In the Media: October 2015, Part One

In the media is a fortnightly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous fortnight 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. I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely and the categories used are a guide, not definitives.

In the media is back in a slightly altered format. You might have spotted a change in the opening paragraph – this feature will now appear fortnightly rather than weekly. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be bigger than it was before, however. When I started this feature, the plan was to focus on fiction writers with published books but as I started to read more widely, I realised how many brilliant women columnists and features writers there are and it seemed ludicrous not to include them. I want to keep supporting them so you’ll notice as you scroll down that I’ve reduced the number of categories but I’ve added a regular columnists category to link to those writers who are consistently good/interesting.

This fortnight’s been all about whitewashing. First there was the Sufragette film which ignored any women of colour involved in the movement. Anita Anand asks ‘Were the Suffragettes racist?‘ in the Telegraph. Victoria Massie tells us about ‘3 black women who fought on the front lines for women’s suffrage‘ on NTRSCTN and a piece on Asian Suffragettes on British Protest at Home and Abroad was highlighted. Eesha Pandit writes, ‘The discomfiting truth about white feminism: Meryl Streep, Amy Poehler & the movement’s long history of racial insensitivity‘ on Salon while Henna Zamurd Butt asks, ‘So Nadiya won the Great British Bake Off, why the big deal?‘ on Media Diversified and Nadia Shireen says, ‘Why the world needs more Nadiyas‘ in The Pool.

And then there was Meg Rosoff who said,“there are not too few books for marginalised young people”. This came at the same time Leila Rasheed posted, ‘A New Scheme Hopes to Promote BME Voices in Children’s Literature‘ on The Asian Writer. Responses to Rosoff came from Camryn Garrett, ‘this is how the industry lives now: five signs that you might be suffering from white privilege’ on For all the Girls Who Are Half Monster; Edi Campbell, ‘SundayMorningReads‘ on Crazy QuiltEdi (whose Facebook page is where Rosoff made her comment); Kaye M, ‘This Is How I Life: An Open Letter to Meg Rosoff‘ on Medium; Radiya Hafiza ‘Why we need mirrors in literature‘ on Media Diversified; KT Horning, ‘Spouting Off While White‘ on Reading While White, and Debbie Reese, ‘About Meg Rosoff’s Next Book‘ on American Indians in Children’s Literature, which includes an up-to-date list of responses so far. And how about this for a radical idea: ‘Is Hermione Granger White?‘ Monika Kothari answers on Slate.

Reactions to Chrissie Hynde blaming herself when she was raped continue. Ann Friedman writes, ‘We Shouldn’t Let Chrissie Hynde Off the Hook So Easily‘ in The Cut while Tracey Thorn says, ‘Chrissie longed to be one of the boys. Unlike us, she didn’t have riot grrrls‘ in The New Statesman.

Finally, while there wasn’t a female winner of the Man Booker Prize, there was a female winner of The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. Congratulations to Kirstin Innes who won for her novel Fishnet. Unfortunately, both the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Goldsmiths Prize shortlists were somewhat lacking in women. Michael Caines offers an alternative all-female shortlist to the latter on the TLS while Cathy Rentzenbrink on blistering form in The Bookseller writes ‘On Noticing‘.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:


Society and Politics:

Film, Television, Music and Fashion:

portrait_walsh_colourThe interviews:

The regular columnists:

The Good Neighbour – Beth Miller + Q&A

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Beth Miller to the blog. Beth is the author of two novels, When We Were Sisters and The Good Neighbour, both published by Ebury (Random House). She’s also written a non-fiction book, For The Love of The Archers. She is currently sobbing over her third novel. When not sobbing and writing, she teaches writing, stares out of the window, and mucks about on Twitter (@drbethmiller).

Her second novel The Good Neighbour is published tomorrow; to whet your appetite you can read my review below followed by my interview with Beth.

‘My god, you’re a breath of fresh air,’ said Minette.

‘Sounds like you didn’t get on too great with the last people here?’

