Excerpts from Bina Shah’s essay ‘The Life and Death of Pakistan’s Sabeen Mahmud’ and Tabish Khair’s ‘The Bravado of Books’ from Brave New Words: The Power of Writing Now both feature on the Indian Cultural Forum. Read in full now.
Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award
Applications are now open for the the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award. It will pay for the recipient’s tuition fees and accommodation in central London, plus a food scholarship at International Student House. Applications must be in before 20 February 2020. A huge thank you to New Daughters of Africa contributors, SOAS and International Student House for making this possible.
Read more about the award and support with a donation HERE.
Lisa Blower had a chat with comedian and author, Robin Ince on his legendary podcast, Book Shambles. They discuss It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s, Roald Dahl and how the political influences choosing what story to tell.
‘I shy away (from books about writing). I think they’re aids, but they’re not going to make you the writer you want to be, only you can be the writer you want to be. If you start thinking there are rules and boundaries, and that this idea is going to work, then this genesis is going to work, then you’re erring on the side of writing formulaically rather than listening to the writer inside of you.’
Listen again HERE.
‘‘Call yourself English?’ Yes and no. It’s the country to which I’m most attached, but at some point I dropped ‘English’ for the more inclusive ‘British’. Now it too is tainted, through adoption by the Far Right. I’d not go so far as to call myself Irish, though I do now have an Irish passport. I’m tempted to call myself ‘European’ but that only invites the response ‘Where in Europe?’ It’s natural to wonder where people come from but to ask is a loaded question. There are people living in the UK who fear they’ll be discriminated against if they admit to having begun life elsewhere, just as there are countries where – because of Empire, or complicity with the US, or bombs that have been dropped – it pays not to say you’re British.’
Sarah Ladipo Manyika shares her five favourite books of love, set in Africa, for Frolic. New Daughters of Africa is one of those five. ‘There’s a wide range of stories in this spectacular collection from 200 women writers of African descent and many of them are love stories. From romantic love to familial love to love of nation and love of self—there are many great stories to chose from.’
Elizabeth Ridout was invited by Brighton Book Club to talk about her latest poetry collection, Summon, (part of the Spotlight book series) and how it began as a way to explore her bipolar diagnosis. Here she shares why music is such an inspiration to her writing.
‘I always listen to music when I write. I have lots of inspiration from artists; Patti Smith, Kate Bush, David Bowie… I’ve always been a huge Bowie fan and I’ve always been really interested in his exploration of identity and the way he can transform himself. There’s this real power in each of the persona’s that he embodies… The line [from Bowie’s song, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide], ‘your watching yourself but your too unfair’ really sums up my collection; really terrifying but compassionate at the same time.’
Listen again to Brighton Book Club HERE.
‘Jeff Bezos is worth $108 billion dollars. Imagine owning a billion. Imagine being able to buy central London and not scratch your fortune. Can they relate to us? The answer is no – how can they? Sealed off on their private islands and estates and massive New York penthouses… they don’t come into contact with us very much and their lives reflect that.’
Listen again HERE.
‘Today, the role of writers and of literature in asking questions and creating dialogues across often impassable barriers of prejudice and thought is not only vital but perhaps more urgent than ever. As wordsmiths, whose craft uses the very same instruments through which political power is most commonly exercised, writers and politicians may well as Salman Rushdie once put it be, “natural rivals”. Not only do they “create fictions” but also they make the world as they want to see it. As their words frequently complicate, challenge or deny “official” versions of truth, giving the lie to “official facts”, they are often, as Rushdie himself knew well, on dangerous ground.’
Read in full HERE.
‘There’s an element of transience with the world wide web… Marina Warner [in her Brave New Words essay] calls the web a ‘loom’, connecting cultures, but I think the material object is really important. Even the ads you might have in your pages, who’s reviewing who… when you see the whole thing rather than one bit you download, then you see a whole community and a collective of people who are reading, writing and speaking together.’
Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. The team attended the launch for How To Be Autistic and were also able to interview Charlotte. Here’s an extract:
What is the one thing that you wish neurotypicals knew about autism?
I just wish they understood that we’re people, not stereotypes. I worry neurotypicals will read my book and think ‘ah, this is what an autistic person is like’, when in fact we are all so unique and individual – that’s what makes diagnosing autism so difficult, if we were all the same, people wouldn’t slip through the net so often! So, to summarise, I wish neurotypicals know about our individuality, and also our ability to, in the right circumstances, thrive and create great and exciting things.
Do you think the representation of autistic people in the media has gotten better or worse?
I worry, with the anti-vax movement ramping up lately, that we are still seen as an unfortunate side effect, and I still don’t see autistic characters that I can relate to personally. I was lucky enough to help out as script consultant on a short film which has just been entered into the BFI film festival called ‘Our Sister’, which features an autistic character, but her autism is not the overlying theme of the film, rather, she is autistic, and she is in the film. And the character is played by an actually autistic actress, which I think is brilliant. So, I think it’s a mixed bag. We need to break away from the stereotypical ‘all autistic people are young white boys’ narrative and start including people from all walks of life, because that’s what autism is, it doesn’t discriminate, and it can be anybody. And I’d really like to see that more often.
Read the interview in full on the Ambitious about Autism website.
If you recently bought a copy of the Big Issue North, you would have read Saskia Murphy’s article, Spectrum of Light, which featured Charlotte Amelia Poe and their nonfiction memoir, How To Be Autistic.
‘Charlotte Amelia Poe believes the stereotype of autism being typically associated with males may have prevented them from getting the support she needed.
“There’s a term called masking which is quite common in girls and people who are assigned female at birth, which means that with autism we are much better at blending into society because a quiet girl is not seen as something which is different or in any way remarkable, and a lot of our behaviours, such as being shy or bullied, can be seen as being difficult or being awkward. I just don’t think it’s looked for, and especially when I was at school it wasn’t really seen as a condition that all genders can have.”
Now, Poe is committed to challenging unhelpful stereotypes about autism and paving the way for autistic people to find and use their voice creatively.
“Autism can affect anyone, and I think we need more representation. I’d like to see more autistic characters in books, TV and film, but I want them to be written by autistic writers as well. A lot of people think they know what autism is like, so they don’t do the research and that’s where you get the stereotypes.”’
Lesley teaches ‘How to Plot’ at the WEA Write Now masterclass weekend.
‘The Portico prize for literature, named after the 200-year-old subscription library in Manchester, has been awarded every other year since 1985, for books and/or authors that embody “the spirit of the North”. It’s back this year… and the judges have chosen a delightfully eclectic longlist. I am most intrigued by Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide. A book on sturdy shoes to counter that harsh northern weather? No, it’s a very personal story by Kate Charlesworth of LGBTQ history since the 1950s, and was recently reviewed by this paper as its graphic novel of the month.’
‘As a black woman trying to find my own voice, [Margaret Busby] has been endlessly interested, supportive and enthusiastic about helping a generation like me find our place and our ability to make change through writing.’
To celebrate Black History Month, people used social media to those they felt deserved recognition. Writer Afua Hirsch also got involved with the campaign, choosing to champion Margaret Busby (editor of Daughters of Africa and, more recently, New Daughters of Africa, to which Afua contributed).
Read the full article in the Metro.
An extract of Bernardine Evaristo‘s essay from Brave New Words featured in The Guardian Review this weekend, claiming main spot. The essay queries what it means to be a black writer in this current period of ‘woke’ness, mentioning The Slumflour, Black Girl Festival, Gal-Dem, Jackie Kay, Chidera Eggerue and Otegha Uwagba, amongst many others.
‘The ripple effects of 2013’s #BlackLivesMatter moment, and the movement that followed, saw renewed interest in writings about race in the US, which spilled over into the UK. We are used to the spotlight on racism being beamed across the Atlantic while little attention is paid to the perniciousness of systemic racism in Britain, about which there is much denial.’ Read the full essay in Brave New Words, available now.
Bernardine is joint-winner of the Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other. She also features in Margaret Busby’s anthology of Black women writers, New Daughters of Africa.
‘Witty, profound and illuminating, this will surely see its acclaimed author receive many more accolades. This immersive novel serves up many insights into Lagos life and politics, and Remi is a riveting narrator. I came away feeling enlightened, and entertained by Remi’s wit.’ Joanna Owen for LoveReading.
Have a look at the other titles chosen HERE.
What did you read to celebrate Black History Month? Turnaround featured a fantastic selection of books for those needing inspiration, including Margaret Busby’s New Daughters of Africa. Black History Month might now be drawing to a close, but that’s no reason not to keep reading diverse and diasporic texts.
‘Following up her ground-breaking 1992 anthology that collected standout work from more than 200 women from the African Diaspora, Margaret Busby’s New Daughters of Africa seeks to showcase the work of writers of African descent for a new generation. Bringing together voices around the world both new and historical, including Roxane Gay, Zadie Smith and Diane Abbott, it’s a mammoth tome containing fiction, poetry, essays, speeches and more. Each piece of writing speaks to black women’s experiences, exploring sisterhood, tradition, romance, race and identity. For a celebration of Black history and Black excellence not just this month but all year round, pick this one up.’ Read in full HERE.
