what I’m listening to at the moment

I’ve found lots of new and wonderful podcasts recently as well as enjoying some of my old favourites returning with new seasons, so I thought I’d do a run down of my favourite podcasts and episodes from the past few weeks. There’s a lot to get through, so I’ll try and keep the rambling to a minimum!

Homo Sapiens came back for season 4 with a new guest cohost alongside Chris Sweeney and it’s only the darling and fellow Scot, Alan Cumming. They make an excellent pair and it’s probably one of the podcasts I’m most excited to listen to every week, it’s always entertaining and hilarious (I could hear Alan Cumming saying ‘hilarious’ in my head as I typed it). This season the focus has been “icons” and boy let me tell you there have been some brilliant guests including Stephen Fry, Jeremy O.Harris, Justin Vivian Bond, Sadiq Khan and Munroe Bergdorf, and speaking of, Munroe has announced her new book out July next year titled Transitional which I’ll be preordering. The podcast is honest, fun, informative and with the help of Alan Cumming, just a little bit outrageous, what more could anyone ask for? I love the agony uncles section and anecdote roulette, especially since Alan has a story about everyone it seems, even the Obamas.

The Wind of Change podcast is an eight part series by the journalist Patrick Radden Keefe, who’s voice and tone reminded me a lot of Ronan Farrow’s so I’m wondering if it’s a pre requisite for writing for the New Yorker. The podcast takes on a rumour that Patrick heard from a friend many years ago that the power ballad Wind of Change by the (often cheesy) 80s metal band from Hanover in Germany, the Scorpions, was actually written by the CIA. And as if that wasn’t crazy enough, that it was written as an attempt to bring about the fall of the Soviet Union. Although it all seems very far fetched to begin with, the more the story goes on the more it seems like it would be even more insane if the CIA weren’t involved somehow, possibly not quite as directly as sitting down to write a heavy metal power ballad, but still. It’s a fun and mystifying little series that takes you on a trip through the Cold War, a rock festival in Moscow, a rather large scale drugs bust, a plane journey in which Ozzy Osborn knocks a toilet door down he’s that desperate and there’s even an appearance from young Vladimir Putin. I realised there was a lot I had to learn about that time period, and particularly the strange facts about what on Earth was going on. I’d definitely recommend it for some weird and yet wonderful escapism.

Intersectionality Matters with Kimberlé Crenshaw is probably the most informative podcast I listen to and should really be used in schools. As I’m sure many people will know, Crenshaw developed the theory of intersectionality and as well as all her other work around critical race theory and activism she’s now gone and made an easily accessible podcast for us all. I mean, there’s really no excuse for not educating ourselves with all the free content available these days. Every episode blows me away, but one in particular from last month that has been stuck in my mind ever since is episode 20, titled “India Kager: A Mother’s Story of Loss & Erasure”. The episode is heartbreaking and particularly hard to listen to and made me furious to no end. It’s important we hear about devastating stories like these as finding empathy will be the way through for many in seeing the problem for what it is and finding a way into anti racism work but also most importantly, so we don’t forget. This is even more of a problem when it comes to Black women who are killed by the police and then seen as merely “collateral damage”, which is what the Say Her Name movement hopes to challenge. The movement is talked about in this episode but is gone into in more depth in the next episode where Crenshaw is joined by multiple of the mothers and sisters of the movement. Hopefully people keep sharing these podcasts episodes and the stories within them so that they get the attention and outrage they deserve.

Doing It Right with Pandora Sykes is a new podcast from The High Low cohost that goes along with her new book How do we know we’re doing it right? Which I’m going to continue reading as soon as I finish writing this post. The podcast centres around what makes a good life and explores all sorts of things both big and small as, in the words of Pandora, a good life is made up of both. I really enjoyed the most recent episode with Rutger Bregman, who’s book Humankind I’m hoping to read soon, it was extremely hopeful and uplifting (his book is billed as the same) and takes on the myth of human beings being selfish savages at heart- I see you Dawkins, and I still agree with you on some things but not this- the most prominent example being Lord of the Flies, which I may be one of the few not to have read it in high school. The other guests so far have been Joe Lycett, Sinead Burke and Dotty Charles (Dotty’s episode on the Fortunately podcast was excellent as well) and all have covered completely different and wide ranging topics just like the book does. The book and podcast look to be an interesting and comforting duo and a lovely calm way in which to dissect our thoughts and just really have a good think about things and why we do them.

