In the Media: 10th May 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. 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.

It’s Mother’s Day in 80 countries around the world today. Not surprisingly, there has been a whole range of articles, from a whole range of view points, about mothers and motherhood this week. The Hairpin ran a series including  ‘Mommy Queerest‘ by Sarah Liss; ‘Thoroughly Modern Murdering Mothers; or, Women Who Kill for Their Children‘ by Meredith Haggerty; ‘A Joke, A Story‘ by Naomi Skwarna; ‘Going for the Burn: Revisiting Jane Fonda’s Workouts‘ by Alison Hamm’ ‘Mothers and Moms‘ by Haley Mlotek, and Randi Bergman, ‘The Weirdest Beauty Tips I Learned From My Mom‘.

Tameka Cage-Conley wrote, ‘Motherhood, Art, And Police Brutality‘ on VSB; Amy Shouse wrote ‘My mom never wanted kids‘ on Salon; Anne Enright wrote, ‘When Mother Leaves the Room‘ in The New York Times; Cheryl Strayed wrote, ‘The ‘Painful Personal Toll Lung Cancer Has Taken on My Life’‘ on The Huffington Post; Monica Hessler, ‘The long drive to end a pregnancy‘ in The Washington Post; Mary HK Choi, ‘The Dicks Of Our Lives‘ on Buzzfeed; Mary Elizabeth Williams, ‘Sorry about Mother’s Day, my childfree girlfriends: Moms aren’t any more special (or unselfish) than you‘ on Salon; Edwidge Danticat, ‘A Prayer Before Dying‘ on Literary Hub; Brogan Driscoll, ‘I Refuse to Celebrate ‘Dad Bod’, Until We Appreciate the ‘Mum Bod’ Too‘ on the Huffington Post

Catherine Bennett wrote in The Guardian, ‘It’s dehumanising to be ‘an oven’ for someone else’s baby‘; Jessica Roake wrote, ‘An Ode to the “Mom’s Night Out”‘ on Slate; Rebecca Mead wrote, ‘A Woman’s Place Is on the Internet‘ in The New Yorker; Sophie Heawood wrote, ‘I’ve read all the advice, but I still don’t know – am I raising a serial killer?‘ in The Guardian; Laila K wrote, ‘Up with the kids‘ in The Pool; Dahlia Lithwick, ‘“Bye-Bye, Normal Mommy”‘ on Slate; Christie Watson, ‘The Joy and Pain of Trans-Racial Adoption‘ on Literary Hub; Meagan O’Connell, ‘It’s My First Mother’s Day As a Mom. Now What?‘ in The Cut; Kate Spencer, ‘How I Finally Let Go Of Grief For My Dead Mom‘ on Buzzfeed; Domenica Ruta, ‘Can Having a Child Help Me Get Over My Abusive Mom?‘ in The Cut.

Danah Boyd, ‘I Miss Not Being Scared‘ on Medium; Melissa Duclos, ‘To the Doctor Who Reported Me to Child Protective Services‘ on The Offing; Christopher Frizzelle, ‘The Day Virginia Woolf Brought Her Mom Back to Life‘ on Literary Hub; Lauren Laverne, ‘“Mum” as a diss‘ in The Pool.

And if you’d rather read a book instead, Literary Hub suggests, ‘Five Intense Books for Mother’s Day‘ and the Huffington Post recommends, ‘Mother’s Day Reads: Eight Great Mother Characters in Literature‘.

Photograph by Idil Sukan

In the UK, there was a general election. 3AM Magazine ran a whole series of reactions including, Lauren Elkin, ‘an open letter to mark-francis vandelli‘; Juliet Jacques, ‘london – 2015‘; Eley Williams, ‘rosette manufacture: a catalogue and spotters’ guide‘, and Rachel Genn, ‘you wouldn’t like me when i’m disappointed‘. Other reactions included: Laurie Penny, ‘Don’t give in: an angry population is hard to govern; a depressed population is easy‘ in the New Statesman; Joan Smith, ‘Almost a third of all MPs are now women – a milestone has been reached‘ in The Guardian; Janice Turner, ‘Why the north is in revolt against Labour‘ in The Times; Beluah Maud Devaney, ‘Unfriending Tories on Facebook Is Not the Answer‘ on the Huffington Post

And there were a few pieces written prior to the result that I still think are worth reading: Sam Baker, ‘When voting doesn’t make you feel good‘ in The Pool; Suzanne Moore, ‘By Friday we’ll be reduced to bystanders at a revoltingly macho political stare-off‘ in The Guardian; Concepta Cassar, ‘Food For Thought: Hazlitt, Malthus and the Tragedy of Food Banks‘ in Litro; Katy Guest, ‘Sandi Toksvig’s Women’s Equality Party is a movement for which time has come‘ in The Independent; Salena Godden, ‘Colour-blind: What colour are you?‘ on her blog, and Isabel Rogers’ poem ‘The truth about political correctness‘ on her blog.