‘The characters in these beautifully crafted stories often find themselves out on a limb, heading into or out of situations that make them feel isolated or alone.’
The future is complex; the future is hybrid. These 10 voices make me feel hopeful about our future and give me back some of my past.’ Jackie Kay selects Britain’s 10 best BAME writers for The Guardian. The 10th spot goes to Olumide Popoola, contributor to both New Daughters of Africa and Brave New Words.
‘Olumide Popoola’s elegant and lyrical prose is instantly engaging. Her complex work captures the atmosphere and the tempo of the racial tension in King’s Cross. She is fascinated with the spaces in between culture and form, and she is adept at moving between Nigeria, Germany and the UK.’
Read the list in full HERE.
Bernardine shares the win with Margaret Atwood. When receiving the award, said she hoped her win will bring about change, with more black writers winning the award in the future.
“It’s so incredible to share this with Margaret Atwood, who’s such a legend and so generous,” she said.
“A lot of people say, ‘I never thought it would happen to me’, and I will say I am the first black woman to win this prize, and I hope that honour doesn’t last too long. I hope other people come forward now.”
Our September Myriad Literary Salon focused on the short story and featured Lisa Blower, author of It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s, and Hannah Vincent, author of Alarm Girl and soon-to-be-published short story collection, She-Clown.
New Writing South spoke about their recent LGBTQIA+ festival, The Coast is Queer, and invited emerging author Danny Brunton to read an extract from his memoir. Publicist Emma Dowson also attended, sharing useful insights into promoting your work.
The salon was photographed by Lisa Lee. To see more pictures, head to our Facebook page.
Deborah Kalb interviews Peter Adamson about his latest novel, The Kennedy Moment.
Q: How did your own background at UNICEF affect the writing of the novel? Did you need to do any additional research?
A: I drew heavily on my years working with UNICEF. But I also did a great deal of additional research, particularly on the possibilities and the dangers of a return of smallpox – the biggest killer disease in history and still today the most dangerous bio-terrorism threat that could possibly be imagined.
Several senior colleagues in the medical world warned me to be careful researching into this topic because security services around the world would be monitoring on-line research on the smallpox threat as a possible indication of bio-terrorist activity. So far so good. No drones have appeared and I don’t think I’m being followed.
Read in full HERE.
‘Looking to the future, Busby believes that not only is it important to have black women writing corrective histories but also to have them in positions where they’re able to publish said histories. “I’m often in spaces where people think it’s more important to be a writer over a publisher but who is going to tell these stories? Who is going to make these stories and histories a priority if we’re relying on white gatekeepers to let them through the door? We need writers, publishers, editors and more. We need to participate in every sphere and be part of the process in every sense so that we can enable other people to pass on those histories.”‘
“JLF brings together speakers from the Occident and the Orient. We discuss and debate issues that may emerge from the primary theme of the book and place these issues within the context of local, national, and international perspectives,” Sanjoy Roy, festival producer.
Both U.S. Jaipur Literature Festivals follow the main literary event which took part this January in India, at which Sohaila also spoke.
Listen to Sohaila Abdulali, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, in conversation with writer/host Lakshya Datt. On this episode of the Jaipur Lit Festival Podcast, Sohaila shares what it’s been like to share her book with people around the world, and what stories readers have shared with her along the way. Sohaila was guest speaker at both JLF Houston and JLF Colorado. LISTEN IN FULL HERE.
‘I just wish that I’d had someone I could speak to, to give me a realistic view of what life for the long term partner is like, and how difficult it can be.
Early on in our relationship, we talked about separating for a bit so that I could have a chance to explore my sexuality—having only ever been with one woman really. I was too frightened of losing B. and all her support and all her love to do that.
I wish that we’d had the courage to do that before we have a child. I wish that we had been slower on the relationship escalator—to trust that we would have been okay.’
Read the interview in full HERE.
‘One thing I wish neurotypical parents of autistic children knew is that you are your child’s first and most important ally. It’s going to be really hard at times, and you’ll have to fight tooth and nail, and sometimes you’ll work so hard to get help and end up back where you started, but if you keep fighting (and it can be a lifelong fight), your child will always view you as the person they can trust the most, the person who stood up for them when nobody else did. ‘
Charlotte Amelia Poe, author of How To Be Autistic was asked for advice to share with parents of autistic children. The Autism Page asked several autistic authors and bloggers to take part – the insights offered are varied and incredibly supportive. To read them, click HERE.
‘The boy was not heavy but it was still hard to swim with the extra weight. He let go of him again and tried to climb on to the upturned dinghy, but he could not; nor did he manage to push the boy on it.’
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My short story collection, The Heartsick Diaspora, draws upon my experiences of being part of the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese diasporas in the cities I’ve lived in, mainly New York City, London, Singapore. Even saying this, frankly, stumps me with an oceanic wave of imposter syndrome. I feel I know Malaysia less than Singapore, and Singapore less than the U.K.
‘This is a tale both powerful and enraging: the pain and confusion of school followed by a listless, isolated twenties. Poe lives at home with her parents and her sister’s family, and describes her young nephew and niece as her best friends. Her parents and siblings – particularly her mother Philippa, who spent years searching for answers about her daughter – emerge from the book as quiet heroes. Poe wasn’t diagnosed with autism until she was 21, long after a diagnosis might have helped her through the education system. The condition is traditionally perceived as affecting males, but diagnoses among women and girls are rising. The National Autistic Society estimates the present ratio of men to women with autism is 3:1.’
If there’s one thing you could have readers take away from this book, what would it be?
I think empathy, and the ability to understand autism more complexly. There’s no one way to be autistic, and the title kind of plays on that, it’s not a how-to guide, because there is no how-to guide. I wanted to explain that autistic people are just like ‘everyone else’, we’re utterly unique and often the only thing we have in common is our autism, oh, and the trauma we experience as a result of that, at times.
Somerset House invited contributors to the New Daughters of Africa anthology to their current exhibition celebrating the past 50 years of Black creativity; Get Up, Stand Up Now! The evening featured Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Yemisi Aribisala, Yaba Badoe, Jacqueline Bishop, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Anni Domingo, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Bridget Minamore and Margaret Busby in conversation and reading from their own work, as well as the work of others in the anthology.
Picture taken by Lisa Lee.
Margaret Busby, editor of New Daughters of Africa, was invited to Edinburgh International Book Festival, alongside authors Namwali Serpell, Leila Aboulela, Candice Carty-Williams and Bernardine Evaristo, to discuss and read from the anthology. The women paid tribute to author Toni Morrison, who contributed to the first Daughters of Africa anthology, twenty five years ago. The event was part of the Telling Her Story series of events, celebrating ‘bold, defiant, revolutionary women’.
‘I love both women and was blessed to have spent some time in each of their company. Before I ever saw them in the flesh, I was in awe of their words.’
Author and contributor to New Daughters of Africa, Edwidge Danticat, writes a heartfelt tribute article for Daughters of Africa contributors and iconic black authors, Toni Morrison and Paule Marshall, for The New Yorker.
Read the full piece HERE.
Brave New Words, edited by Susheila Nasta, features in The Bookseller previews for August 2019. ‘The impressive roster of contributors, including Bernardine Evaristo, James Kelman and Romesh Gunesekera, explore the role of “brave new words” in the battle against limitations in the fundamental rights of citizens, the closure of borders, fake news, and an increasing reluctance to engage with critical democratic debate. Bravo.’
‘Though Charlesworth seemingly leaves no stone unturned, from Tom Robinson to Brookside, from the Lesbian Avengers to Douglas Byng (whom she draws on an old cigarette card), her capacious book never feels wearying; it is an amazing, joyous panorama to which I could never do justice in a short review. Let me, then, just say this. Sensible Footwear is an instant classic: up there with Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland when it comes to pageant, and with Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home when it comes to pathos.’
New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby and featuring over 200 women writers in Africa and its diaspora previously launched in the U.K. in March and at the Uganda International Writers Conference in May. This month, a particularly apt one as August in South Africa is designated as “Women’s Month,” the anthology launched in Johannesburg. James Murua shares photographs from the launch on his literature blog, which you can see HERE.
‘Despite the immediacy of its impact, comics journalism is a slow form. Immensely labour-intensive, it demands of its practitioners extended attention and a careful eye. In this way, it offers an antidote to the churn of the news cycle, inviting us to take a closer look at the pressing matters of our time.’ Laura Thorne looks at graphic reportage for Columbia Journalism Review, including Olivier Kugler (author of Escaping Wars and Waves) in her list of contemporary graphic reporters.
Margaret Busby featured on various news reports last week, celebrating revered author Toni Morrison who died on the 5th August 2019. Toni featured in Daughters of Africa, the first anthology edited by Margaret, which she followed with New Daughters of Africa this year. You can hear Margaret talking on BBC Radio 4: Last Words HERE.