I found out about Hot Take when the podcast hosts, Mary Heglar and Amy Westervelt, were guests on the So Hot Right Now podcast (another climate podcast I’d recommend) and absolutely loved their energy around the topic and the lens through which they look at the climate crisis, that is, through intersectional feminism (no surprises there ay). They look at all the current developments in the media and in politics but most importantly, the way in which we talk about these types of issues, as in their words, we don’t make time to talk about the storytelling and in doing so are often missing out on the chance to take these conversations further and make sure they are helpful, productive and doing the most they can for the movement. With such a worrying subject matter, one often centred around the sadness of what is lost and what will be, it’s helpful to listen to all the thoughts, criticisms and suggestions the hosts have, making it much easier and more motivating through their enthusiasm and outrage. I absolutely adore their take no shit attitude and inclusive approach, as climate change is of course a problem for everyone that seeps into everything from racial injustice to gender inequality and the hunger crisis, and we need to tackle them all for true justice.

Might Delete Later is a new podcast from the sisters Gina and Stevie Martin all about our relationship with social media. Gina Martin- the activist and campaigner who made up skirting illegal- loves social media and Stevie Martin- the comedian who as she says, has had one viral tweet about bread- hates it. They bring interesting new guests on each week, such as Phil Wang, Nish Kumar and Jamie Windust, to talk about their first post, a post they regret and one that makes them proud. I’m really enjoying the nuanced conversations around social media and all the good and the bad as someone who is still trying to work out my own relationship with it and for a few months now have been taking a break from the likes of Twitter and Instagram. Twitter I feel I might not ever go back on, but Instagram I do kind of miss partly because I love to look at all the pretty things from bookstagrams to interior and plant photos but also as it makes it easier to keep up with the work by some of the wonderful people I follow and to show my support. But anyway, the podcast is funny and excellent entertainment while also being thought provoking and I’d say really important right now where it seems a lot of people are starting to rethink their relationship with social media and the divide between reality and our online selves.

How to Fail by Elizabeth Day is of course an extremely popular podcast but I’m going to talk about it anyway because I’ve loved series 8 that’s only just came to an end with a spectacular interview with Bernardine Evaristo. The podcast is structured around a guests three failures, which I’ve seen to be anything from the very darkest to the lightest, and goes into much much more. As many guests have said, it seems to turn into more of a therapy session. The podcasts whole mantra is that there is no such thing as a failure, just something to learn from and to put you on the right path and it makes for excellent listening, particularly with a woman like Bernardine Evaristo- who talks about her failure to become an actor, to drive from London to Australia and to be a lesbian. Some of my other favourite guests have been Samantha Irby, Julia Samuel, Marian Keyes, Andrew Scott, Jane Garvey, Lemn Sissay, Alain De Botton, and well, I could go on and on. There’s quite literally something for everyone.

We’re Having a Moment is the only podcast on this list that came out of, as the title implies, this moment in history surrounding the global pandemic and the mass outrage and protests that arose after the murder of George Floyd in America. The podcast is hosted by Baratunde Thurston (author of How to Be Black, and also I’d really recommend his ted talk), and at just 6 episodes long still manages to cover a hell of a lot and should be essential listening for all. Thurston looks at all different aspects of this current movement and gives his thoughts and analysis, which I could gobble up to no end, and provides a real place for learning and grounding when there’s already so much to take in. The first episode takes a look at Amy Cooper’s apology and her lack of recognition for the fact that, whether or not she had always seen the police as her protectors, Christian Cooper was not a threat, and then dives further into the use of her power and how that power could have and should have been used for something good and impactful. The look into how we use our power and privilege was something I hadn’t seen as much of in such depth and left me with a lot to think about. The other episodes go into the idea that there is a “right way” to protest, defunding the police, white solidarity and what we need to do moving forward. Gets to the point, is short and covers a broad spectrum of the different things going on during this ever changing time where we need to stay awake and observant to not let things fall back to how they were before.

So much for keeping the rambling to a minimum. And to think I was gonna talk about even more podcasts, it’s a good thing I managed to cut it down to 8. Anyway, as usual, I’m sure there will be another post filled with podcast recommendations soon because I’ve just got too many to talk about.
What podcasts are you enjoying at the moment? I know I don’t need anymore, but well, I’m still always looking for more.

