Tag Archives: reading

Companion Texts, or, How Good Books Saved My Life Thanks

14 Jul

Hey! I know it’s been a while, like literally years! Hi! I don’t know if you read this anymore but! I feel smarter now! Qualified to write! I am nineteen and off to university to do medicine and to pay a lot of money to stop thinking as much for myself and maybe also learn something about bones, but I feel prepared for it. Like my life is on track. Like I know who I am.

And why might that be?

It is my accumulated hoard of books, books.

(Also, like, life experience and better mental health. There are many things.)

They are my children (and somehow also my parents?). My paper sorority. My boxing gloves. My teachers. And, as Sara Ahmed puts it, my “companion texts”.

Companion texts guide you, wait to be referred to in times of trouble when none of your friends, maybe, know, but the living paper holds the answer.

They do not have to be feminist in an academic sense, a weighty sense, but when I think of these I think of writing that inspires me to be strong. Stronger. Enjoyable to read, a breeze, does not mean that it isn’t educational. Some of the best lessons are through humour.

Reading is so good for me because it feels like an active process. When I went through a phase of writing out endless lists of Pros and Cons about myself to Truly Understand Who I Am, No For Real This Time, I would always write “reader” on the good side. I take it in and churn it and the knowledge hardens like a fist.

I must thank my older sister for a large proportion of this list. Thanks! However, I can also thank myself for wanting to learn and making it my hobby to stretch out my mind and love myself when I could easily not. Thanks, me!

So – I recently had this conversation with a friend on a train. A male writer who is famous.  She loves him. I have tried three of his novels and am Uninspired. She is trying to convince me and I am talking out why I don’t want to be convinced.

I realised that – and this almost certainly makes me a Nasty Feminist™ (how dare I let my politics interfere with my appreciation of art?) – beyond any artistic concerns  what really Ground My Gears was the blandness and predictable perspective of the inevitably male protagonist. He dreams after women, projects his everything onto them, hopes that they will sort out his life and its beigeness without contributing anything himself.

I said, hey, maybe this is why I don’t really read books written by men any more!

It clicked into place.

Once I thought this, other thoughts followed as they are wont to do.

  • Is this why I haven’t been enjoying the Classics™ like I used to?
  • Is this why all the books I’ve read recently have been by women?

And then the meta of:

  • Is this why I am saying sorry less?
  • Is this why I am getting into more fights?
  • Is this why I am less craving of approval?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have moved towards and am gravitating towards women and PoC and queer writing to help understand the world. The new views split apart what we know. What I know. As a white woman there are lots of worlds that I don’t know, and literature helps me to understand them and grow accordingly.

My list as follows consists of what I have read that I think falls into this category – of strength giving, teaching, world opening. If you have any others I would like to know. And I hope this lists keeps extending through my life, amen.

  • Living a feminist life, Sara Ahmed.

Because this book basically inspired me to start this list I have to put it first. So. So good. It made me get into my first argument with my dad about him speaking over the female members of my family. So make of that what you will. But! I resurfaced incandescent from reading it!

  • Anything by Octavia Butler. Especially Dawn and

As well as being compulsive reads, the science fiction is remarkable for its 1) brown woman characters 2) really smart explorations of the world we are falling into. Exactly what sci fi should be!!

  • The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin.

Especially the last one! Amazing amazing fantasy but the last in the series just puts a Big Ol’ Dollop of all the women we needed in it, and IMO the best.

  • Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™, Donna J. Haraway.

It’s technical and you might need to read it with a glass of water and a dictionary, but for me as a prospective doctor being introduced to the idea that science is not infallible (!!) and that it is constructed, like anything else, by history and culture, was really important to think about!

  • Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde.

I started reading this again after receiving it for Christmas and devouring it in one (1) sitting. Yes. Yes, yes.

  • A little life, Hanya Yanagihara.

TW: graphic descriptions of sexual abuse and child abuse. Fucking heartbreaking. I cried in work reading this, but delightfully my manager had read it too and understood the struggle.

  • Fun Home, Alison Bechdel.

A Classic. Subtle family and art and everything and

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi.

One of the first books I read that changed how I thought about reading. So fun! Like a friend telling a good story and you gasp and cry! So good to read as a 12 year old and now as a 19 year old and hopefully again and again until I’m 80!

  • The mushroom at the end of the world, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing.

About mushrooms (matsutake to be precise) but also about everything that connects humans with nature and commodities and culture.

  • Are Prisons Obselete?, Angela Y. Davis.

Small but groundbreaking. Filled with restrained and measured anger at a system we cope with because we haven’t the bravery for anything else.

  • Staying with the trouble, Donna J. Haraway.

We cannot give up. We have to stay with it, and work with it, and hope. Whether it’s the environment or capitalism, the ways that we have destroyed the world can be not reversed but acknowledged, and to survive means finding radically new ways of doing it.

  • Beloved, Toni Morrison

Like a piece of poetry. Like a spell. Thank you. Can’t believe its my first Toni Morrison book but ya gotta start somewhere I guess.



Fudge yeah books

9 Apr

Jelly speaking.

I read, probably (definitely) too much for my own good. When I am in school, a good deal of my brain power is spent wondering whether I can sneak a book under my desk. This has, understandably, gained me a reputation as nerd among my classmates and family, but popular culture now says nerds are cool, so I’m safe. Reading is definitely sexy.