To celebrate the publication of The Bead Collector alongside the UK publication of classic Everything Good Will Come, author Sefi Atta was invited to talk at the wonderful Owl Bookshop in London. Sefi Atta is also a contributor to New Daughters of Africa, the anthology of African women writers edited by Margaret Busby. Photographs by Lisa Lee can be viewed over on our Facebook page.
Sensible Footwear post-Cartoon Museum launch party in London, hosted by the terrific Corinne Pearlman. An LGBTQI+ graphic memoir and absolutely amazing achievement of illustration and research, Sensible Footwear by Kate Charlesworth is out now and definitely not one to miss. Photographs of the evening taken by Lisa Lee – peruse them all over on our Facebook page.
To celebrate the launch of Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide, Kate Charlesworth had not just one but two fantastic launches. The first was at The Cartoon Museum in London, followed swiftly by a day event at Glasgow Women’s Library, pictured here.
Photographs by Becky Male. To see more, head to our Facebook page.
What a superbly structured, brilliant but biting history and vital entertainment this is!
Shoes! Shoes! Sensible shoes!
You are hereby ever so warmly invited to walk a mile or twenty-six in somebody else’s – Kate Charlesworth’s and the growing LGBT+ community’s – in a personal insight, education and entertainment spanning 70 years from the 1950s onwards!
All education should be an entertainment and this one comes vibrant in colour, comedy and variety without a po face in sight:
“Yes, Cinders!” it proudly proclaims on its title page, “You shall go to the Rugmunchers’ Ball!”
It is laugh! It’s a riot! It is a genuine milestone. Read the full write-up HERE.
‘In 1992, my mother’s close friend, the Ghanaian born, legendary Black-British publisher Margaret Busby, published the first volume of Daughters of Africa, in which Morrison was of course included, alongside more than two hundred contributors. Its title came from the words of Maria W. Stewart, the first African-American woman to give public lectures: “O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise! no longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves. Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties.” A year after that, Morrison won the Nobel Prize. A year after that, I went to university to embark on a course of English Literature which included not a single daughter of Africa nor any sons either. Change was a long time coming, but Morrison stayed out front, leading us into the future, like a pilot light.’
Read in full HERE.
Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, called Margaret a pioneer and innovator who has ‘sought to bring about change in the world’.
SOAS is the leading Higher Education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.
‘Kate Charlesworth’s new book, Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide, has become “urgent”, as the prologue explains, because of the current rise of intolerance that is threatening the civil and human rights of historically marginalised groups. Charlesworth’s ethos is that we all deserve to know our history, and that without that knowledge we remain vulnerable to such histories repeating themselves.’
Brought to you via the team behind Ink Mag, The Artful #1: New Beginnings issue features an interview with Kate as well as an essay on queer rights, using Sensible Footwear as a jumping board into a discussion about sexuality, gender and injustice.
To receive The Artful newsletters, head to their website.
The Murder of Harriet Monckton by crime author Elizabeth Haynes has been chosen by Waterstones as one of their Summer Reads for 2019. ‘Whilst the plotting is immensely skilful and the tension expertly exploited, it is the subtle gender politics and rounded characterisation that marks The Murder of Harriet Monckton out as a truly superior crime novel.’
Click HERE to see the list in full.
‘It has been a long time since a book created the kind of buzz and excitement which has surrounded New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent.’ New Daughters of Africa features on a list of The Best African Books of 2019 by Samira Sawlani for African Arguments.
We’re thrilled that The Murder of Harriet Monckton, Elizabeth Haynes’s historical crime novel, has been longlisted for the prestigious HWA Crown Awards for best historical novel. Elizabeth’s previous crime novels have won the CWA John Creasey Dagger, Amazon Rising Stars, Waverton Good Read Award and the People’s Book Prize for Fiction.
See the full HWA Crown longlist HERE.
‘Kate Charlesworth is one of the nation’s finest cartoonists. Over the years she has created comic strips for everyone from City Limits to Gay News, the Pink Paper to the Guardian and New Scientist. She has also spent the last four years working on her latest book, Sensible Footwear, a wonderfully colourful and candid book, full of Charlesworth’s crisp, clean, simple lines and her nuanced vision of human complexity.’ Teddy Jamieson interviews Kate for the Herald Scotland. Read the article in full HERE.
‘Not since Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home has there been such an important graphic memoir. A striking achievement in comic form, Sensible Footwear should be on everyone’s bookshelves’.
DIVA, Europe’s leading magazine for lesbian and bi women, dedicates three pages of their August 2019 issue to comic artist Kate Charlesworth and her newly-published graphic history of LGBTQI+ life from the 1950’s to the present day. Sensible Footwear also receives huge praise in a review by Erica Gillingham (pg 50). Buy the August issue NOW.
Olivier Kugler’s graphic nonfiction account of Syrian Refugees, Escaping Wars and Waves, has highly commended by the BMA Medical Awards in the Health and Social Care category. The book, made to show an honest and unbiased account of refugee camps and the families living with in them, has already been shortlisted for the AOI World Illustration Awards 2019 and the Broken Frontier Best Nonfiction Graphic Novel Award 2018 and won the Jury Prize for the Europen Design Awards 2018, the Coup de Coeur Médecins Sans Frontières prize and the Prix du Carnet de Voyage International. Congratulations, Olivier!
Sohaila Abdulali was recently invited to discuss sexual assault with Catriona Morton, writer and sexual assault survivor, on BBC Radio 5. In this article, Dazed the value of creating platforms which support survivors, offering safe and encouraging spaces to talk about sexual abuse and how Catriona’s new podcast, After: Surviving Sexual Assault has created just that. The article highlights Sohaila’s book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape to underline the value of conversation.
In conjunction with Manuel Ocampo’s “Ideological Mash-Up/Remix”, STPI Gallery held a panel discussion involving Fyerool Darma, Vikas Kailankaje; author Elaine Chiew. The dialogue was moderated by Melanie Pocock, Assistant Curator, Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (ICA), LASALLE College of the Arts. Listen to the entire discussion HERE.
Nigerian author and playwright, Sefi Atta was a past winner of BBC African Performance awards with “The Engagement” and “Makinwa’s”. Her latest novel The Bead Collector is set in Lagos in the late 1970s – a period of political turmoil. She tells BBC Focus on Africa of the stories behind the novel, and how her passion for African history and politics colours her writing. Listen HERE.
Authors Sohaila Abdulali, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, and Cynthia Enloe, The Big Push, are joined by Jane Thurlow from Survivors’ Network and Catriona Morton to discuss sexual assault on BBC Radio 5. Listen HERE.
‘Rather than focussing on making women more brave to speak out we need to focus on what the rest of us are doing to make it so difficult to speak out. The moment a woman speaks out about being raped, or a man or a boy, the focus is on them and half the time you forget to talk about the fact that there’s a criminal out there who did this.’ Sohaila Abdulali
‘It’s not only the assaulters who should be accountable. Complicit are all the enablers: people who make it hard to report, people who give a culture of disbelief to prosecutors who only want to win their cases they don’t want to actually believe victims unless they think they can win the case.’ Cynthia Enloe
‘Sohaila’s book is absolutely amazing, unlike anything I’ve ever read before… I would urge everybody to read it. It’s about feminism and women’s place in society, not only about rape.’ Jane Thurlow
Sohaila Abdulali recently toured her book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, to the Netherlands and the UK for a set of talks and signings. We’re grateful to photographer Lisa Lee for taking photographs at Sohaila’s event at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road, where she was in conversation with author and founder of Clear Lines Festival, Winnie M. Li.
The Africa Writes inaugural Lifetime Achievement in African Literature award was presented to Margaret Busby. The award was presented to Busby by writer Ade Solanke and Diane Abbott MP as part of the festival headline event celebrating the anthology New Daughters of Africa. (Image of author and New Daughters of Africa contributor Bernardine Evaristo with Margaret Busby at Africa Writes, British Library).
The Facts of Life by Paula Knight is the focus of this paper by Sathyaraj Venkatesan and Chinmay Murali for the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. The paper discusses how the pluripotent space of the comics medium allows the author to arraign the ideology of pronatalism as an oppressive force that mediates her lived experience of infertility. It also examines the socially constructed and gendered nature of motherhood as it unfolds in Knight’s narrative. Buy and read online HERE.
Sue Grant Marshall reviews North Facing by Tony Peake on Radio Today. ‘This is the power of Tony Peake’s writing… it’s just heartbreaking… it’s so shocking… when the book ends you’re absolutely hanging on every word on the last pages. You don’t want it to end.’ Listen to the full show HERE (35.40 mins in).
Doctor and graphic novelist Ian Williams talks to Comics Beat about Graphic Medicine, the upcoming conference in Brighton and why comics are such a vital tool in supporting new ways of learning. Read the full interview HERE.
Do you have any sense of why the combination of medical topics and comics work so well together and why people appreciate it so much?