—T

June books

I can hardly believe it’s July already, last month went by in a blur filled with amazing books, podcasts and music, but my favourite has to be Michaela Coel’s new tv drama I May Destroy You. It left me speechless too many times to count and was just amazing really. I wish I could make everyone watch it. The conversations around consent in all its forms were weaved throughout with such depth but yet just enough lightness and all that while being not in the least bit preachy. In only 12 episodes the show managed to cover so many different topics and most importantly, the nuances within them. Really highlighting all the different systems we face due to all our unique intersecting identities, showing that finding someone to blame for all the bad isn’t as simple as it first appears. I thought Coel did a really brilliant job of exploring how life goes on after a traumatic event and the ways in which such an event can continue to affect you in the joyous moments, the sad, and even the mundane. It felt like a piece of work which was a bit too perfect to be exist but it makes me feel a whole lot better about the world that it does. Back to the books though, I was a bit slow getting into my reading this month but I was speeding through during our short spell of good weather as all I ever want to do is read in the sun. Without further a do, let’s get into what I’ve been reading this month.

First up, Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, which is far too good for me to do any sort of justice. I’m not a big re-reader of books, but honestly this book was so full of life in only 400 or so pages that I feel like one read isn’t enough to take all that brilliance in. The book covers a different character’s life in each chapter (12 in total) and yet within such a small length of time Evaristo manages to give such a well rounded view that no character feels at all lacking. It truly left me feeling like I’d read a whole book on each character. Characters from other chapters pop up throughout and all of them are a little bit entangled in some way which is always fun to notice and pick up on when you notice someone you already know, or realise how it’s all linked. It all comes to a conclusion in the final chapter “The After Party” which just seemed like the perfect goodbye to all the characters you get to know while reading. All this wonderful writing and characterisation is enough that everyone should want to read it, but there’s also the diversity, with so many different life experiences, incidents, and people it felt real and fresh and also left me with even more of a longing for stories about people from all walks of life. It also left me feeling a bit extra miffed that Evaristo had to share the Booker prize as the book is so rich it really should have won on its own. Anyway in case it wasn’t obvious, I loved it.

This next book, Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid is more of a short story than a book at around only 100 pages long and is available on kindle or audible. I read it in one sitting in the bath as a Goodreads review recommended, although I didn’t listen to Fleetwood Mac while doing so, purely because I wouldn’t be able to concentrate as at all other times I’d love a bit of Stevie. It was a really satisfying little read and I always enjoy the impact of reading a book in one sitting (although I don’t manage that very often). I won’t say too much as the title speaks for itself, but the story is told through letters between a woman who finds out her husband is having an affair and the man who’s wife her husband is having an affair with. It’s an interesting layout and one that still manages to invoke a real sense of care for the characters in less than 100 pages. Which is testament to Jenkins Reid’s writing, which I knew I already adored from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, however I haven’t read Daisy Jones and The Six as I just wasn’t sure about the style of story telling but since abstract styles seem to be the writers strong point I might give it a go. If you’ve read that book, do let me know what you thought of it!

Next up, one of my favourite books of the year, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given. I did a full post on this which you can read here, but all I’ll say is it’s absolutely bangin’ in every way, and EVERYONE should read it.

I just knew, from reading the premise alone, that Hazel Hayes’ Out of Love was gonna mess me up, and it was done with so much warmth, wit and honest observations that it was even more heartbreaking and brilliant than I could’ve imagined. I read it pretty quickly as the love story told in reverse and the depth of the characters and their lives was enough to draw anyone right in with the need to know more. There was many a moment where a single line would leave me stunned and I’d just have to close the book and take it in for a minute. Seeing their love from the blossoming romance of their first few meetings after knowing how it ends was a real kick in the teeth, but perfect for anyone who likes to skip to the last chapter. I really enjoy books that work through snapshots of a life, showing the amazing moments and the completely ordinary, similar in that vein to David Nicholls’ One Day and maybe even Sally Rooney’s Normal People, strangely all three books are likely to leave you in tears as well. But it’s so much more than the heartbreak, I’d really recommend it as an engrossing piece of fiction, a perfectly sized chunk of life to jump into.