It’s half term right now, and I know that I have spent a worrying proportion of it escaping from my friends and family trying to find a quiet place to read. Recently, however,  I’ve been reading more than Harry Potter and my ever-beloved Terry Pratchett. For the second time I’ve tried to read the classics that my book mad older sister and English teacher have passionately recommended to me, and I don’t know, this time round it clicked. Not everything, I grant you, but in the past couple of weeks I have devoured my first Woolf, tried George Eliot and read Jane Austen all over again.

It’s just something about another world and the feel of ink upon my questing eyeballs, where no-one can judge me and and I can think whatever I want to think. I’ve loved it since I was small. I like to learn subconsciously and to get that obscure reference or even make some of my own. I like it when you can talk anxiously about a book character with someone you hardly know and imagine them anyway you want. I like the way books can start wars or revolutions or make me cry or change somebody’s mind. I am a passionate advocate of the written word.

Just to annoy all of you book purists out there, I do own a Kindle, gifted to me by my parents. The greatest thing about it is probably the free/very cheap books. This means I can read loads of classics which I never would have bothered to buy otherwise. It still amazes me that you can buy the entirity of Charles Dickens for free! Books like To The Lighthouse, the Odessey, Pride and Prejudice (along with anything you can imagine which is a classic) are there at the click of a button. At the risk of sounding like a Amazon salesperson, honestly, it’s great.

I know that Lilipop doesn’t read as much anymore, because she is so insanely busy all of the time changing the world and creating sparkly rainbows, but we both still really enjoy ink and paper (or a Kindle screen) for the freedom it brings. Read. It is the greatest gift, which is why education is so important. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had been denied this skill because of my gender, or the colour of my skin, or my wealth. This is what I preach, people, and I pity the fool who doesn’t get it.

Jelly’s Feminism

25 Nov

Jelly speaking:

I consider myself a feminist. yet I’m not a ‘traditional’ feminist. By this, I mean that I’m not a patriarchy bashing bra-burning (although of course this never actually happened and was bigged up by the sexist press) hairy lady.

Lilipop is a lot more passionate about the cause than I am, and I admire her for this and I think she is brave for really showing what she’s about, although personally I think that I am way too lazy for this whole-hearted attack. My interpretation of feminism is more toned down – I try to be funny and somehow meld it into the part of myself that wants to wear make-up and be skinny and be cool. This seems like an impossible task, as indeed it is, but it works because the other part of me cares about human rights and the LGBT movement and having hairy armpits and reading Freud in my spare time.

I’ve been a feminist for a while now, although it’s only recently that I have bceome more clued up on it, more so than just a vague ‘sexism is shit’ feeling. Twitter in general has really helped with this. The Twitter Feminist Youth Army has given me support in finding out what it means and what feminism stands for. More than a few of my hopeful tweets asking for helpful girl-power links have been answered with truly interesting stuff. Whoo! The internet is truly a blessing!

As much as I love Lilipop (Lilipop: Love you too Jelly!), we are different on this point. Despite the fact that we both go to girl’s schools, she is a lot more open about her beliefs. If I tried that in my school (as indeed I have) I would get a lot of weird looks and general ‘WTF is she doing?’ feelings, and although I know that I shouldn’t care about this, I do, and it is one of the points that I need to buck up on (Lilipop: Also, my school is a lot bigger so no one really knows who I am and therefore doesn’t care it my legs are smooth, hairy or purple. Jelly’s school is a lot smaller so she would probably get more shit than I do) . If someone says something sexist, I will shout it out though. My stance on this has created a few moments of awkwardness with some of my closest friends, and although I don’t like this for the gap it creates between us, it does let me see where we really stand. For example, I was listening to Santa Baby with a few friends as part of the whole ‘IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY FOR CHRISTMAS MEDLEYS’ mentality I like to cultivate and I remarked, casually I thought, upon the sexism of the song. I mean, come on, it’s talking about how she will exchange sex for a convertible. I softened the blow with a remark about how Santa was never meant to be thought of that way. My friend turned round, eyes blazing, and said ‘Just shut up with your feminism already! It’s really boring! Just relax!’

My view about this sort of thing is that sexism starts in little things like that, and that sexism can only be truly got rid of if we spot it in anything at all!

I was first introduced to feminism by my sister. When smaller, I asked why she had hairy armpits. She replied it was because she was a feminist and didn’t beleive hair was weird. As a hairy and unsure preteen, I was hooked. She showed me Rookie, and I learnt that feminism was for everyone and above all it was fun! She gave me long talks about how I could be, and I should be, whatever the heck I wanted to be. She offered me her expansive collection of intellectual and dusty books with names like Breast Stories and Socialism and Capitalism for the Intelligent Lady. I absorbed and read and listened to Le Tigre and to Lilipop and woke up one day and realised that sexism is absolute bullshit.

It wasn’t quite like that really. In fact, a lot more of my enlightenment was due to the devoted efforts of Lilipop upon my ignorant ears, which I’m sure she’d be delighted to tell you all about.

So. Yeah. That is my shit done. Feminism gets me angry and happy and wanting to do something, and I feel it’s got to be for real if it can do that to an unsure lazy teen who can hardly be bothered to make toast. I’m sticking to my guns here on this one.

Tell me about your feminist enlightenment stories! Tell me about cool stuff you’ve read recently about feminism! Tell me about lady news! Don’t tell me anything at all! It’s your choice, and when you get down to it, it’s your rights.
(Lilipop:If you do choose to tell us cool stuff, you can leave a comment or there is an email address to contact us with on the Contact Us page)

Jelly out.

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