I guess loads of people like comics and you could argue that culture in general is becoming more visual and with comics having become a more respected form of art and literature over the last 20 years, I guess people are starting to look in that direction. And maybe because they’ve read comics when they were younger, it gives them a thrill to rediscover comics. People seem to just get really excited about the idea of using comics in healthcare or using comics as a therapeutic intervention.
As we’ve gained ground and it’s been taken up at an institutional level people have suddenly started to take it seriously. And thank god, graphic medicine has become a thing. Now you get loads of people saying, “oh, this is cool, I’ve just written a paper about something and I’d like to turn it into a comic book,” a lot of, which is really not suitable but people like the idea, they see it as being cool, I suppose. Also at the same time, big institutions like the Wellcome Trust in the UK and big research institutions have used comics in public engagement. So people see that and start to get it.
Henny Beaumont, author of Hole in the Heart, was artist in residence at Hay Festival Wales 2019, capturing events and atmosphere over the final weekend. Here is her sketch of the wonderful Margaret Busby in conversation with New Daughters of Africa contributor, Bernardine Evaristo. You can see all of Henny’s sketches over on the Hay Festival Facebook page HERE.
The Royal Society of Literature elected 45 new Fellows and Honorary Fellows last week at the annual RSL summer party.
New Daughters of Africa contributors Catherine Johnson and Dorothea Smartt were elected as Fellows alongside To The Volcano author Elleke Boehmer, while New Daughters of Africa contributor Ellah Wakatama Allfrey and Brave New Words editor Susheila Nasta were elected as Honorary Fellows.
Susheila was also awarded the prestigious Benson Medal, for exceptional contributions to the advancement of literature.
Click HERE to read The Bookseller’s write up of the event.
Professor Susheila Nasta from Queen Mary University of London and editor of Brave New Words has been awarded the Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature (RSL) for her services to literature. She received the medal from President, Marina Warner, at a special award ceremony held in London.
The Benson Medal was founded in 1916 by A.C. Benson, scholar, author and RSL Fellow, ‘in respect of meritorious works in poetry, fiction, history and belles lettres’. The medal honours a whole career rather than a single work, has been awarded several times to writers in other languages, and is often awarded those who are not writers, but who have done conspicuous service to literature.
In addition to being the sole recipient of the 2019 Benson Medal, Professor Nasta was also elected as an Honorary Fellow at the Royal Society of Literature (RSL).
“I am so proud to have been selected as the recipient of the Medal and as an Honorary Fellow. Both are huge honours, especially as this recognition comes from my peers,” said Professor Nasta.
“I am delighted too that over the past 35 years Wasafiri has been able to build an international community and nourish the work of so many distinguished writers from around the world,” she added.
As part of Pride Week celebrations, Kate Charlesworth visited Lighthouse – Edinburgh’s radical bookshop to celebrate their Lavender Menace pop-up. Kate shared her soon-to-be-published memoir, Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide—the first graphic history documenting lesbian life from 20150 to the present day. The event sold out and the bookshop was packed to the rafters. To see where Kate will be taking Sensible Footwear next, head to our events page.
Margaret Busby takes part in the Get Up, Stand Up Now podcast by Somerset House, a ‘crafted sound odyssey over five episodes, guided by the voices of Black creative pioneers’, part of the Get Up, Stand Up Now exhibition at Somerset House.
The exhibition will run from 12th June – 15th September, you can book tickets HERE.
The event was part of BGAC’s Windrush festival and the contributors joining Margaret Busby on stage all shared a Caribbean heritage: Candice Carty-Williams, Dorothea Smartt, Zadie Smith and Andrea Stuart. The chair was contributor Adeola Solanke.
To commemorate Stonewall 50, Europe House are hosting an exhibition of art taken from Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide by Kate Charlesworth. The opening night has been hailed as ‘marvellous, brilliantly attending and fantastic things said.’ If you want to see all 34 pieces of Kate’s work then head over to Europe House sharpish. Kate can be seen here (second from left) alongside Myriad’s Corinne Pearlman (far right).
PassBlue, an independent, women-led journalism site, shares excerpts from New Daughters of Africa and discusses the writers who were involved in the publication.
‘The writers in the anthology are often the children of African independence, and they remain placed in their land and deep generational cultures.’ Read more here.
‘It’s a very open, candid take on your own life and thought. How easy was it to put it down on the page?
I felt this very strong need to tell my story. It was almost an unbearable need. And I only felt a release when the words that circled my head were finally written down. Sometimes these phrases were like buzzing bees in my consciousness. Now they are on the page and it is such a relief to see and hear my thoughts and feelings in the world.
I also knew that if I made art then people would stop, see and listen. Perhaps I now understand my need to be heard was exactly what I felt my parents and family never did. They couldn’t hear my voice above their own needs and anxieties, or the background noise of the family home. But on the page I could write and draw as I wanted. I could be heard and hear myself.’
How To Be Autistic by Charlotte Amelia Poe makes The Bookseller’s preview list for upcoming nonfiction titles. ‘This sassy, honest and enlightening memoir is a very personal account of autism, mental illness, gender and sexual identity. Poe also works with video and won the inaugural Spectrum Art prize in 2018 with their work,”How To Be Autistic”.
Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide previews on Turnaround’s blog as one of the top 2019 Queer Lit titles set to knock your socks off this year. ‘The curtains of lesbian history from the 1950s to the present day are opened by celebrated cartoonist Kate Charlesworth, with a little help from Gilbert and Sullivan and a side of Nancy Spain. Sensible Footwear is a glorious political and personal history that gives Pride a run for its money; but, like Pride, it wears its heart at the centre, making the invisible visible, and celebrating lesbian lives from the domestic to the diva.’
‘I was really terrified of making light of it. I wrote a little chapter called ‘a brief pause for horror’, to remind everyone that it’s horrible. I have five brief pauses in the book: horror, fury, terror, ennui and confusion. That fulfilled the purpose of telling the story in all its complexity but bringing it down so we can talk about it without being overwhelmed.’
‘In an interview with VEJA, Sohaila Abdulali described the situation as a rape of Bollywood (a kind of Hollywood in India), with violence, aggressive men and death threats. But, on a daily basis, the most common cases are those caused by partners. “I do not believe all men are capable of raping. For soldiers, who use abuse as a war crime, it can be part of a function. In a relationship, it can be part of the dynamic, the will to have sex. What I know is that it’s a choice. It is not something natural, it is not something that men can not avoid, as if it were a biological impulse. They can avoid yes. They can control themselves, ” she said.’
Read more on their website.
“Who gets raped? Who do we think gets raped? Are girls who can shit and vomit on command immune? What about sex workers? Even if we acknowledge that anyone can be raped, who deserves to be raped? When are we willing to call it rape? At what point do you lose sympathy of your peers? When you’ve drunk too much, when you’ve had sex with x number of men in the past, when you’re just not a nice person? … Maybe acknowledging that all sorts of women get raped by all sorts of men messes too much with the comfortable narrative that says only good girls get raped. Oh, but it also says good girls don’t get raped. Both these things can’t be true, and sex workers aren’t good girls, so how can they be raped, and if they’re raped, they’re human and hurt, and we can’t have that. So let’s just shut our eyes and maybe the whole confusing thing will go away.”
‘The Lady Doctor is a book of self-discovery as Lois comes to terms not just with who she is and who she has become but with the forces that shaped her too. There’s also an underlying anger here as well, though, as the strains of life on the GP frontlines are portrayed with a raw honesty and the spectre of the gradual destruction of the NHS looms large throughout. Social commentary is an integral part of Williams’ work, effectively wrapped up here in the trappings of everyday, slice-of-life storytelling.’
Read in full HERE.
New Daughters of Africa features in The Sunday Times South Africa.
‘New Daughters of Africa addresses obstacles faced by black women writers. Custom, tradition, friendships, sisterhood, romance, sexuality, intersectional feminism, the politics of gender, identity and more are explored in this collection of work from over 200 writers.’
‘This remarkable book constitutes a powerful affirmation of literary achievement, demonstrating that contemporary black women writers are part of a vital and extensive tradition. Just as significantly, the anthology brings these works into dialogue with one another, becoming a potent assertion of a collective identity that transcends political, religious, linguistic, regional and generational boundaries… The book’s structure also helps the reader to discern subtle shifts in the way certain themes are represented over time… New Daughters of Africa demonstrates that this work does not exist in a vacuum. Black women writers have always had something significant to say to the world and to each other.’
‘Sarah Lightman’s long-anticipated project is here and it’s been well worth the wait. Lightman is, of course, the co-founder of the vitally important Laydeez do Comics group and a former Broken Frontier Awards nominee for Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews.
Exploring the complexities of families, feminism, Judaism, motherhood and art this genuinely distinctive graphic narrative provides a fresh approach to autobio comics in a book that is deeply personal but always relatable. Look for a full review at Broken Frontier in the not too distant future.’