My next bit of non fiction, which I listened to on audible, was Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené. I’d already been listening to their new podcast of the same name (and loving it) and had been meaning to get round to the book for a while so thought it would be a good one to listen to. With the tagline “The Black Girl Bible”, I was of course informed of a lot of new things before even beginning to learn about them, both due to me being white but also just from the fact I don’t live and work near the social hub that is London but instead rural Scotland, and I imagine growing up Black in the country could require a whole other bible. In just one (8 hour long audio) book they managed to cover such a range of topics with interviews from women from all areas of work and points in life, covering everything from growing up, education, the workplace, relationships and remembering to take care of yourself. It’s crazy to think how much of a gap in the market there is for books like this given the great number of books out there on existing and thriving as a white woman. I loved the writing style of both women, as they managed to go over all the statistics and facts, and then analyse all of it while never losing the readers attention. It felt thorough and thoughtful and was filled to the brim with conversation starters that everyone needs to think about in the discussion around race and women.

After reading Holly Jackson’s first novel (which I talked about in my May books) I had to get my hands on the sequel Good Girl, Bad blood. Just like the first it was another perfect YA mystery, a genre which I hadn’t read much from in a while but recently seem to be rather enjoying for some good escapism. The book follows on from the aftermath of the teen sleuth, Pippa Fitz-Amobi, solving the town’s murder case. Pippa has started a true-crime podcast (which would be why there are earphones on the cover which with my eyesight I thought was rope) following the trial of the previous case but it’s not long before there’s a missing person case she has to grapple with taking on, especially given its close to home. It’s full of leads, suspicions and plenty of twists and turns and as always, the perfect big reveal. There isn’t really much else I can say without spoiling it, but man it’s just a really fun enticing read.

The last book I read in June was Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. I’ve had this book on my to read list for a while and I’m glad I managed to buy it before it sold out in a lot of places. It’s certainly not a book to rush through, more one to read chapter by chapter and digest in between because boy is there a lot to take in and think about more deeply. The quote on the cover from Elizabeth Gilbert that “[her] wish is that every white woman who calls herself a feminist will read this book”, sums up the absolute necessity of this book given that so many white feminists think of themselves as progressive and aware without actually listening to the people they claim to care about. Something that I’ve seen a lot online recently (I’m looking at a certain female Labour MP in the UK that I had such high hopes for) that is doing a hell of a lot more harm than good and yet is so easy to fix if everyone was just willing to take a step back, listen, and preferably read books like this one. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever came out of a book feeling like I’ve gained quite so much newfound knowledge, understanding and just downright horror at many of the stats and stories. Kendall really highlights the fact that any issue facing women, is an issue feminism must be fighting for, which seems obvious but yet is so rarely put into practice. One such example being that the same outrage we feel at new abortion restrictions in an American state needs to be applied to the hunger crisis that disproportionately affects Black women in the US. This book can open so many minds, just gotta get it into everyone’s hands.

So that’s my wrap up for June, a tad late I must say since we’re already half way through July as I fell behind on my writing for a few weeks, but I made it eventually. I’ve got some posts in the works for the coming weeks that I’m enjoying writing, including which podcasts I’m listening to at the moment and some great paperback recommendations for what’s left of summer, so hopefully I can get back into the flow of writing again. I’m now going to go get stuck into Pandora Sykes’ new book How do we know we’re doing it right?, and there’s a lot of other preorders been arriving this month so I’ve got lots to look forward to. Hope you all have a great reading week too!

—T

women don’t owe you pretty

Florence Given’s debut, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty had to be my most anticipated non fiction book of the year, and it was everything I imagined and much, much more.

To quote the description on the back, it is the

“ultimate book for anyone who wants to challenge the narratives supplied to us by the patriarchy. It will teach you how to protect your energy, tell you that you are the love of your own life, and that today is a wonderful day to dump them. Florence Given is here to remind you that you owe men nothing, least of all pretty

and the book also comes with a warning:

“Contains explicit content (and a load of uncomfortable truths)”

I first came across Given and her work on Instagram just after the time I would’ve needed her most, with a reminder of who the hell I am from a dramatic leopard print clad blonde woman being exactly what I was missing in the years after finishing school. Turns out though, I still had so much more to learn and gain, particularly from her words and illustrations in this book, even if I was already back to my impassioned feminist ways. Now I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I am obsessed with different types of books and this one is one of the most pleasing and downright stunning hardbacks I’ve ever owned.

From the lovely material of the cover…

and the perfect leopard print end papers…

to the bangin’ illustrations…

and use of colour throughout. 

