In the Media: 1st March 2015

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

I’ve spent a fair proportion of this week agog at some of the comment pieces, particularly in regard to the three girls from Bethnal Green who appear to be en route to Syria. Emma Barnett in the Telegraph wrote, ‘Stop pitying British schoolgirls joining Islamic State – they’re not victims‘; Grace Dent in the Independent said, ‘If teenage girls want to join Isis in the face of all its atrocities, then they should leave and never return‘; Mary Dejevsky wrote, ‘If Britons want to join Isis, let them go‘ in The Guardian and Allison Pearson said, ‘Let’s stop making excuses for these ‘jihadi brides‘ in the Telegraph. Judith Wanga responded on Media Diversified with, ‘The Denial of Childhood to Children of Colour‘, as did Chimene Suleyman with, ‘It’s Time To Talk About Why Our Young People Turn Against Their Country‘ and Nosheen Iqbal in The Guardian with, ‘The Syria-bound schoolgirls aren’t jihadi devil-women, they’re vulnerable children‘. Emma Barnett responded with ‘Racists are alive and well in Britain – but I’m not one of them‘ in the Telegraph. Chimene Suleyman also wrote, ‘‘Defining’ Terror, and Why ISIS Suits the West‘ on Media Diversified, prior to these most recent articles.

The Oscar ceremony was another place for some jaw-dropping comments. Megan Kearns wrote, ‘Patricia Arquette Undermined Her Own “Most Feminist Moment” of the Oscars‘ in Bitch Magazine; Betsy Woodruff commented, ‘The Gender Wage Gap Is Especially Terrible in Hollywood‘ on Slate; Maitri Mehta wrote, ‘Patricia Arquette Defends Her Oscars Backstage Comments On Twitter, But Still Misses The Point‘ on Bustle; Jenny Kutner also wrote about Arquette’s tweets on Salon, ‘Patricia Arquette doubles down on equal pay: “Why aren’t you an advocate for equality for all women?”‘; Amanda Marcotte wrote, ‘Patricia Arquette’s Feminism: Only for White Women‘ on Slate; Katie McDonough wrote, ‘“Fight for us now”: What Patricia Arquette got right (and wrong) about equal pay‘ on Salon. Brittney Cooper wrote, ‘Black America’s hidden tax: Why this feminist of color is going on strike‘ in Salon.

Remarks made by one television reporter about Zendaya Coleman’s locs prompted pieces by Loretta de Feo, ‘Why do we feel the need to taunt and judge black hair, rather than embrace it?‘ in Stylist; Jodie Layne, ‘Why Zendaya’s Response To Giuliana Rancic’s Awful ‘Fashion Police’ Comments Is Important‘ on Bustle, and Grisel E.Acosta wrote, ‘“Racism begins in our imagination:” How the overwhelming whiteness of “Boyhood” feeds dangerous Hollywood myths‘ on Salon.

The Brits were written about by Tracey Thorn in the New Statesman, ‘The Brits are so polite these days. One reason? There’s no bands left‘; Bidisha wrote, ‘Madonna is superhuman. She has to be to survive the ugly abuse‘ in The Guardian; while Salena Godden covered both the Oscars and the Brits in ‘Julianne Moore is 54. Madonna is 56.‘ on Waiting for Godden

Writing awards wise, the Sunday Times Short Story Award shortlist was announced and is dominated by women. As is the Walter Scott Prize longlist, released to the public for the first time.

There’s an entire series of articles currently being published in the Irish Times on Irish Women Writers. The link will take you to the round-up so far. While academic Diane Watt has just completed 28 days of LGBT book recommendations. You can read this week’s in a Storify here; links at the bottom of the page will take you to previous weeks.

And the woman with the most publicity this week is Kim Gordon. She’s this week’s New York Times ‘By the Book‘; there’s an excerpt from Girl in a Band in The Cut; you can listen to Gordon herself read an extract on Louder than War; there are five standout moments from her memoir on Slate, and in The New Yorker, Michelle Orange writes about ‘Kim Gordon, Kurt Cobain, and the Mythology of Punk‘.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

The lists:

Alarm Girl – Hannah Vincent

Her younger self would have been horrified by the scene. She had assumed her life would be more interesting than the life her parents lived and yet here she was, indoors on a sunny day in a terraced house in small-town England.

Indigo is 11. Her mum is dead. Her dad has moved to South Africa. She and her older brother Robin live with their grandparents in England. As the novel begins, Indigo and Robin have gone to visit their dad in South Africa for the first time since he moved. It’s the Christmas holidays.

Once I said to Nan Do you like Dad? She said Of course I like your dad, Indigo, he’s your dad, isn’t he? If I say something like that to Robin he tells me I’m shit-stirring and being a girl.

The narrative moves between several characters, allowing us to see the viewpoints of Valerie and Doug, Indigo’s grandparents, and also Karen, Indigo’s mum. But it is Indigo herself who tells the majority of the story and it’s clear she’s grieving and struggling to understand her dad’s decision to move to South Africa.

Indigo dreams about her mum, she keeps a scarf of her mum’s with her all the time, and on the first night at her dad’s, she wets the bed.

I said to Robin Do you think he’s going to talk to us about Mum? Robin said Shut the fuck up but he whispered it and I could tell he was thinking the same as me, which was Dad was going to give us a talk about you…Whenever I ask Robin why no one in our family talks about you he says it’s too sad when your Mum dies, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about her, but then he just says Not everyone is like you, Indigo and Don’t be so selfish.

Indigo’s exploration of the area her father lives in and her pushing of the boundaries he tries to impose on her while she stays with him is interesting and leads to a moment of real fear. However, it is Karen’s story which interested me more.

Karen’s story is told in fragments taken out of chronology so as to leave the reader in suspense as to how she died. As her tale unfolds, it’s clear how difficult she found everyday life while the reactions of people around her are often shocking and unsympathetic.

Writing from an adult’s point of view also allows Vincent to write passage like this:

The wind shrieked and she was afraid the flimsy walls might topple, afraid she herself would crack and topple. She imagined plaster and bricks tumbling around them, burying her and the children. The weight of the debris compressing her head from all sides would be a relief, balancing out the heaviness inside her mind.

Or perhaps the ferocious wind would catch the cottage and fling it into the sky. A powerful funnel would whisk all four of them into a vortex, swallowing them whole. Or else it might explode, the owners of the cottage having planted a bomb timed to go off at precisely this moment, combusting outwards, windows smashing, bright splinters of glass piercing her from all sides, slicing her skin and spiking her eyes, gashing the palms of her hands, stabbing her.

Alarm Girl is concerned with themes of mental health and grief, as well as the relationships between parents and children. Vincent writes convincingly in both a pre-adolescent and an adult voice and there are some powerful scenes in this promising debut. I look forward to reading whatever she does next.


Thanks to Myriad Editions for the review copy.