Summer Reading: July TBR

Summer is FINALLY here and I couldn’t be happier. I’m looking forward to spending the longer days lying in the sunshine reading and napping. Like a cat.

For my first month back into blogging, I’ve decided to focus on a genre that has been pretty hot in the media recently; Dystopia. Not least because it feels like we are living in one! I’m excited to explore the intersection of women in dystopian setting and whether the worlds created are feminist or not. Here are the two books i’ll be focusing on this month:

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Blog Update: New Goals

Hi All!

Its been a while!

The first half of 2018 has been pretty full on for me, with lots of change in my personal ad professional life. Writing for this blog, reading  and keeping up with social media whilst doing my full time job really burnt me out – I don’t know how all you amazing book bloggers out there do it! I often felt pretty overwhelmed by it all and soon felt pretty paralysed by it too. So I took a break from blogging, social media and even reading (believe it or not) and have finally decided to dip my toes back into it.

After almost a 6 month hiatus I am now back on track! In between denying real life and watching the world fall apart (read Trumpocalypse and other bullshit) I have managed to do brainstorming about the blog. Above all I still believe in and will be continuing to read, review and promote diverse world literature. But to make my life easier I am making some changes that will bring some structure to the blog.

  • Monthly TBR Post: To hold my self accountable I will be posting monthly TBR lists. I’m hoping this will keep me focused an stop me from buying a hundred books that i will never get around to reading!
  • Monthly Theme: Secondly, after dabbling in the ‘more is better’ method of content production I have decided that actually minimalism is more of my vibe. Rather than trying to churn out a book review per week I will be writing one piece of content per month. I will be dialling it back to the old days of long form writing, with one book review or discussion per month focusing on one specific topic.
  • Indie Bookstore of the Month and finally I will also be featuring an independent book shop of the month post, sharing with you the love of my indie books and indie bookshops in London!

Until next time bookworms!

 

Mini Review: Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous, Manu Joseph

I loved loved loved this book! It pulled me right out of my readers-block (not sure if that’s a thing, but if its isn’t it should be).

This is the third book of Manu Joseph’s that I have read, and I enjoyed it as much I did the first one. His novels have a political mission. It would be an over-simplification to call his style of writing ‘political satire’. Whilst this is definitely a major theme, for me, Joseph’s writing is anti-establishment. May that establishment be the simple everyday norms of society (The Illicit Happiness of Other People), the caste system (as in Serious Men).

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Weike Wang’s ‘Chemistry’

Goodreads says:

“a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family”

I’m always a little bit sceptical of internationally published books that claim to provide ‘immigrant narratives’. I worried that this would be yet another novel that perpetuating self-orientalist notions of the ‘immigrant journey’. This is one of the main reasons I started this blog, to find and read stories that recognise the complexity of a transnational identity.

But I was pleasantly surprised by Weike Wang’s debut novel Chemistry, I am usually a very slow reader (reflected in the slow release of posts on this blog!) but I devoured this book in two days flat! Chemistry is a story of a woman finding her self in the midst of an imploding academic career and romantic relationship. Our protagonist is a chemist trying to but failing to complete her Chemistry PhD and trying but failing to take the next step in a long term relationship. The backdrop to her internal struggle is her strict upbringing as a child of first generation Chinese immigrants. The story is told in first person by an unnamed narrator and written in distinctive short chapters that keep you hooked.

Whilst the storyline is a familiar one, I loved Wang’s take on it. She brings up the question of belonging and otherness in a unique and witty way. I was glad that this book didn’t fixate on the stereotypical ‘going back to my roots to find myself’ narrative. Instead, Wang’s protagonist in her own clever, funny but also fallible way highlights the complexity of living in two worlds and still not being defined by it. She is more than the sum of her parts.

What I loved most about this book though, is the way it weaves humour and emotional depth. This book literally had me laughing out loud on the metropolitan line to work in the morning. Which trust me you need, when you’re face in is in another man’s armpit and you’re trying to act normal…

Some Quotes I liked:

Catalysts make reactions go faster. They lower activation energy, which is the indecision each reaction faces before committing to its path.

Being in limbo doesn’t preclude us from sharing nice meals. In limbo, we still have to eat.

The optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees the glass half empty. The chemist sees the glass completely full, half in liquid state and half gaseous, both of which are probably poisonous

 

Review: Irenosen Okojie’s Butterfly Fish

Good Reads Says:

With wry humour and a deft touch, Butterfly Fish, the outstanding first novel by a stunning new writer, is a work of elegant and captivating storytelling. A dual narrative set in contemporary London and 18th century Benin in Africa, the book traverses the realms of magic realism with luminous style and graceful, effortless prose.

 

A couple of months back I read Irenosen Okojie’s short story collection Speak Gigantular and it blew me away. I was obsessed with all her characters and have wanted to read her debut novel Butterfly Fish ever since then.

I have wanted to write this ‘review’ for a while but have felt stuck because I just didn’t know where to start. It made me feel a lot of things and I had to put it down at points to take a breather (I should probably mention at this point that the book contains triggers for suicide, rape, incest and living with mental illness., basically a lot to process). After much introspection, I thought the easiest way to do it was to just tell people why I loved it so damn much! And obviously why I think you should read it:

  1. The writing!

Irenosen’s writing style is one of the most diverse I have read. While Irenosen’s lens in Speak Gigantular was razor sharp, Butterfly Fish has a richer prose. The author really takes her time to build her characters and gets you to invest in them. I really enjoyed Butterfly Fish and found it to be an immersive reading experience, I haven’t been fully consumed by a book and its characters in the way I did with Butterfly Fish in a while. So if you are looking for an immersive read to help you survive your commute to work this is the book for you.

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 Sci-fi Feminist retellings of the Ramayana : Manjula Padmanabhan’s Three Virgins and Other Stories

Manjula Padmanabhan’s Three Virgins and Other Stories (TVAOS), a collection of ten short stories, each one weirder – in a good way –  and bolder than the other.Reading this immensely diverse collection, I was struck by the author’s capacity to bring to life such a disparate range of images and narratives. From expat vampires in Delhi to a cyber-punk feminist retelling of the Ramayana, one thing that binds these distinct stories is Padmanabhan’s subversive slant. Each of the stories push the boundaries of ‘normal’ and question the rules of storytelling that we are so used to.

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Juliet Takes a Breath : The desperate Need for Intersectionality and Otherness

Gabby Rivera Juliet Takes a Breathe really blew me away. This book blew me away. In fact it hit me so hard that I had to take a reading break for two weeks and to fully process how beautiful this piece of writing is. Obviously, it has a bit of work to do, the ending felt a bit rushed to me but apart from that

This was a really personal, revealing and life affirming read for me. So much so in fact that I have been putting off writing about this for about three weeks because I wanted to get it right. I decided that the best way to tell about all the amazing things about this book was by breaking it down into ‘things I liked’ section.

So here goes, things I liked about this:

  1. Its good to shut-up the anti-diversity brigade

While the book is centred on Juliet, a lesbian who is also Latina, it does not fixate on this. I am neither gay nor Latina but I found myself fully relating to and enjoying Juliet’s journey. The preface especially broke my heart (in a really good way). For me, this book was also about a young woman figuring out her life and her politics. A book that everyone should read and appreciate.

So if you come across people who don’t see the value in diverse literature or feel that it ‘restricts their choice’, you need to give them a copy of this book.

  1. Feminism and Intersectionality

YES! This book perfectly explains why intersectionality is the key to life!!

It articulated very clearly something I have felt a long time about mainstream feminism but couldn’t put my finger on. The feeling you get when you are trying to reconcile the theory of feminism to your real life as a brown women in the western hemisphere. The feeling that you constantly contradicting yourself.

I have always had trouble figuring out whether I’m ‘doing it right’. If I am actually practicing and living a feminist life and not just ranting about it on this blog and elsewhere. Reading Juliet Takes a Breathe was like talking to friend who was going to through the same thing. It was reassuring. It is a really useful reminder that there is no such this as universal feminism. That the intersectionality of class, race, ethnicity, gender are not just side notes but important ways in which each of us experiences things

  1. Otherness

People that have read my blog before will notice that I am obsessed with the idea of Otherness. Of how as communities and individuals we draw illusionary circles around ourselves and call that Us and everyone outside it Them.

I was completely awestruck the first time I read Stuart Hall’s essay Culture, Identity and Diaspora. His statement that ‘Otherness is an internal compulsion’ is the most revealing but also conflicting thing I have ever come across. It showed me that systems of oppression – White hetero-patriarchy in the case of this book- are perpetuated at the level of thought and culture by recruiting the very people it oppresses to the do the dirty work for them. This was also extremely depressing. It made me realise that to break a system of oppression you are not only constantly struggling against that system but also yourself. When you think about it this way things become very bleak.

But I loved the way that Juliet’s narrative challenged this notion of Otherness. She is an active participant in her life and not a victim. This book is not a story about the struggles of a gay WOC but a story about a strong woman taking the reigns in her hand. Turning that internal feeling of otherness into something she can understand and using it to fuel her.

GO READ THIS BLOODY BOOK.