All that, plus so much education for living as a woman in this odd world we exist in or as Maya Angelou would say, making sure that our

“mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”

What more could one possibly ask for? Well probably equal pay, efficient combating of climate change and maybe even an end to world hunger, but in terms of what can be contained in a book, it sure packs a punch. Some chapter headings include:

  • refuse to find comfort in other women’s flaws
  • protect your energy
  • maybe it’s a girl crush, maybe you’re queer
  • if it’s not a “fuck yes”, it’s a no
  • accountability
  • check your privilege

I spent most of my time while reading this book having to stop, sit back and take some time to think about what I’d just read. There’s a LOT to take in and even more to analyse, to apply, and to rethink within yourself and the way you look at others. I wish I could give this book to every young girl, as I know reading it when I was younger would’ve saved me a hell of a lot of time. It’s one I think I’ll go back to again and again for reminders and guidance and I doubt I’m going to stop recommending it any time soon.

I really adored all the writing on learning and bettering ourselves while being who we truly want to be and not toning that down for other people (and the patriarchy). It was incredibly reaffirming to read Given’s experiences of changing and realising what she wants out of life and the often textbook reaction of others to people who are coming into their own. Also that it’s normal and makes sense to be embarrassed by your past self, it just proves you’re learning and improving. And this knowledge also comes with a whole lot of uncomfortable realisations about not just your own actions, but how other people have treated you. The book certainly isn’t going to sort everything but it’s a starting point for putting the work in and a great help in pointing out the social constructs we’ve been taught to believe as immutable facts of life. Which for the most part, are just holding us back and suppressing all the different unique amazing parts of women and their minds, and just people in general, because constructs keep us all in boxes, just some of us are in more privileged boxes than others.

And would you look at that, a handy little reminder for a certain author to please act with kindness as what the world definitely doesn’t need is her using her platform to cause more harm to human beings who are already dealing with enough shite from her fellow TERFs. Thankfully I’ve not been on twitter in months (as Given advices, I’ve stopped scrolling in the mornings) so I haven’t been ranting so much into the void, but I’m still angry and ready to shout whenever my voice may be needed. It’s a shame she who must not be named doesn’t take a break as well.

Back to some compassion though, this new normal seems like the perfect time for relearning what we thought we knew about society and the pressures put upon us and in doing so finding out so much more about ourselves. The book couldn’t come at a better time for a fresh start with a newfound sense of self-awareness and privilege and what we can do with that. And will likely also bring a hell of a lot of angry feminists to the surface. Be scared.

As Florence Given says, 

“Feminism is going to ruin your life (in the best way possible)”

Read the book, I promise you won’t regret it. Well you might for a bit because of all those uncomfortable truths but it gets better and that growth is worth it.

—T

race, colonialism and fast fashion

For a while now I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid fast fashion as much as possible. I’m not sure what or who first opened my eyes to the destruction that fast fashion causes but I imagine it was through many a podcast episode about sustainability. More recently though, I was listening to an episode of Layla F. Saad’s Good Ancestor podcast featuring Aja Barber the writer and stylist who speaks a lot about fashion in general, but most importantly for this interview, how colonialism and racism have been allowed to openly continue through the means of fast fashion. The episode itself is one of the most interesting podcast episodes I’ve listened to in a while, it showed quite how much I still had to learn about the effects of both the way we consume and where we consume from.

When it comes to tackling the problem of fast fashion, Aja Barber makes it clear that it’s about punching up when in the interview she says,

“It is not your job to tell someone with less economic disposable income than you that they should be buying from all these ethical brands… it’s one of those things where I’m never ever going to look at the single mother of two and ask her why she’s buying her kids shoes from primark”