I promised myself I wouldn’t mention it but there have been a few good pieces written about the birth of THAT baby: Sian Norris, ‘She’s not like other girls…‘ on Sian and Crooked Rib; Heather Havrilesky, ‘Royal Baby Girl Fated to Lead International Mob of Fake Princesses?‘ in The Cut, and Viv Groskop, ‘She’s a tiny baby, not a Kardashian‘ in The Pool.

Congratulations to Gill Lewis who won the Little Rebels children’s book award with Scarlet Ibis this week; to Emily St. John Mandel who won the Authur C Clarke award, and to Alice Notley who won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Foundation Prize. A gender balanced shortlist was announced for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2015 and a female dominated one for the Branford Boase Award 2015. The ALS Longlist and NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists were also announced.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:

Feminism:

Society and Politics:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction to read:

If you want some poetry to read:

If you want some non-fiction to read:

Photograph by Cybele Knowles

The lists:

Springfield Road – Salena Godden

Springfield Road begins with a letter from Godden, written in Andalucia, Spain. In it she tells the reader that the book is ‘the memories of my life as a child…the universe I was born into’. It’s also about their family home.

This is the story of that home and those who lived here, namely my absent father – Paul Godden – who left such a trail of debris in his wake that as I read and write this memoir I feel like his personal road sweeper, picking through the litter and leaves, letters and photos, for nuggets of truth and revelation.

She then returns to 1975. She’s almost three and she’s living in Danesholme, near Corby, Northamptonshire with her mum and brother, Gus. Their father is playing in a resident jazz band on the QE2. Her mother’s parents and brother live around the corner. Godden tells stories of playing out with friends, of entertaining herself by listening to the radio and spinning in circles for as long as she could while she waited for her grandmother to wake up from her night shift as a nurse, of being taught how to be helpful around the house.

Interweaved with tales of her childhood, Godden tells us about her family history. Her grandparents were Jamaican. Her grandmother one of thirteen (although only ten survived) from the Clarendon Hills and her grandfather from Buff Bay. He was in the RAF. She had grandfathers who were Scottish and Irish farmers and grandmothers who were Maroons. In 1951, Godden’s grandmother and her then seven-year-old mother followed her husband to the UK.

During the time in Danesholme, Godden recalls her mother being pre-occupied and distant with moods that were hard to predict. She realises now, she tells us, how difficult it must have been to be a single parent in the early seventies:

As I grew older, I learned to read the changes of tone signalling one of my mother’s thunders. When I was much older I even became an accomplice in them. We mirrored each other and eventually we learned to laugh at our reflections. I came to understand that as much as there are sunny yellow days there are blue days, grey days and black days, days when its all too much, depressive days when the wintry rain is as sad as tears. There were also days to see red, days when Mum smashed empty milk bottles against the wall at the side of the house on purpose, her eyes glittering with satisfaction.

Springfield Road goes on to document Godden’s mother’s marriage to a man named Paddy who’s irrational and sometimes cruel.

Looking back I think it was bizarre, this man had married my mother with her two rough and tumble children and then proceeded to carpet the whole place in a scream of tell-tale white. And that white carpet was our worst enemy:…we soon discovered that Paddy was fastidious enough to know if we had been in the living room by whether the nap on the carpet was brushed wrong or lay differently.

As the book progresses, we learn more about Godden’s childhood and her family and then, about a fifth of the way in, she begins to address the story of her (almost entirely) absent father.

A picture of Paul Godden is created through her mother’s memories, photographs and letters and, eventually, a brief visit:

That afternoon became a shrine, a cave. I stroked the walls of those few hours with all five senses, second by second. I took a stick and scratched our names there and every minute detail I daubed and highlighted with paints. I felt the coolness and the heat of those walls against my cheeks. I can still smell that day; when I think of it I inhale some form of dust, it sticks in the back of my throat. I can still summon the sensation of waiting for you Dad, of having you and losing you. Those few hours are an animal carcass. I devoured all its tender flesh. I boiled the bones to make a glue soup to keep us together and I slept in the hide of the beast to dream of you.

Springfield Road meanders between the threads Godden has chosen to write about but is broadly divided into the four seasons. She notes at the beginning of the book that she has done so for the imagery, rather than the literal seasons:

Whilst writing this I found there was a time of innocence and with it came sunshine and there was a time of grief and with it came the darkness.

It is partly Godden’s poetic vision and prose that makes this book stand out in a crowded genre but what’s most compelling about Springfield Road is the warmth and love Godden infuses it with. Yes, this is an interesting and, at some points, shocking story for the voyeuristic reader but it’s more than that, it’s a love letter from Godden to her family. To her grandparents, her mother, her brother, her father and to those she meets along the way, some of whom push her to expose the rawness of her feelings. The truth we’re presented with clearly cost Godden but the book ends with light and hope and love and a sense that it might all have been worth it.