‘Slight understatement. They were horrible to us. They couldn’t stand the noise. Tilly, you know. They banged on the walls at night.’

‘How horrible. They were pretty stiff when I spoke to them on the phone. Babies are supposed to cry. I bet you’re not even that noisy, are you, gorgeous?’ Cath clucked at Tilly.

‘Not according to the Miltons. They were unfriendly from day one. They never got over the fact that I was pregnant but not married.’

‘Old-school types, huh?’

‘Totally. They behaved as if Abe was some kind of antisocial yob, just because he’s got long hair. I’m sure they used to spy on us from out of your funny round window, when we were in the front garden. We drank champagne, well Prosecco, when we heard they were moving out.’

‘I hope you won’t feel the same way about us.’

‘Definitely not. I’m so glad you’re here.’ Minette raised her mug and chinked it against Cath’s.

Beth and TGN (Naomi)

The Good Neighbour focuses on two women who end up living next door to each other. Minette, stuck at home with a baby, is bored and frustrated. Tilly’s nine months old but Minette and her partner Abe haven’t had sex since before she was born. To complicate things further, Minette’s noticed that Liam, who lives across the street is very good-looking and, conveniently, he’s at home during the day waiting for his teaching course to begin. With a bit of a nudge from Cath, the inevitable occurs.

Cath, along with her children, has moved next door to Minette. She says they’ve come from ‘up north’. It seems as though she has a lot to cope with: she’s separated from her husband and both of her children have medical issues. Four-year-old Lola has serious allergies and eight-year-old Davey is wheelchair bound due to muscular dystrophy. And then there are all the little things that don’t quite add up: why can’t the children go on the computer? Why does she give them a different answer as to where their dad is? Why does her friend Gina call her Ruby?

The first half of the novel builds slowly as Minette becomes embroiled in her affair with Liam and Cath goes about building a new life for her and her family. But of course, all is not what it seems and the middle of the book is a tipping point where the reader begins to realise what’s going on and can only watch, horrified, as events move quickly towards two equally interesting but very different conclusions for these women.

I found The Good Neighbour interesting for two reasons: firstly, a wheelchair bound key character is unusual and the discussions around Davey’s condition and the adjustments that needed to be made for him were informative. Secondly, Miller’s build-up in the first half of the book is fascinating when you return to it knowing where it’s leading. I enjoyed spotting all the clues as to what Cath was hiding.

If you’re a fan of domestic dramas with elements of psychological thrillers, The Good Neighbour is worth a few hours of your time on a rainy weekend.

The Good Neighbour blog tour banner

Your novel plays on the idea of what makes a good neighbour. Where did the idea come from?

There’s such a lot of media bewailing that we only connect with each other online, oh woe it’s the end of days, etc. But in my experience of living in a small town, I interact with my neighbours on a very regular basis. We take in parcels for each other, feed pets when we’re away, have sets of keys, and generally look out for each other. But actually, we don’t know our neighbours all that well, and we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors…

Eight-year-old Davey uses a wheelchair, which is a significant part of the plot of the book. There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about diverse representations in novels, did this have a bearing on your decision to have a character in a wheelchair?

Not at all. I’m afraid I didn’t even know there were these discussions going on. Him being in a wheelchair worked for the plot, that’s the reason why it’s there.

You write from the point-of-view of three different characters: Cath, Minette and Davey; how challenging is it to ensure each character has their own voice?

It’s very challenging! I found it slightly easier this time than in my first novel (When We Were Sisters) which had two women narrators of around the same age. I had to keep changing lines that sounded too much like the other one. With The Good Neighbour, Davey obviously has a distinctly child-like voice (based a bit on my son!). The challenge was to make Cath and Minette sound different from each other. Cath in particular uses quite a lot of figures of speech, but there was one draft in which I realised that I had given some of these to Minette as well. Ah, the horror! Well, not really a horror as I just used ‘Find and Replace.’ But you know, it was a momentary horror.