And I think that is an important distinction to be made, as in moving forward focusing the blame on select individuals does nothing for the cause. And although things of course need to be done on an institutional level within the fashion industry itself, as Barber points out in the interview, we all have a part to play because of the power we have through demand and supply which can have a ripple effect. This is already being seen with billion dollar companies like H&M worrying about their future and trying to put the blame on consumers for not buying enough and implying that this is what is causing more poverty, which is of course completely false. For those of us with some sort of disposable income, Barber points out how much is wasted just simply in the current culture of buying a new outfit for every night out and wedding, a trend that is particularly amplified by photos on social media. This is completely unsustainable for a number of obvious reasons, but one that struck me far more than the effects on the planet and climate, was about the factory workers themselves who are having to make clothes at an unbelievable speed to keep up with the demand for far more clothes than we could ever even use while making very little money, working long hours and having very few breaks. This is insane to even think about. But gets far worse after Barber brings up the deeply upsetting statistics on the number of people who have died in factory fires and collapsed buildings due to unsafe working conditions and improper regulations. One incident where a factory collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013 and trapped those inside led to the death of 1,134 people. When I searched online for the factory fire in India they referenced, so many different incidents came up I couldn’t even find the exact one. Which in itself is horrifying. And all this so we in the West can have a whole new outfit for under £20. This being a prime example of the “us and them” rhetoric, where it’s seen as a shame that this happened but almost as if it’s necessary and unavoidable. As Saad puts it, it’s

“like Black and Brown people are just seen as disposable people”

The idea that this is unavoidable is completely untrue, and just utterly terrifying that this murder that brands get away with- even though they know their demands are too much and are causing these dangerous situations- is still seen as acceptable in our “oh so progressive” 21st century society. In the interview they also reference a map of the current fashion trade that was made by Celine Semaan, who is a guest on a previous podcast episode, which has unmistakably similar trading routes to the colonialist trade of the not so distant past. So today we are still unfairly exploiting other countries for their resources and their work force, often making it seem as if it is just an inevitable fact of society that we must outsource to other countries for all the dangerous and exploitative labour. All to keep up with our ever increasing appetite for cheap, quickly made material goods that won’t last, and then we even go as far as to dump this waste that we build up back on other countries for them to deal with once we’re done with it.

Barber also goes into the common misconception that fast fashion serves the poor and that sustainable ethically produced fashion is only for the rich. Which as she points out, when we buy a cheaply made new dress from Zara which costs £69 (or above), this is hardly serving those on the poverty line. Not to mention the very point of sustainable fashion is that you buy something made of good quality material that lasts. So when putting this into practise, we can stop buying for the sake of it and instead save up for an item we really love, building a wardrobe full of long lasting items you treasure, rather than a new wardrobe every season. This is something I’ve been trying to do more and more, and it’s not difficult when there’s so many wonderful independent sustainable brands out there, many of which can be found on instagram, two of my favourite shops are The Hippie Shake (my FAV for wonderful 70s prints) and Lucy and Yak (you’ll very rarely see me without my dungarees on) and not to mention the growing number of online second hand stores. Only buying things that need replacing or that I really love and don’t already have and going out of my way to look for the right thing has led to me falling in love with fashion in a way I never did in the past. Obviously being able to do this is a privilege in itself and I should add that I don’t buy new clothes all that often. And since, for the majority of us, buying fast fashion tends to end up with us buying more, particularly more than needed, this leads to it not turning out so cheap after all. Another important point Barber makes is that just because a brand is sustainable and/or ethical, doesn’t mean it’s inclusive. It’s been widely known for a while that buying second hand and thrifting is far more difficult for those outwith the so called “straight sizes”. And independent brands need to be held accountable for this just as much as the big ones, as that’s the only way we can ALL move forward away from a wasteful society.

It felt like such a necessary and important chat especially as we come out of lockdown which for many of us- both due to the lack of shops, and financial worries- put a stop to the usual steady consumerism we’ve been taught to think of as normal. And since we managed okay without buying many new items of clothing over the last few months, maybe we could keep that practise going forward and rethink the way we view fashion and consumerism in the broader picture. This has become even more pressing now with the UK government asking people to go out and shop for Britain, as Lucy Siegle talks about in a recent episode of the podcast Outrage and Optimism, where she describes their current motives as

“a disgusting dereliction of duty which turns citizens into consumers and consumption is their only worth”

This being a step in the complete opposite direction from that of one focussed on green recovery as many people had expected and hoped. And not to mention it’s simply a really dangerous narrative to be encouraging considering the economic impact this pandemic has had on many individuals and the residual impact it’s going to have on younger generations for years to come, so wanting us all to just spend, spend, spend, just seems entirely thoughtless. There’s a lot to be gained by podcast episodes like the ones I’ve mentioned, and so many more crucial points are made and topics discussed than the few I’ve mentioned here. I’d also recommend checking out Aja Barber’s work on Instagram and through her Patreon as I think this is a super good place to start given that a lot of people feel helpless when it comes to racism and climate injustice. Clothes are something the majority of us buy, and something we can all personally make an impact on through our own purchases, spreading awareness and holding brands both big and small accountable for their sustainability, ethics and inclusivity.

