Liese leads Alexander to the bedroom, and they sleep together. Afterwards, he pulls out a roll of cash, and she takes three hundred dollars. ‘Half price’, she says jokingly, ‘because I like you.’ Liese is not a prostitute, but it is an erotic game, she thinks, that both parties are playing.

Whenever Alexander is in the city he calls her, and pays for sex. For Liese, who has travelled to Australia from England after losing her job, the relationship is fun, and a useful way to begin paying off her debts. When Liese decides to return home, she receives a letter from Alexander inviting her to the country for the weekend, and offering a price she cannot refuse. A few days of sex and luxury, she thinks – a final fling before she departs.

As you can see for the description, the book seemed perfect for me. But, from the very beginning I felt a detachment from the main character that remained with me the whole novel. Liese was a confused and chaotic character that should have appealed to me, since these kind of characters always do. But all throughout the novel I thought she had been careless and had behaved like a teenager. In fact, her behavior did not help me understand her choices.

However, what I did like was the Australian landscape. It had been a long time since I read a book settled in Australia, even though I am a huge Kate Morton fan. One of the things that I like the most about postcolonial settings is the contradictions tha come from the settlement and the place. In The Engagement Liese is trapped in a typically Victorian building in the middle of the hot, vast Australian landscape. That alone is a very powerful tool to make readers feel uneasy and out-of-place and it did help me feel like Liese did.

I read that this book is similar to Gone Girl, but I apart from a messed and confused main female character I do not know where the comparison comes from. Amy was a much more calculating and psychopathic character than Liese. I certainly cannot imagine Amy making the mistakes Liese did, but then again, I did not understand Liese at all.

So, maybe this book came at a difficult reading time for me, or maybe it was not my kind of story. But I suggest it to anyone interested in Australia and Australian literature because the contradictions of what the place was intended to be and what the landscape and geography was play a key role in the novel.