The book uses many of the techniques of a psychological thriller, how did you make sure there was enough tension in the first half to keep the reader gripped without giving away too much of the plot?

I don’t know that I did! Others will have to be the judge of that. In fact I do suspect that the beginning is probably a tad slow. Don’t tell my publisher that I said that. Hopefully there are enough distractions in it (snogging, and stuff), to keep the reader going until the top of the rollercoaster. I do think that there’s a point at which the whole thing speeds up mightily, and then it gets rather exciting.

My blog focuses on women writers, who are your favourite female writers?

I have got LOADS. Here are just a few, with my favourite books of theirs. Judy Blume (Wifey), Laurie Colwin (Another Marvelous Thing), Monica Dickens (One Pair of Hands), Norah Ephron (Heartburn), Margaret Forster (Have The Men Had Enough), Anne Patchett (This is the Story of a Happy Marriage), Anne Tyler (Patchwork Planet), and Molly Weir (Shoes Were For Sundays). In alphabetical order so as not to upset any of them.

Thanks to Beth Miller for the interview and to Ebury for the review copy.

In the Media: 25th January & 1st February 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.

Thanks to everyone who said such lovely things last week after I lost the In the Media post and to everyone who offered suggestions to stop it happening again. I think I have a solution and it seems to have worked well this week.

The morning after last week’s last minute loss, I realised that all was not entirely lost; all the articles I’d linked to that hadn’t saved were in my laptop history, so I recovered the remainder of last week’s post (apologies if you received an email with a half-done post in it, it posted when I retrieved it) and relinked all the articles, then added this weeks. The result of that is this bumper issue. Enjoy!

This week saw the death of Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds, as well as 23 other books, and a neuroscientist. Steve Dow remembers her in The Guardian; Alison Flood gave her tribute with ‘Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds helped me get over heartbreak‘ also in The Guardian, and in response to that obituary (I’m not linking to it) Rebecca Shaw wrote ‘We’ll celebrate a woman for anything, as long as it’s not her talent‘ in The Guardian while Liz Kearney responded with ‘You may be a best-selling writer, but never forget that you’re still fat and ugly‘ in The Irish Independent.

It’s been a fortnight filled with awards. Last week, Claudia Rankine became the first person ever to be nominated for two National Critics Circle Awards in the poetry and criticism categories; her editor tells The Washington post why she’s a ‘genius’ and Jonathon Sturgeon tells us why the double nomination is ‘the correct decision’ on Flavorwire;  While Jhumpa Lahiri won the DSC Prize. Here’s ‘Six things you should know about Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland’ on

This week, it’s been the turn of the Costa Awards. Helen Macdonald won the overall award for the fantastic H is for Hawk. Here’s an interview she gave to The Times last week; you can watch her talking about the book here; you can listen to an audio excerpt and read her piece ‘On Ringing Wild Goshawks’ on Vintage Books, and discover the six books that made her in The Guardian. You can also watch the short films made of the other finalists: Emma Healey; Kate Saunders; Ali Smith. Zoe Gilbert won the Short Story Award with Fishskin, Hareskin. With Joanne Meek, Lucy Ribchester, Jane Healey and Paula Cunningham also shortlisted. You can read all the shortlisted stories here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Other exciting news for female writers is the launch of #ReviewWomen2015, following the success of the #ReadWomen2014 campaign. Hannah Beckerman explains why she wants more books by female writers, especially commercial fiction, to be reviewed in the broadsheets in the Huffington Post. Anne Enright became the first Laureate for Irish Fiction in a unanimous decision and in China came the discovery of a new poet, ‘dubbed China’s Emily Dickinson‘, Want China Times reports on Yu Xihua.

There’s been a wave of feminist articles this fortnight, partly thanks to The Sun newspaper appearing to stop publishing pictures of topless women on p3 and then declaring it a joke by the middle of the week. Sarah Ditum wrote, ‘The “return” of Page 3: the Sun revels in the chance to make women with opinions look stupid‘ in the New Statesman; Marina Hyde responded with, ‘No more t*ts in the Sun – a campaign we can all get behind‘ in The Guardian. Elsewhere, Sophie Heawood wrote, ‘If Björk can’t stop a man stealing the limelight, what hope is there for the rest of us?‘ in The Guardian; Eleanor Catton wrote a statement on her website following a media furore in New Zealand about comments she made about the government; Louise O’Neill related, ‘My journey to feminism‘ in The Guardian; Elisabeth Camp asked ‘Should I let my daughter wear pink?‘ in Aeon; Jami Attenberg recounted her time passing as a man, ‘Track Changes‘ in The New York Times; Bayan Perazzo wrote ‘The Burden of Being Female in Saudi Arabia‘ on Muftah; Rose George declared, ‘My period may hurt: but not talking about menstruation hurts more‘ in The Guardian; Arabelle Sicadi wrote, ‘A Bridge Between Love And Lipstick: Queering the beauty industry‘ on Buzzfeed; Jeanne de Montbaston responded to an Alison Wolf article (link in the piece) with ‘What the Hell kinds of Feminists are you Reading, Alison Wolf‘ on Reading Medieval Books; Lucy Magan says, ‘Let’s Silence the Voice That Tells Us We Can’t‘ in Stylist; Marina Sofia looked at the new Barbie Princess Power on her blog; Rebecca Carroll wrote, ‘I was six when a man first touched me. I didn’t speak up until I was an adult‘ in The Guardian; Jia Tolentino wrote, ‘Rush After ‘A Rape On Campus’: A UVA Alum Goes Back to Rugby Road‘ on Jezebel; Homa Mojtabai listed ‘Reasons You Were Not Promoted That Are Totally Unrelated to Gender‘ on McSweeney’s; C M Meadows-Haworth, ‘Reading Audre Lorde Is Changing My Life‘ on A Room of Our Own; Chika Unigwe wrote, ‘Why Nigeria is failing its citizens over Boko Haram attacks‘ in Litro; Maddie Crum told us ‘Why Virginia Woolf Should Be Your Feminist Role Model‘ on Huffington Post; Brandi Bailey selected ‘The Best Feminist Picture Books‘ on Book Riot, Monique Wilson said, ‘Critics of the Vagina Monologues must acknowledge its transformative powers‘ in The Guardian, Alison Flood told us ‘Why I hate the Little Miss books‘ in The Guardian, Sarah Ditum also told us, ‘I ain’t afraid of no girls: why the all-female Ghostbusters will be good for Hollywood‘ in the New Statesman; Max Cairnduff wrote, ‘Looking back on #readwomen2014 and my favourite reads of the year‘ on his blog; Hannah Renowden shares, ‘2015 – When I got angered by a reading list so read it. Also, crochet.‘ on her blog, and Isabel Rogers read and took down Mike Buchanan’s Justice for Men and Boys (and the women who love them) Party Election Manifesto on her blog.

And a number about class following James Blunt’s open letter to Chris Bryant. Sarah Perry responded with, ‘James Blunt has misunderstood the relationship between privilege and success‘ in The Independent and Suzanne Moore with, ‘What James Blunt doesn’t understand about the politics of envy‘ in The Guardian. Other issues surrounding class were covered by Lisa McKenzie, ‘The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’‘ in The Guardian; Lucy Mangan, ‘If you don’t understand how people fall into poverty, you’re probably a sociopath‘ also in The Guardian; Nicola Morgan asked, ‘Why fund libraries when it’s all online?‘ on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure; Harriet Williamson said, ‘Every time I visit the job centre, the staff treat me like a subhuman‘ in the New Statesman; Grace Dent said, ‘When rents are so high that you have to share a bed with a stranger, surely the revolution can’t be far off‘ in The Independent, and Kathryn Hughes wrote, ‘Yes, Kirstie Allsopp, littering’s bad. But then so is self-righteousness‘ in The Guardian

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

The lists:

and Diane Watt is spending February recommending LGBT reads on her Twitter account using the hashtag #mylgbtbooks