—T

my summer reading list and thoughts on the importance of fiction

Early on in June, Bernardine Evaristo (Author of the Booker prize winning novel Girl, Woman, Other which I’ve just finished reading and was utterly captivated by) wrote a piece for British Vogue on the importance of inclusive publishing, which covered why it’s up to the perpetrators within to fix the lack of diversity rather than those on the outside, why we must read fiction that goes far further than just stories of Black pain, and also highlighted the ways in which fiction is important and can often be a key part in our learning and understanding alongside the specific anti-racist non-fiction work. Evaristo puts it perfectly when she says

“We know that people who read fiction are more empathetic because they are well-practised in stepping into the shoes of fictional characters who are different from themselves. This is not to say that novelists write to educate people, but we do accept that this might be byproduct of our creative endeavours. As novelists, we envision the intimate realities of our characters, try to capture the essence of who they are, test their inner strength through which they grow and transform during the course of the story. The best writers create characters from a place of compassion and insight, because we are all multi-faceted beings with strengths and weaknesses and everything in between.”

This I felt was a much needed reminder, especially while I was coming up with my summer reading list. I’ve always felt that my openness to change and ability to see things from a different perspective- especially when seeing through the social constructs and binary way of looking at the world which we’re so often taught is just the natural way of things and a universal truth- comes from my love of fiction, from early childhood I’ve been jumping into the minds of characters who’s lives on the surface share no similarities to my own and yet, somewhere along the line finding our shared humanity. Admittedly, in the early days a lot of these characters would’ve been written by white men, but I’ve never been one for only reading about people who look like me so I thankfully branched out into different authors, at one point making a conscious decision to read more works by women and now I just naturally gravitate towards these books. This isn’t to say that my book shelves are as accurate a representation of the world as they could be. I might have dealt with the sexism problem and have far less White writers than I used to but as an intersectional feminist I know there’s so much more to be done, especially when it comes to branching out from heteronormative, cisgendered, and non-disabled characters. And like Evaristo said, fiction isn’t written for our education, reading non-white authors isn’t simply for ticking a box or “diversifying”, it’s for the pleasure of having even more amazing writing and stories. Reading great stirring fiction filled with inspiring and complicated characters while growing up has allowed me to learn about different time periods, classes, cultures and races and although I can never fully understand the experiences out with my own, I know that when looking at those around me I can see that some people find it far more difficult than others when trying to wrap their heads around the idea of privilege or having less of an “us” and “them” mentality. This often shows that simply never having to think about something, due to privilege, can lead to a real lack of empathy and a tendency to deem those that don’t look or sound exactly like you as other, a belief which can be hard to change or reverse. Because of this I’m so grateful for what reading has given me and many others around the world, as empathy is going to be an absolute necessity when standing in solidarity with marginalised communities as well as in moving forward to create a better world. I hope then, that as well as doing the work and reading the fantastic non-fiction on offer, that Bernardine Evaristo’s words will remind us all of the importance of fiction and its ability to show that even in the stories furthest from what we know, there are far more similarities than differences to be found.

Now if you’ve managed to make it through my rambling thoughts, here’s what I’m planning to read this summer, including some books I’ve been meaning to read for a while and plenty of preorders that I can’t wait to receive.

Florence Given’s Women Don’t Owe You Pretty is possibly the book I’ve been most excited for this year. I’m half way through it already and all I can say is buy it now, it’s the book all women need whether we know it or not. Also the illustrations are perfect and it’s the most pleasing feeling book (I’ll explain more when I do a full post on it).

Hazel Hayes’ Out of Love sounds like it’s going to rip my heart out and leave me a wreck with a love story in reverse but I’m ready for it, as was Aisling Bea according to the quote on the cover. I know it’s gonna be whip smart and full of truth and emotion.

Candice Brathwaite’s I am Not Your Baby Mother is currently a bestseller and all I seem to see are people raving about it. Far more than a motherhood memoir, the book covers everything from the way motherhood is shown in the media to micro-aggressions and knife crime. I find Brathwaite to be hilarious and witty in every interview I’ve listened to, speaking eloquently on such important subjects and also, her joy is infectious. I’d recommend following her on Instagram too.