The George Padmore Institute, based in London, is an archive, educational resource and research centre housing materials relating to the black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe.
‘The Book of Sarah is a project that has covered thousands of pages of diary drawings, from hundreds of sketchbooks, beginning in 1998. These drawings chart my childhood and sibling rivalries, schooldays and intense religious orthodoxy when I studied in Jerusalem, my years at art school, a failed relationship in New York, my marriage and most recently the birth of my son. The Book of Sarah is also a feminist reparative act. My namesake, The Matriarch Sarah in Genesis, is frequently portrayed as lacking her own agency, and slips in and out of her husband Abraham’s story. I, however, am the heroine of this Book of Sarah. Furthermore, as I am commentating on my own narrative, my own book of the bible, I am in sharp opposition to Jewish traditional texts that propose an almost exclusively male intellectual heritage.’
Ready to be overwhelmed in the very best way? All curated, edited and introduced by Margaret Busby, this collection of work across a wide-range of genres gives us a window into the extraordinary lives of excellent women.
New Daughters of Africa features in HYPEBAE’s 10 books to add to your summer 2019 reading list.
‘Recently I’ve also discovered Lisa Blower’s short story-collection It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s, in which her hometown Stoke-on-Trent is the setting that binds together different narrative forms and a fearsome array of matriarchs. (Lisa Blower’s writing is)… firmly rooted in her lived experience, but transcends all the limitations and preconceptions surrounding work from communities seldom represented on the page.’ Read Kerry’s article in full HERE.
‘Sarah Lightman traces her journey from modern Jewish orthodoxy to a feminist Judaism as she searches between the complex layers of family and family history. Jude Cowan Montague offers reflections on inheriting her name from the literally apocryphal Book of Judith. Plus music from Jewish Manchester, London and beyond. Listen in full on Resonance FM HERE.
Ian Williams shares all sorts of book-related tidbits in ‘My Life in Books’, which features in Sussex Life, June 2019. Click on image to read in full.
The book that inspired me as a teenager…
‘Primo Levi’s The Wrench, although I’m not sure it inspired me in the right way. It’s about an itinerant rigger (an engineer who erects oil derricks and the like) who’s constantly on the move and loves and leaves. He’s a restless libertine and loner. I have finally – in my early 50s – had a child and got married. Enough said.’
‘Why did it take me so long to learn of Margaret Busby, who became the first black woman and youngest publisher in Britain, and whose recent New Daughters of Africa shows black women writers in Britain well before the arrival of the Windrush generation.’
Shola von Reinhold discusses the black writers and creatives who existed in the artistic folds of Britain but whose history wasn’t shared alongside more well-known artists because of the colour of their skin. Shola explores the role Margaret played as the first black woman publisher in Britain, whilst also highlighting other publishers and artists working to promote and celebrate black authors and artists in Britain today. Read the article in full over on the Independent website.
‘Each drawing is annotated by Lightman’s own observations, together forming a tapestry of her life from a young girl in Hampstead to present day motherhood. Poetically poignant contemplations that, much like the book’s biblical namesake, can be drawn wisdom and opened on any page. A beautiful, resonant, gallery of a graphic memoir.’
Read the review in full HERE.
‘One of the most seemingly intractable formulas for dismissing patriarchal behaviour is the facile assertion that “Boys will be boys.”‘ Author Cynthia Enloe discusses this damaging phrase at the PSA Annual International Conference 2019 in Nottingham, UK.
‘In this essay, I turn my thoughts away from arresting visual art to focus on a landmark union: Margaret Busby OBE with Candida Lacey of Myriad Editions and 200+ women from Africa and her Diasporas. It is a great literary assembly put together for the purpose of reconstructing perceptions about Africa and her women; celebrating African women in literature and showcasing the dazzling range of their work…’
A fantastic essay on African Women in Literature and New Daughters of Africa by literary journalist and publicist Olatoun Gabi-Williams on the Borders Literature Online website.
Africa Writes delves into the life of Margaret Busby, discussing her epic contribution to the representation of black women in publishing. ‘By vocalising the narratives of the marginalised, Margaret Busby has expanded the possibility of learning, and has ultimately opened the door for dialogue to occur.’
Read the article in full HERE.
‘A stunning collection that I can’t recommend highly enough!’
Lisa Blower features in a new collection of essays, poems and memoirs centred around the subject of working-class, titled Common People. The collection has been edited by Kit de Waal, author of My Name is Leon and The Trick To Time.
Olivier Kugler has just been shortlisted for the AOI World Illustration Awards 2019, with illustrations from Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees.
‘To produce drawings combined with text that document the circumstances of Syrian refugees I met in Iraqi Kurdistan, Greece, France, England and Germany. The work is supposed to help raise awareness and to act as a platform for the people I encountered, on which they can share their experiences with a wider audience.’ See Olivier’s work over on the AOI website.
‘I am working-class, I was brought up working-class, and the values, beliefs and principles I was brought up with are still with me today. Whether or not that filters into my fiction is entirely a different argument for me, but I still feel working-class, and a loyalty to where I grew up and the people I grew up with.’
Listen again HERE.
Lisa Blower shares the personal stories that helped pave the way for It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s. “They’re mostly stories about women but I remember growing up with a lot of women around me. I was surrounded by chattering matriarchs who were always telling stories and gossiping. The women of that time didn’t think they were doing anything interesting or significant or contributing to history, but of course they were.
“I remember telling my nan that I’d like to write her life history and she said whatever for as she hadn’t done anything. Those women were accepting rather than expecting. They worked their whole lives, they made armaments during the war – but they didn’t think they’d done anything interesting.”
Read the full article here.
‘At once a war-front, a home-front and a sanctuary for our souls, the page is where Africa’s literary daughters wield our pens like swords to stake our claim to a true feminism whose power, urgency and truth can be found only at gender’s intersections: colonialism, race, culture, class, sexuality, history and nation.’ A fabulous article in The Guardian Arts by Olatoun Gabi-Williams, discussing Margaret Busby, Myriad Editions and New Daughters of Africa. Read in full here.
‘Margaret Busby has returned with New Daughters of Africa to showcase a younger generation of writers, some of whom the literary establishment has yet to recognize adequately, but it also includes superstars like Edwidge Danticat of Haiti, Nigerian, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith (UK) and recently deceased Andrea Levy (UK). Caribbean writers are well represented by the likes of Karen Lord, Claudia Rankine, Lisa Allen Agostini, Malorie Blackman, Nalo Hopkinson, and others, some of whom will join Busby at this year’s festival.’
Marina Salandy-Brown discusses the importance of the title on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
To celebrate the publication of the astoundingly good It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s by Lisa Blower, we’re giving away a copy of the book plus a beautiful commemorative mug (toast & jam not included)!
To enter, head over to the Myriad Twitter page, RT the pinned post, tag a short story loving friend, follow Myriad and Lisa Blower. This competition is UK only and it ends on the 25th! Head over to our Twitter profile for more information.
Recently published New Daughters of Africa features in an article by Professor Selwyn Cudjoe for the Trinidad Daily Express. He says of Margaret Busby, editor of the book, ‘She remains a prolific African griot who is always doing book reviews and radio programs, writing articles and obituaries, and acting as a one-woman repository of black people’s writing.’
Read the article in full here.
Sohaila Abdulali on BDC News: ‘Let’s get real – I have yet to see a single woman anywhere actually gain anything by pointing the finger at a rapist or harasser. So let us accord women speaking out about sexual abuse at least the respect of not starting with the fear that they are out to get men. Historically, in every culture, there is one group that has consistendly lied about rape: Rapists.’ Read in full here.
‘What #MeToo has done is crumbled the walls that made sexual harassment of all kinds taboo. Today it is acceptable to talk about it. You are listened to. There is engagement.’ Read more here.
‘I’ve told stories both of people who have found forgiveness, and of people who carry rage like a hot stone in their chests. Funnily enough, I’m not sure there’s always a tension between the two. If the ultimate aim is to find peace for yourself, then both revenge and mercy are tools you have. Use whatever works. I’m not advocating going out and creating mayhem, but healthy anger is no bad thing.’
Read the entire interview over on The New Press website.
‘It’s fitting that New Daughters of Africa was launched in March, because there is an undeniable feeling around the book that history is in fact being made.
The anthology, the brainchild of Margaret Busby, brings together 200 black female writers from across the diaspora. It’s less of a follow up from the first, more of a wonderful and exciting child that’s a testament to the impact of the previous publication of its kind by the writer.
Speaking to Life & Style about the need for the book now, Busby said: “There are so many writers who need to have a light shone on their work, that’s why.’
Alannah Francis for The Voice Online. Read in full here.
‘It’s imperative that the industry opens its doors more to the regional voice, to stories of place and the class subject when we are so culturally diverse, because there’s never been a more vital time to represent the stories that would otherwise not be told.’
More than a year in, #metoo has held some powerful men to account. But has it gone far enough, and what are the next steps? Explore how the #metoo movement must evolve to represent women worldwide. This particular discussion from All About Women 2019 features Michelle Obama’s former Chief of Staff Tina Tchen, New York Times journalist Emily Steel and author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape Sohaila Abdulali. With Lenore Taylor of Guardian Australia they reflect on the wins of the movement so far and how to create longlasting change.
‘I have found myself returning to a phrase of one of the writers in the anthology who was new to me. In her 1993 essay “The Autobiography of an Idea”, Arthenia Bates Millican wrote: “I have kissed the darkness hello. And as I move, I search through that darkness for the most brilliant fight.” This is the calling, and the beauty, of both the old and the new daughters of Africa.’
The Lady Doctor (Myriad, 2019) reviewed by Hillary Chute for The New York Times. ‘What makes this book fascinating is its sensitive portrayal of Lois’s interactions with a range of patients. In recurrent, wordless pages throughout, with his clean and fluid black line art, Williams illustrates the rhythm of Lois’s professional routine through whom and what she encounters: an assortment of faces, body parts and affects streaming by in an even staccato.
Rakuten Overdrive recommends What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape in a new reading list. Read the full list here.
Authors Ruth Figgest and Umi Sinha joined for an author talk at this year’s International Women’s Day event at Brighton Dome. They discussed topics which featured across their writing; feeling disconnected from the land you live and family relationships. They also answered audience questions about the publishing industry and working as writers. The talk was enigmatic and both authors were captivating.
The day was a total hit and featured a wonderful array of supportive charities, organisations and advocates for women’s rights. Over 3000 people attended the event, The Feminist Bookshop had a huge pop-up shop and graphic novelists Hannah Eaton and Ottilie Hainsworth were graphic reporters for the event, drawing scenes from various workshops for all to see in the Founder’s Room. We were incredibly proud to be part of such a brilliant event and thank Brighton Women’s Centre for organising it.
Head over to our Facebook page to view an album of photographs and video’s taken during Ruth and Umi’s talk and the day in general.
Artists and graphic novelists Ottilie Hainsworth and Hannah Eaton became graphic reporters at this year’s International Women’s Day event at Brighton Dome, running from one event to the next to capture as many as possible in artistic glory. They set up in the Founder’s Room with a dedicated artist space, allowing for those attending to take part and draw/write answers to a variety of tailor-written questions regarding wants, wishes and worries surrounding womanhood, then showcased their sketches from each event on a selection of easels.
The day was a total hit and featured a wonderful array of supportive charities, organisations and advocates for women’s rights. Over 3000 people attended the event, The Feminist Bookshop had a huge pop-up shop and Myriad authors Ruth Figgest and Umi Sinha featured in an author talk on belonging. We were incredibly proud to be part of such a brilliant event and thank Brighton Women’s Centre for organising it.
Head over to our Facebook page to view an album of photographs and video’s taken of Hannah and Ottilie’s work.
Sarah Lightman with a tantalising pre-publication copy of The Book of Sarah at Jewish Book Week, at which she spoke.
The Sunday Morning Herald shares insights from All About Women Festival, held at Sydney Opera House, in which author Sohaila Abdulali featured.
The #MeToo movement exposed hundreds of predators, but the exposition of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct isn’t enough. In the #MeToo: Year Two discussion, author Sohaila Abdulali said: “It’s fantastic to have the conversation, but the old systems which allowed the abuse are still there.”
“What are we talking about, with rape?” Abdulali asked. “We’re talking about an entire culture of a way that men treat women, and then we all treat each other.”
Rape will continue as long as we are, as she so nicely put it, “mesmerised by patriarchy.”
“You could go out and be marching in the streets and demonstrating against rape, but if you come in and you give your son the first helping, it’s cancelling everything you’ve done.”
Aparna Ananthuni reports back after watching Sohaila at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre. Read the entire article on the Indian Link website.
It’s time to include men in the MeToo movement. This was one of the conclusions journalists Emily Steel, Sohaila Abdulali and lawyer Tina Tchen reached as they discussed the next phase of the feminist movement at All About Women last week.
When asked by an audience member about how to counsel men who want to be involved but who were concerned about doing the wrong thing, Tchen acknowledged it was an uncomfortable transition but an important one.
“We are changing very deeply held societal norms about how men and women interact in the workplace and that is to the good,” she said, “but we (as advocates) have to create spaces where men can be part of the conversations. We are not going to solve this without men as allies, without men engaged, and there are many men who want to be part of this conversation.”
Tchen said it was important to help men to engage with this movement productively. “We have to be patient and not jump down the throats of someone who says something in not exactly the right way.”
The panel agreed the backlash was already happening, with Tchen pointing to comments from speaker Anthony Robbins in April 2018 about male employers shying away from hiring attractive women and instead opting for less qualified men. According to Tchen, its about seeing workplace culture as a whole, rather than separating the issues of sexual harassment, diversity inclusion and pay equity.
Steel said the most important thing was to listen to women’s stories. “For so long, we’ve heard these statistics and knew the numbers, but we weren’t really listening to the stories behind that and that’s something that once it’s out of the box, you can’t put back in.”
However, Abdulali cautioned against too much tiptoeing around men. “[This idea of ] men worrying about how they should behave – they should worry!” she said to thunderous applause from the audience. “We worry forever about how we behave, and the men who I’ve talked to who are worried are the ones who should behave … Let’s be real about backlash.”
‘Indian women were dressing up and fighting wars hundreds of years before there were any suffragettes,’ says Sohaila Abdulali, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape. Backstage at the All About Women festival held in Sydney in March, Guardian Australia posed the same question to Abdulali and three other diverse women: what do outsiders get wrong about your experience of feminism? For Leta Hong Fincher, an expert in China’s emerging feminist movement, it’s that a movement exists there at all. Watch a highlights video here.
Camden New Journal reported from the SOAS launch for New Daughters of Africa.‘
‘A raw and touching little memoir of the childhood years of Angela Cobbinah, a regular contributor to the New Journal – and its co-founder in 1982 – has been chosen in a prestigious anthology of the writings of women of African descent, edited by the illustrious publisher Margaret Busby.’
‘It tells of her early years – often puzzling and painful – as the only black child in a Cornish village where she lived with her mother, a Hungarian refugee who had become the local midwife – her father had returned to his native country, Ghana.’
‘Her name sits among such household literary names as Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Adichie, Andrea Levy and Marion Blackman but also many unknowns. Typical of Angela’s writings, her 3,000-word memoir displays a candour and insightfulness that beautifully illustrates a maturing mind caught up in an atmosphere of prejudice and ignorance.’
Read more here.
‘Some of the short stories will make you hold your breath… The result is a necessary wealth of work – a welcome addition to any book shelf and a compulsory education for anyone unaware of the countless gifted African women journalists, essayists, poets and speakers who should influence how we see the world. Sometimes you need an anthology to remind you of the variety, strength and nuance of writing among a certain region or group of people. New Daughters of Africa is indispensable because African voices have been silenced or diminished throughout history, and women’s voices even more so.’
‘New Daughters of Africa, compiled by Margaret Busby in a gargantuan editorial feat, showcases the creativity and achievements of contributors including Roxane Gay, Zadie Smith, and Diane Abbott. It is a behemoth of thought and reflection, exploring sisterhood, tradition, romance, race and identity – individually, and at large.’
New Daughters of Africa was chosen by Turnaround as Book of the Month.
‘Women’s anger – and the potential to harness its power to bring about societal change – was the focus of last night’s topical Zeitgeist series session Rage, Rape and Revolution at Adelaide Writers’ Week.’
In Daily: Adelaide’s Independent News discusses a group discussion Sohaila was involved in at the writers’ festival in Adelaide. Read their write-up here.
‘The book reveals works in progress, identities in transition, shapeshifting sensibilities, a delicious mash-up of expectations. Who knew that Nadifa Mohamed, one of Granta’s best young British novelists in 2013, was also a fine poet? The chef Zoe Adjonyoh, from whom cookery writing might have been expected, delivers a memoir of her father that is indeed “A Beautiful Story”. Contributors are drawn to write about countries not theirs by birth: a Zimbabwean shines light on Antigua, Ghana has an impact on a writer from Trinidad.’
‘The aspirational mantra of inclusivity and diversity is increasingly routine, fashionable even, in today’s publishing industry, but lasting change has yet to be achieved. Verna Wilkins, founder of the children’s imprint Tamarind Books, explains in her essay that she began hands-on work creating books in diverse classrooms in the belief that the process must start with children: “They should see themselves as the authors, editors, designers, illustrators and publishers of the future.”’
Margaret Busby wrote an amazing article for The Guardian about New Daughters of Africa. Read it in full here.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Red magazine chose 10 books by women authors. New Daughters of Africa was one of those spotlighted – check out the entire list here.
Ian featured in The Jester, March 2019.
“When I started writing this book,
nobody was talking about rape. And even in
that short time, people are now starting to want to speak about their experiences and
understand them. That people want to
understand and talk about it – makes me feel
hopeful. There’s a lot in the world to feel
hopeless about too, but there’s still hope.”
‘I know rape is entrenched, quotidian, epidemic. I know many people are clueless, malign, brutal. I know all this because I have seen all this. I see the trolls on Twitter, and roll my eyes at the newspaper headlines unable to sing a different tune, that insist on making me a sad downtrodden victim. But I also see some other things, things that would not have been possible when I wrote my first piece: My 80-year-old uncles and aunts showing up at my book launch radiating support and love, after almost four decades of not saying a word about the subject. My mother’s driver, hearing about my book, casually asking, “Have you mentioned your own rape?” The woman in Mumbai who wept while asking what to do about her father who loves her but is smothering her for her own protection. The hundreds of people in Jaipur who broke into spontaneous applause when I talked about rapists being ordinary men. The young man who stood up in the audience and said, “What can we do, Mam? What can we do to make it better?”’
‘Sticking it to the patriarchy for the ninth year running, Women of the World festival returns to the shores of Southbank for a two-day celebration of all things female. This year the line-up is as stellar as ever, including conversations with Catherine Mayer and Naomi Klein as well as the launch of New Daughters of Africa, an anthology of writing by women of African descent. Plus, this year’s event marks the beginning of the WOW Foundation which aims to further the movement in global gender equality.’
It’s not just us who are absolutely thrilled about the upcoming WOW event and New Daughters of Africa launch. The event headlines on Emerald Street’s round up of London events this month.
The Motherload Book Club features What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape in a line up of nonfiction feminist titles.
New Daughters of Africa will be published this month and we couldn’t be more excited.
New Internationalist celebrates its arrival with a nine-page spread written by Margaret Busby, featuring three stories from New Daughters of Africa. From Dirt by Camillet Dungy, Home by Ketty Nivyabandi and Saying Goodbye To Mary Danquah by Nana-Ama Danquah a contributor to the anthology.
‘It’s important to understand rape in part because every victim is someone’s sister, daughter, mother, friend. Rape is like that proverbial pebble in a pond that causes ripples far and wide – except it is not a pebble but a boulder, a giant calamity that crashes explosively into someone’s life, and then flings shrapnel into her present, her future, her lovers, her children present and future, her job, her soul, her day, her night, her year, her life. It is never, as the Stanford rapist Brock Turner’s father said, just “20 minutes of action.” It is a trauma that requires everyone in her life to help her come through. That includes you.’
Sohaila wrote an article for The New Press on rape being an issue which shouldn’t just be resigned to the Feminist Studies section, but on every nonfiction shelf in every bookstore.
Sohaila’s title, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, was featured by Scroll.In on their round up of nonfiction tiles to best understand India and the world.
Sohaila was interviewed by Hello Giggles, a blog for independent women.
HG: ‘You also talk about the intricacies of “yes means yes and no means no.” Can you explain what people get wrong about that, and why it’s so complicated?’
SA: ‘I think this has a lot to do with gender. Women are taught to please and be polite. Sometimes we say yes to the most awful things just to keep the peace. And sometimes we say no because we don’t believe we deserve pleasure. In a world where we are taught sex is for men to enjoy and women to endure, it’s no wonder everyone gets baffled by each other’s signals. This is not an excuse for rapists—it’s simply an acknowledgement that language is complicated, and that a “yes” under duress (not knowing your rights; worrying about your job; thinking it’s your fault for being in this situation, etc.) isn’t the same as a “yes” given freely.’
VICE ran an extract of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape – read it over on their website now.
The Lady Doctor was chosen as ‘Comicbook of the Month’ by Page 45 – who else?
‘As doctors we listen to people’s stories, we interpret and reconstruct their stories using our medical knowledge. People love medical stories, all of life is there.’
Read the full interview with Ian by Teddy Jamieson for Herald Scotland over on their website.
‘Sohaila talks about how she told her daughter about, how her own parents normalised rape and that helped her get over what happened to her. She also talks about how she does not want to centre her entire life around that single incident and hopes that more victims are given control to recount their stories in a way they are comfortable with.’
Listen to The Week podcast with Sohaila in full here.
The Hindu Business Line discussed the array of amazing feminists who featured at Jaipur Literature Festival, including Sohaila, Germaine Greer, Mary Beard, Parvati Sharma, Ira Mukhoty, Audrey Truschke and Rana Safvi. Read the full article here.
The Bookseller ran a feature celebrating the new £20,000 Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award, created by Myriad Editions and SOAS, which will be offered to a female, black student who is ordinarily resident in Africa. The bursary will pay for the recipient’s tuition fees and accommodation costs for a SOAS Masters in African Studies, Comparative Literature or Translation in African Languages.
Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide featured in The Irish Times article, 50 books to keep you reading all year long.
New Daughters of Africa featured in The Irish Times article, 50 books to keep you reading all year long.
According to Abdulali, a rape victim should not be frowned upon, rather be made powerful with support from family and friends and even the close ones should know how to handle the delicate situation.
“Be horrified but don’t fall off your chair that she has to take care of you. Believe her, no ifs, ands, or buts. Let her take the lead, if she wants to talk Ok, if she wants to be quiet Ok. If she wants to cry Ok, If she wants to joke Ok, If she wants to throw things Ok. Ask her what she wants, no need to help.”
“Encourage her to get help—medical, legal, physical mental—but don’t force it. Don’t ask for details but let her know you are open if she wants to elaborate. Don’t question her judgement, let her frame it the way she wants. Don’t try to understand, just be there,” were a few of the ways Abdulali said a situation like rape and the victim’s emotions should be handled.
Read the entire piece here on DNA India.
‘Dementia is one situation in which you should definitely throw money at a problem, Barnes counsels, to secure the best care you can, even round-the-clock nursing help. However, as the title suggests, nothing outweighs simply being there. Your presence, not chiefly to make decisions, but just to sit, listen and place a soothing hand on a forehead, is the greatest gift.’
‘By your loved one’s side is “Not where things are easy, or satisfactorily achieved, or achievable, or even necessarily pleasant. But where you ought to be, have to be, and are. It brings a peace.”’
Read the full review on the Bookish Beck blog.
Read it Forward featured The Women’s Atlas as one of the best nonfiction titles to give as gifts.
The Vim online magazine picked The Women’s Atlas as one of the next 17 female-authored titles they’ll be reading next.
The Women’s Atlas features in Gloria Steinem’s list of inspiring titles on Medium.
Lipstick Alley featured extracts from The Women’s atlas on their blog, reporting specifically on ‘son preference’.
Read the finds over on Lipstick Alley’s website here.
The Women’s Atlas featured in a curated list for those wanting to find meaningful and practical gifts for loved ones on Refinery 29.
The Women’s Atlas featured on Oprahmag.com as one of their top 30 gifts for Galentine’s Day.
‘OCD is not about being punctual or tidy: the clue is in the ‘disorder’ bit of the diagnosis.’ Ian discusses The Bad Doctor, The Lady Doctor and his irresistible charm in an interview with Minor Literatures. Read it online here.
The Lady Doctor featured in The Big Issue, including extracts from the graphic novel and a mini interview with Ian.
‘What are the hardest things you have to deal with as a GP?’
‘One of the hardest things currently is to do with mental health. It plays a big role as a GP. We see a lot of people who are very depressed and particularly children who are suffering – the services to send those people to are cut to the bone. Particularly teenagers who are suffering from self-harm – it’s very hard to get anybody to see them because the services are not adequately funded.’
‘I’m sending you the news I needed to hear myself. Needed and still need often, ransacking confusions to find a clear way forward. I have moved my mother Mary four times in seven years. These moves, I see now, map out the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s. But the stages are never neat, they are taking place in a person, with all her quirks and qualities, and different parts of the brain will be affected to different degrees.’
You Magazine ran an extract from Be With, which you can read online if you weren’t able to pick up a hard copy.
Diacritik features novel Genie and Paul, discussing Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, and how Natasha has crafted the story into a new and contemporary work.
‘I am strongly opposed to capital punishment in any form, for anyone. As for hanging rapists, it just seems stupid to assume that this will change anything, except make a statement that we are a barbaric society. ‘
A brief extract from one of Sohaila’s talks at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters 2019.
“All too often, popular culture, including literature, neglects to reflect working-class life in its diversity. It’s easy to depict rich and poor, north and south, while undermining those who exist in-between. Working-class writing is simply reflecting lives, to paraphrase Alan Bennett, that are generally happening elsewhere.” Lisa Blower features in Kit de Waal’s piece for The Guardian on working-class writing. Read it in full here.
My nan doesn’t like Margaret Thatcher because she’d kicked women in the shins and blew off kneecaps so a working man would know what mercy meant. She said that Margaret Thatcher drove a tank straight through the poor people and was only wearing a headscarf. She said that Margaret Thatcher said that everyone should have a house because that was the law. Mum says houses are greedy old things. Read the full story over on The Guardian website.
Lisa Blower talks to Caroline Stockford of New Welsh Review about her story ‘Johnny Dangerously’, which features in ‘It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s‘, the transition from working to writing life and the importance of writing working-class fiction.
‘When you finally meet the people you want to portray, in the desperate situations they find themselves in, when you sit together with them and they are talking about the loss and trauma they experienced, this does naturally want to make you cry… it obviously make you sad, angry and confused… What helped me cope with this stress was that I worked as hard and focused as I possibly could, not only on location but also later on in my studio, to create the best possible work I could.Through my drawings I wanted to create a platform for the people I encountered, on which they could share their experiences with a wider audience.’
Read the full interview on Print Mag’s website.
Sohaila was invited to Politics and Prose bookstore to discuss What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape in front of a live audience. Watch her here.
Mike Barnes was invited onto Global News to discuss Be With with The Morning Show team during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Watch the full five minute interview here.
Cynthia Enloe is part of an influential generation of feminist scholars who, during the Vietnam War, began to trace the contradictions between militarist ideology and feminist logic. Enloe joins Worldview to discuss women in the military-industrial complex and “lean in” feminism. Listen to the full feature over on WBEZ 91.5 Chicago now.
‘We need the words. We need to train guys that you should care whether the woman’s into it, and we need to train ourselves that it matters what we want, because words are great, but I think there’s more going on with consent.’
Read the full transcript or watch Sohaila’s interview with Jeffrey Brown on the PBS website.
‘Sohaila Abdulali has no “Shame Gene.” The “brown bisexual middle-aged atheist Muslim survivor immigrant writer,” or so she posits herself in her new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, has struggled for years to understand why so many rape survivors—including herself—are shamed for their silence, for their outspokenness, for their very existence. Abdulali argues she wasn’t born with a “Shame Gene,” thus justifying why she “has the nerve” to write this challenging, nuanced and altogether triumphant book.’
Read the entire interview with Sohaila and Lauren Puckett on The Rumpus here.
‘Then the other thing is — it’s not anybody’s duty to speak. It’s not a survivor’s duty to speak out and cure rape, like an extra added burden on us. I’m finding this now with the book, I love talking about the book, I’m really interested in this topic. But I don’t really feel it’s my role to have the answers.’
Read Sohaila’s full interview with Mary Elizabeth Williams on Salon here.
New Daughters of Africa featured as one of the books you must read in 2019. If that isn’t praise enough, we don’t know what is! Read the full line up here.
‘Now, my heroes are less likely to perform the blatant prodigies of Baun-Bligh-Duc and more likely to manifest the quiet radiance of a skinny, white-haired woman I will call Joan. Joan is in her early 70s. Apart from her dark-framed glasses, she has no features that would make her stand out in a crowd – which is just as well, as she is, and would no doubt like to remain, a hero in hiding.’
A wonderful article by Mike Barnes in The Globe and Mail. Read in full here.
‘I think it would transform the world [if we were to have sensible conversations about rape], because I think we lose a lot by not talking about it. There are two sides to it – there’s the victim’s side and the perpetrator’s side. On the victim’s side, we lose a lot because as anyone who has been raped knows, it’s really awful to feel alone, like no-one understands you and like there’s no help; just to feel bad about it and to have no recourse. The other thing we do by not talking about it is to give a free pass to rapists, because we act like they don’t exist, or we pretend they’re out there and there’s nothing we can do about it. That way we take away the opportunity to actually do something, to change society, to change how we talk to our kids. I think we lose a lot.’
Listen to the full interview here.
The Murder of Harriet Monckton features as on of NB Magazine’s ‘Recommended Reads’ in their latest issue. Have a look here.
“It used to be just a few writers published mostly as part of an educational series,” explains Margaret. “Now they are in the mainstream. I think publishers can see the success they can have with someone like Chimamanda and of course they want that success too.” But it’s still not as easy as it might be. “Until you can no longer count the number of African women writers who have broken through then we’ve still got work to do.” Read the full article by Gary Younge here.
Manu Joseph interviewed by comedian Kunal Kamra. The very funny interview is an hour long and features great insight into Manu and his novel, Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous.
Sohaila’s title, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, was featured in the WIA Report of Recent Books of Interest to Women Scholars. Intrigued which other titles made the list? Have a look here.
‘Tracking gender and the gendered international political economy of insecurity takes exploration and is really important. But a feminist believes that you are exploring something for a purpose. You are exploring so that you can reveal things that will activate people to challenge injustices.’
Cynthia Enloe discusses feminism, writing and gender studies with Natalia Felix for SciELO. You can read the full article here: 0102-8529-cint-2018400300435
‘Most rapists are men who choose to rape. That counts more than whether their victims are tough or weak, rich or poor – all those factors come into play, but that one choice is at the heart of the matter. And while men from New York to New Delhi make that choice, we all have a rape problem.’
Read Sohaila’s article in The Telegraph here.
‘If we can’t stick to our ossified expectations of how we are supposed to behave, then we have to rethink everything we know about male privilege, who gets to say yes and no and stop, and both consent and pleasure. It’s very exciting! It implies being able to rethink and redefine how we conduct ourselves in the world.’
Sohaila in conversation with E CE Miller for Bustle. Read the full article here.
‘What do people get wrong when they talk about rape?’
‘Oh, everything. For one thing, the idea that women somehow bring it on themselves. I mean, we have countries in the world where that’s kind of the law, right? In Iran, if you show your head and you get raped, then you’re [responsible for] it. And also [the idea] that men can’t help it. Many of the men I know absolutely can help it, and they choose not to do it.
Read the full interview over on the Longreads website here.
Escaping Wars and Waves featured on the front of New York Review of Books, Dec 2018, and also in an article within, written by Molly Crabapple. Read the full article here.
Olivier Kugler’s artwork currently features in Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis, an exhibition at the House of Illustration in London. The exhibition runs from November 2018 – March 2019 and features multi-media work by 12 contemporary illustrators, including Olivier’s reportage on Syrian refugees.
The Observer ran a feature on Olivier, reuniting him with Ammar Raad, one of the Syrian refugees Olivier met and whose story he told in Escaping Wars and Waves. Read the full article here.
‘I wanted this balance: rape is serious but, like everything else in life, you can be light. In fact, part of the whole problem, certainly in India, is that if you’re raped, you’re supposed to be overcome with heaviness and die.’
Read the full article by Publishers Weekly here.
‘Many of our required reading texts use the author’s personal experience as a starting point for a discussion about larger societal issues. As Abdulali notes, this can make them difficult to categorize properly:
“Essays? Not really. Sociology? Not Learned or Academic enough. Psychology? No, too opinionated. Research? Not comprehensive enough. Memoir? Heaven forbid.”
‘Do you suppose that’s why nonfiction discussing the continued oppression of 51 percent of the world’s population frequently ends up stashed on the “Women’s Studies” shelf in bookstores, as opposed to, say, the “Current Affairs” display?’
Sohaila Abdulali featured on Electric Lit in an article by Kate Harding, discussing how non-fiction, feminist titles end up hidden away and not on the political shelf. Read the entire article here.
‘I got a grant to go back to India and talk about rape, and I think that was one of the most naive things I’ve ever done in my life. I somehow thought I’d show up and find all these people to talk to, who would tell me their stories. In fact, there was a huge amount of denial.’
Sohaila Abdulali on the BBC World Service discussing What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape. Listen again here.
‘The Book That Inspired Me As A Teenager: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first of what became a seven-volume autobiographical work by Maya Angelou. The accurate detail in the imagery evokes place perfectly. Her authentic voice and use of language expertly illicit emotion in an understated fashion.’
Read about Ruth’s favourite books in the full article: Literary Life Oct 2018
‘Just for this lovely moment, I’m living the dream. I’ve spent some months writing a book, had a grand time doing it, and it’s poised to come out all over the world. It might sell; it might not. The dreamy part was working on it, talking to incredible people, typing madly while ignoring the reality that my table is too high and my chair too low and it huts to sit here and why don’t I get a real desk…’
Sohaila discussing What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape in Harper’s Bazaar, Indian- October 2018. You can read the article here: Harper’s Bazaar India, October 2018
The author, who lives in Norfolk, said it was “amazing” returning to Bromley, a borough she used to work in, for research. She was thrilled that a graphic designer created a map of Bromley from 1843 for the start of the novel. Elizabeth ultimately wrote the book to “achieve justice” for the young woman whose poignant final hours became lost in old library documents. Did she achieve her goal?
“I think so,” Elizabeth said. “I had to guess who the murderer was. There were so many people it could have been. There is enough information in the book for people to make their own minds up.’
Read the full interview here.
Did you know you can go on a trail to discover where Harriet lived and was murdered? The Booktrail website organises travel guides for books and has created one for The Murder of Harriet Monckton. If you head to their website, you can plan your walk around Bromley to uncover the locations described in Elizabeth’s novel.
Cynthia Enloe on “Gender and the Rise of the Global Right” with Signs editor Suzanna Danuta Walters.