Category: non-male authors


by Amanda Palmer
 
This is my book 17. A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift .My best friend lent me this book a while ago and for some reason I resisted reading it for ages.
What a silly person I was.
This book is amazing.
 
It is mostly memoir actually – not what I expected at all.
 
Palmer tells her story as a way to show the readers that it is okay to ask for help. And when offered help, it is okay to actually take it.
The most valuable lesson, I think, is that when asking you have to be okay with the answer being no. The possibility of being denied is half of the options and to ask with real integrity requires that a negative answer be as acceptable as a positive one.
That kind of thinking changes, for me, the process of deciding to ask for anything.
 
Palmer also differentiates very clearly between asking and begging. Asking, for her, includes an exchange. Art for money is her primary exchange and after her kickstarter phenomena she was accused of begging and taking advantage. In this book she makes it clear that firstly, people only gave what they wanted and, secondly, they got exactly what they were promised for what she gave.
 
She also talks about the other side of asking – accepting. She is great at asking for help and then taking what she is offered, but when an offer comes without the preceding asking, she crumbles. A lot of this book is spent with her agonising over taking a bit of bridging financial help offered to her by her (wealthy) husband. She clearly articulates that she understands she should be able to take it seeing as she asks strangers, but that it is so much harder for her to accept help from him. This juxtaposition is interesting and familiar.
 
Palmer is so human, so much all of us in many ways, this book is hugely accessible to everyone.
 
Palmer has also got right up the nose of so many establishment types because she won’t play by their rules. She offers her art freely online, asking people to share and love it – and pay her what they can and/or think it fair. This sends the capitalist business-types into fits of rage – partly, I think because it works.
 
I think Palmer is a revolutionary in her thinking. I don’t even think you have to like her music to like what she is saying in this book, and in her life. To be honest, I find a lot of her music a bit loud and screamy for me, but I love the lyrics and read them like poetry.
 
This book will make you think if you are willing to open your mind to a different way of being. A more connected way that, I believe, must be the way of the future.
 
As Palmer says – if someone offers you a flower- take the flower! And if you need a flower, ask for one.
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by Diane Pomerantz

This is my book for Book 16. A book about mental health.

This is a most interesting memoir written by someone married to a man with some serious mental health and psychological issues. Through Diane’s description of her life with Charles, it is possible to see the awful effect untreated mental health issues have on everyone concerned.

What started out as a perfectly ordinary marriage turns into a cyclone of abuse. Through Pomerantz’s descriptions of life, Charles’ actions and her reactions, it is possible to actually see how his issues slowly change her mental health too. That abused people do not ‘just leave’ is something those never in abusive relationships don’t understand. In this memoir it is possible to see how Pomerantz is slowly rendered incapable of leaving. Not only is she financially beholden, she has been gaslit so often she doesn’t trust her own interpretation of events. She even has undiagnosed seizures for a while because she is not sure whether she lost time or maybe, as he says, she was driving too fast!

Charles is clearly not a very nice man but you have to wonder how much of that is because he is just a jerk, and how much of it is because of undiagnosed depression and/or a narcissistic personality. Not that this excuses how horrible he is to his wife and children, but even Pomerantz realises that he is not having much fun either.

This is a well-written recollection of an awful marriage. Pomerantz lived through some of the worst things we can survive, and all with a husband who gave zero support. The loneliness that comes from that is palpable in this book. I just wanted to cry with and for her as she sat alone, making excuses for why her husband was not holding her hand through her cancer treatment. Her brittle smiles to her children when he once again didn’t do what he had promised to do, when they were once again confused and hurt that daddy didn’t love them anymore, brought tears to my eyes.

Mental health is such a taboo subject still that people with less attractive disorders or issues, like narcissism or violent mood swings, struggle to even acknowledge their need for help, and then access it. The result is so many damaged people, some the innocent children of those struggling. Mental health stories range from Girl Interrupted in their severity and immediacy, to the slow destruction of families and communities through undiagnosed and untreated problems within those families and communities.

So much pain could be avoided if people were able to recognise and then treat mental health issues.

by Janet Fitch

This is my book for Book 32. A book from a celebrity book club. Apparently this was a recommended book in Oprah’s book club in 1999.

I don’t really know how to review this book – it is so magnificent is feels like anything I say will not be enough.

The narrative deals with the life a young girl, and then young woman, lives after her single mother is sent to jail for a murder. Astrid, the daughter, passes through foster homes and had some terribly sad and distressing things happen to her. She also develops as a human being and artist.

The themes of this wonderful book are love and entanglement, expectations and reality, and the line between love and control.

Ingrid, the mother, is a character with whom my relationship changed during the book, mirroring the changes in the relationship between Astrid and Ingrid. Fitch manages to change how the reader feels about Ingrid so subtly I barely noticed until it was irrevocable.

Is there anything more complicated than the relationship between a mother and a daughter? In this book Fitch takes those familiar complications and relationships, and unpacks them, using Astrid and Ingrid’s relationship, as well as those she develops with other women.

My heart broke for Astrid, and for all the real children in her situation across the world. Foster care can be brutal and without drama or gratuitous nastiness, Fitch exposes various aspects of this through Astrid’s experiences.

This is one of the very few books I have reread and I can imagine reading it again and again.

A simply stunning tale told beautifully.

My (first) book for prompt 15. A book about feminism

I say first because I also have Roxane Gay’s Hunger lined up and one can never read too many books on feminism

I really enjoyed this selection of very short pieces by more than 50 women.

The contributors include immediately recognisable names as well as possibly less well-known feminists. It also includes mothers, scientists, artists, authors, politicians and actors. It is, unfortunately, quite British contributor heavy but considering it was published in the UK I guess that is to be expected.

There is such a wide varieties of writings that some will resonate with some readers, while others will speak to other readers. As the compilers said, this could easily have been 500 shades of feminism there are so many voices to be heard.

As a slice of interesting feminist writings, this is a great book.

The short pieces of poetry between some of the writings are also wonderful and I have a few written around my work space.

 

Really well worth reading

 Edited by Jo Glanville
 
I read this for Book 7. A book set in a country that fascinates you.
These short stories are amazing. They offer slices of life in Palestine as experienced and then told by women. Many of them are not political in any overt way – they deal with childhood memories of being mischievous, of buying shoes and not buying into societies ideas of what feminine is, of being a child in a beautiful country.
 
Others show how the political situation defines and determines so many actions and activities those of us in freer countries would perform without thought. Imagine spending a whole day travelling a short distance to visit relatively because of the numerous road blocks? Road blocks with what seems like very little purpose other than to show power.
 
And yet other stories talk very specifically about the awful vortex of death and killing that exists in this part of the world. You kill my child, I will kill two of yours – back and forth until all the children are dead.
 
All of the stories are powerful in their own way. Not a single one can be read and just flipped past, forgotten, consumed like junk food. They are all important and valuable. Each deserves time taken to read and digest. I will return to them all to reread and reconsider.
 
In each story the very humanness of the characters is so powerful. When we read of deaths and bombings or see footage on tv it is easy to forget that the victims, and perpetrators, are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, siblings – people just like us with all the same relationships and complications.
 
These stories show the humanity of the people caught up in the violence, and remind us that it is not politicians who live with the daily fear – it is the people.
 
In addition, there is a strong feminist thread through these stories. These are women getting on with it, making things happen, surviving often in the most dire of circumstances.
 
A wonderful collection of stories. Simply wonderful.
 
In the spirit of fairness, I shall also be reading a collection of Israeli short stories. And I am sure that the same humanity, experiences, fears and disruptions exist on that side of the story too.

by Maxine Case

This is my choice for Book 45: A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title.

I LOVED this book. It spans decades and tells the stories of a Dutch settler in the Cape in the 18th Century, and one of his slaves, Lena.

Geert Baardwijk is a rich man living the relatively easy life the Dutch had in the Cape. Lena is a young woman, sold into slavery by the chief of her village in Madagascar. We are led to their interactions through the telling of their individual stories.  I loved this part of the book because so few of us are aware of the lives slaves and indentured workers had before they became someone’s property. It is important that we remember and remain aware of the facts of this part of South African history.

South Africa did not start on 1652 as so many of us learnt at school. The Dutch did not sail in to rescue this land and its people from a lack of civilisation. And they only succeeded in creating a settlement through the hard work of people who hardly benefited at all.

All of this is in this book, but then so is love and guilt, emotional conflict and confusion. The characters are multi-dimensional and even ‘bad’ acts can be seen in the light of the times. Weak people do not go against society regardless of how they feel. And strong people will always survive.

This book also looks at love and betrayal, expectation and ownership. It is just full of wonderful themes and in the middle of all of that, delivers an interesting history lesson too.

As a South African I think this book is so important. While Case acknowledges that she could find record of Baardwijk quite easily, there is no record of Lena. This in itself is so telling.

As a result, Lena’s story is not the story of a specific slave but the story of so many. Lena is a character in Case’s family history but the journey she took to land up where she did was a journey similar to that forced upon so many people.

Every South African should read books like this to realise the depths of the system we are trying to move past. When white South Africans say it’s been 25 years, get over it – I wish they remembered that 300 years ago one set of our ancestors was buying and selling the ancestors of other members of the population.

A wonderful book on so many levels. Just beautiful.

The birthday lunch
by Joan Clark

birthday-lunch

I liked this book.

It is, on the surface, quite gentle. But beneath the surface, the slow-paced life of a small village, the shock sleepwalking of bereaved family members, beneath all of that lies family history, betrayal, sadness, a sense of failures and being deserted, a swirling pool of mixed and misunderstood emotions – all the things every family holds within the emotional walls of relationships.

The book charts the detailed life and activities of a family after the unexpected death of a member. In a really still way this book will take you along the path of grief with the mourners. It is funny at times, and really quite sad too. It captures perfectly that period between death and burial when life carries on, but also is so markedly different it doesn’t fit any more.

The characters are all people we know, people we are related to, us. The relationships are familiar, and not always in a good way.

Misunderstanding, long held grudges, mistakes and anger are all there to be seen, and how they separate and join people is so human it made my heart ache.

And the end surprised me a little, in a variety of ways.

This is a lovely book which is absorbing and emotional.