Holly Jackson’s Good Girl, Bad blood, the sequel to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is gonna be fricking amazing if it’s anything like the fun mystery of the first novel, set around another missing person case as the characters are busy getting on with making a true crime podcast, hopefully a perfect entertaining summer read.

Lemn Sissay’s My Name Is Why is coming out in paperback form on the 2nd of July and sounds utterly breathtaking and heartbreaking in equal measure. I love Sissay’s writing already and the story of his adoption and mistreatment at the hands of the care system sounds like an anger inducing but nonetheless hopeful, and as always, beautiful read.

Meryl Wilsner’s Something to Talk About sounds like a super fun romance, it’s set in Hollywood and centred around the rumours which start to spread about two women who work together and their relationship towards each other, and follows them as they realise the rumour might not be such a crazy idea.

Nikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism has been on my list a while and now it’s sold out in a lot of the usual places so I’m glad I managed to get it just in time, it’s gonna be an important one for White women who consider themselves feminists like myself, and a reminder of the need for understanding and being aware of the intersections between sexism, race, and class.

Emma Gannon’s Olive is out on the 23rd of July and from what I’ve seen already has amazing reviews from lots of other authors I love. I’ve loved Gannon’s writing in the past and I’m excited to see what she does with her first novel and the topic of being a modern woman.

Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You is a book that I seem to keep hearing about it, and after listening to many an interview with Samantha Irby, I can safely say I desperately want to be her friend and I just know she’s gonna leave me in fits of laughter with this book. I truly admire her openness and honesty even when it comes to the more embarrassing parts of life.

Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give has been very popular for a while now, especially since the movie of the same name, but as I’ve only recently started getting back into reading YA novels it passed me by until now. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this book tackles a multitude of issues head on with nothing held back. It’s probably one of the fiction reads I’m most excited for arriving.

Pandora Sykes’ How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? & Other Essays on Modern Life is out on the 16th of July and looks to be full of interesting and thoughtful observations and many interrogations into how we’re living life in this ever changing world. I imagine it’ll spark lots of thoughts and discussions and (I hope) provide some much needed reassurance as well.

Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing has been on so many book lists for what feels like a very long time, and I’m finally getting round to it. Almost every review I’ve seen includes the words “beautiful” or “astonishing” and it appears to be a coming of age style mystery centred around nature, you can’t possibly go wrong with that.

Isabel Ibañez’s Woven in Moonlight has the most beautiful cover which drew me to it in the first place but the YA Latin America set story sounds truly gorgeous and filled with vivid magical adventure. The story itself is a stand alone but the world its set in is going to be part of a series so I can only imagine how evocative the setting is going to be.

Layla F. Saad’s Me and White Supremacy seems to be an absolute must read, said to be not just a book you read but a book that you do. An eye opening read that every one of us needs for understanding our privilege and the racism within and around all of us. I’m ready to get stuck in.

Kate Weinberg’s The Truants is the 3rd mystery coming of age style book on this list and sounds like a great thriller to get lost in. The protagonist is starting her first year of uni and trying new things for the first time which seems to take a wickedly dark turn as secrets start to come out within her new circle of friends.

Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library comes out the 20th of August, a lovely little birthday treat for me as I adore Haig’s fiction and this sounds magical from the title alone, with a winding story line involving the different lives the protagonist could’ve lived, all to be found in the library between life and death. What’s more to love than a book involving books?

As you can see I’ve got a lot of great reading to look forward to over the next couple of months, I hope that you too are finding books that you can’t wait to get stuck into! I really love preordering and having books arriving months down the line, I’d say it’s a lovely surprise but that would be lying as I’m afraid I just can’t help checking when they’re on their way. Which books are you looking forward to this summer? Let me know, as there’s far too many amazing books coming out this year and I know I’ll have missed many that I’d love.

In relation to Bernardine Evaristo’s article, the recent hashtag, “publishing paid me” has shown the stark disparities in the advances given to Black authors in comparison to White authors. It was a glaring reminder of how much is still to be done in even the seemingly more “progressive” areas of work. Here’s a link to a crowdfunder for inclusive publishers, which if you can would be a great place to donate! And if not, as readers there’s already so much we can do, we have the power to show publishers where the demand is and in turn show, at the very least, the profit to be gained by investing in stories by Black authors.

—T