 

Thanks to Unbound for the review copy.

In the Media: 12th April 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.

The results of the VIDA count was announced on Monday. VIDA: Women in Literary Arts have counted the number of female and male reviewers in the major literary publications. There are some improvements this year, but overall the picture remains grim. For the first time this year, VIDA published a separate count for Women of Colour, it’s as depressing as you might expect. Reaction came from Hannah Ellis Peterson in The Guardian, ‘Male writers continue to dominate literary criticism, Vida study finds‘; Radhika Sanghani in The Telegraph, ‘Men aren’t better writers than women. Literary mags need to close the book on gender bias‘ and on Bustle, Caroline Goldstein declared, ‘The Results of the 2014 Women of Color VIDA Count Are Problematic‘.

VIDA also produced a handout: Things You Can Do Right Now to Advance Women’s Writing. Immediately after the results of the announcement, good things began to happen in Twitterland; Marisa Wikramamanayake created a ‘Women Who Review‘ database. If you’re a reviewer, you can add yourself to it; if you’re an editor at a literary magazine with a gender balance problem, you can have a look at all the women you could approach with review commissions. Judi Sutherland is getting a group of women reviewers together to send reviews to the TLS, contact her on Twitter if you want to get involved, and Amy Mason created Sister Act Theatre (@SisterTheatre): Support + recommendations of/for women working in UK theatre/performance. Worked with a great woman? Need work? Promoting your show? Tell us.

While all that’s been going on, Katy Derbyshire has been collating ‘Some more statistics on translated fiction‘ on Love German Books.

The other big news this week came from an American report that found the number of women choosing to be child-free has increased. The report coincided with the publication of the Meghan Daum edited essay collection Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids and the launch of the film While We’re Young. It’s triggered a number of articles: Emma Gray at the Huffington Post says, ‘A Record Percentage Of Women Don’t Have Kids. Here’s Why That Makes Sense‘; Jane Marie wrote, ‘Why I Stopped Trying to Be a Supermom and Started Being Myself Again‘ on Jezebel’; Hayley Webster wrote, ‘I had an abortion and didn’t talk about it…and I no longer want to live in shame‘ on her website; Hadley Freeman wrote, ‘Why do we still have to justify the choice to be child-free?‘ in The Guardian; Jessica Valenti asked, ‘Why do we never worry about men’s childlessness and infertility?‘ also in The Guardian

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:

Feminism:

Society and Politics:

Music and Television:

 

The interviews:

If you want some fiction to read:

If you want some poetry to read:

If you want some non-fiction to read:

The lists:

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:

In the Media: 14th December 2014

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.

This week there’s been a lot written about rape and the culture which surrounds it due to a piece published in Rolling Stone magazine about a gang rape at The University of Virginia. Responses came from Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker, Emily Yoffe on SlateMaya Dusenbery on FeministingRhiannon Cosslett of The Vagenda in TimeSalamishah Tillet in The Nation and Sarah Ditum in The New Statesman; Deb Rox wrote about working at a rape crisis program in ‘Truth Is a Fire I Couldn’t Hold‘ on The Butter; Lena Dunham wrote about her own experience of speaking out on Buzzfeed; Katie McDonough comment on Salon in a piece titled, ‘The right’s Lena Dunham delusion: Anger, misogyny and the dangers of business as usual‘, and Caitlin Moran wrote about the Ched Evans’ case in the UK. While from a story focus, Kathleen Founds wrote about Vonnegut and rape culture on Buzzfeed and Sarah Hughes wrote about ‘Rape on TV‘ in The Guardian.

It’s also been another week where #readwomen2014 has been highlighted. Creator Joanna Walsh reflected on the year in The Guardian; Lauren Aimee Curtis wrote about her year of reading women in Meanjin; Lorraine Meads wrote about creating the first Feminist Library in Nottingham on Dawn of the Unread; Rebecca Mascull wrote about her reading year on her blog, and @hashughes began a Women’s Writing Calendar – send her forthcoming events you’re involved in/are aware of so we can share in the goodness. Meanwhile, Nicola Sheppey at The Vagenda wrote ‘Why Women Need to Read Books By Men‘.

And the other big story was Vlogger Zoella’s novel. The fasting selling debut since records began was ghostwritten, it was revealed last Sunday. You can read the story in The Telegraph. Keren David wrote her thoughts about it on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure; Matt Haig defended her in The Guardian; thirteen-year-old Zoella fan Julia Brookes commented on Girl Online, and on Thursday, Siobhan Curham, the ghost writer involved, commented on her own blog.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction or poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

And the lists: