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GirlCon – come along!

Author:
girlcon logo

By Anna Hill

What is Girlcon?

Inspired by the book Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, where a bunch of teen beauty queens crash land on a desert island, Girlcon is a two day convention aiming to celebrate teenage girls, young women and non binary folk and create solidarity and community.

The conception of the convention stems from a specific and incredibly relatable conversation held in the book:
“You know, instead of some old, backassward pageant competition, we should have a con. A Girl Con! How awesome would that be?” Adina said.
“What would we do at Girl Con?” Jennifer said, giving the words a cheesy announcer’s voice.
“We could have some wicked cool workshops — writing, films, science, music, consciousness-raising…”
— Beauty Queens, p. 152

They go on to talk about having “a seminar on DIY zine production”, and talks about comic books! Excited by the prospect of a space where girls need not apologise for being themselves, a discussion of what Girlcon could consist of happened on youtube in 2013. After these discussions the first girlcon took place in 2015 and was a great success!

Girlcon is back for a second year with even more content and discussions lined up; from a discussion about rage to talks on queer animation stories and black feminist thought as well as an Asexual and Aromantic meet up and a panel on Beyonce’s new album Lemonade.

Why create Girlcon?

The reason that the organisers of girlcon are so committed to its existence are various; it needs to exist to say that girls and non-binary people should be able to take up all the space they need. It needs to exist to fight against the the toxicity of patriarchal competition; other girls are your friends, your support, your loves, not your enemies. It needs to exist so we can learn from each other and listen to each other.

When and where is Girlcon?

30th – 31st of July, Woodhouse College, London, N12 9EY!!

Here is the facebook event page and here are the free tickets (we just need to keep track of numbers!). For more information about the schedule and anything else follow us on twitter and tumblr and like our facebook page!

Stories for summer

Author:
sophia3

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

Summer is upon us! Well…sort of, for those of us in the UK – but summer is rarely warm/dry/sunny here, is it? And it’s not summer in many other parts of the world right now… time is such a strange concept. And holy macaroni, I’ve just had an epiphany. TIME IS JUST A CONSTRUCT. TIME IS MEANINGLESS. TIME DOES NOT CONTROL YOU. Phew. I think my life may have just changed forever.

That aside, I am excited for summer, for the idea of it. Even though I’m not currently in education, summer still holds the connotations that it’s had in the past – the word still translates to one thing in particular: freedom. It’s swimming in an outdoor pool; the fresh air in my lungs as I come up for air and the sun shining on my back as I move smoothly through the water. It’s eating breakfast in the garden, starting my day with a sense of leisure, and making smoothies in the afternoon, then lounging on the grass, reading a book. It is, perhaps most of all, the books. Throughout the academic year, a large chunk of what we read is dictated by exam boards, by old white men who don’t know anything about what we’re interested in, let alone care. So every year, I look forward to the summer, to the freedom of being able to read whatever I want. I may not have had the external restrictions of academia lately, but old habits die hard. I’ve felt guilty every time I’ve gravitated towards a book just for fun, for escape, because I can’t shake the thought that I should be enriching my mind in an intellectual sense. I have felt shame every time I have given up on a heavy classic, because I should be stretching myself, because reading is supposed to be about learning. As if my break from academia isn’t about learning to relax, about letting myself breathe and having some fun. I know that as summer washes over me, this will become easier, that I will not feel quite so bad about reading solely for pleasure, because I have always associated this time with light and fun and I am used to giving myself permission to let go a little. I am very excited for the relief that it will bring.

If you are reading this, you are probably a bit of a book worm, like me. I reckon you probably share my excitement for summer reading, too. But if you’ve had your reading material selected for you all year, you might feel at a bit of a loss – what are you even looking for? Well, whether you’re off to the beach, in your back garden, in the car visiting country parks with your parents, or having to sneak-read behind the counter at work, I have a few fantastic recommendations for you:

If you’re starting university/college after Summer… Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer

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I read this graphic memoir whilst still at the Wrong University, and though I was completely distraught at the time, I was comforted by it. The protagonist, Ramsey, went to college in a completely new place, like me, and loved it, unlike me. Although I was bitter at the time that she got to enjoy her experience whilst I loathed it, I was also immensely reassured. It reminded me that it was possible. And whilst she loved where she went to school, it was clearly difficult for her, too. The workload, the navigation of a new city, the being away from home, the friendship anxiety… she was honest about that, which was so important for me. I needed to see that the people having a good time weren’t JUST living it up, it wasn’t ALL fun and games – that was just all I was seeing. I keep dipping into it again, and will certainly take it along with me when I go back to university in September, to soothe my anxieties. If you’re feeling stressed out about your move at all, I highly recommend Little Fish. Also, the drawings are so cute!

If you’re off on a road trip (or dreaming about one!)… The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Reading this will make you really really really want start a band with your best friends. Like, REALLY. But it’s not an entirely light-hearted read – it’s very much concerned with the question of ‘finding yourself’, and gets pretty profound in places. The thing is, it’s not predictable – self-discovery in YA can be fairly formulaic, usually revolving around the manic pixie dream girl trope, but LaCour’s writing is much too good for that. It’s subtly woven in to the fun and adventure, and to the touching moments between friends and family and strangers.

If you’re going to Summer Camp/working at Summer Camp/feeling nostalgic for Summer Camp… Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

I’m ridiculously obsessed with Summer Camp stories for someone who was such an anxious kid that I was physically sick on the first night of every school trip or holiday camp I went on, and actually left after the first 48 hours one time. Alas, the idea of camp enchants me, and Maggie Thrash’s graphic memoir was wonderful for my obsession. The images are so beautiful, it’s easy to believe that some kind of magic goes into making camp happen. It is also a heart-warming tale of exploration, of the first crush and confusion that comes along with it. It shows how all-consuming it is the first time you fall for a girl, how you are overwhelmed by the girl but also overwhelmed in a scary way, overwhelmed by the fact that your desire appears to be unlike your peers. Perhaps most importantly, this book is an ode to the mystical, chaotic, insular world of teenage girlhood.

If you’re off to a music festival… Remix by Non Pratt

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Live music outdoors is one of the best things about Summer. FACT. And best friends are one of the best things about life. ALSO A FACT. Thus, Remix by Non Pratt? One of the best books in YA fiction. FACT FACT FACT. Seriously, nothing screams ‘TEENAGE GIRLS FOREVERRR’ more than this book. I adore that it is a dual narration, from both of the BFFs – Ruby and Kaz. Often when a book has more than one voice, it can lose depth, you don’t get to know the characters so well, but Non Pratt manages it perfectly. The emotions are raw, the love is real, and you can practically smell the mix of sun cream and vomit typical of a UK festival.

If you are really missing One Direction… Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

It is so rare to find representation of fangirls and fandom that isn’t condescending, that recognises the different dimensions of this whole thing. Goldy actually shows the more ridiculous side of fandom, the side that middle-aged men refer to as ‘hysteria’, but with humour, affection and compassion. Equally, she highlights the sheer brilliance of fangirls, how determined, quick-thinking and creative we can be. Most importantly, she writes about how fandom makes you feel – how you form friendships, feel an affinity with other young girls, and how the object of your devotion gives you blissful joy. I will leave you with this quote, which kind of sums up how I feel about One Direction, and made me cry, because I miss my boys: “Did I love them because they were the only boys in my life who consistently told me that I was beautiful? Probably. I loved The Ruperts for who they were, sure, but I mostly loved them for how they made me feel. Which was happy. The Ruperts made me happy. The simplest thing to be in the world. And the hardest.”

If you are mostly just furious and fed up with the white cishet patriarchal world… Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

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Queer People of Colour are simply not represented enough, but in YA fiction, it feels particularly problematic – this is a genre making waves, queer authors like David Levithan being some of the most prolific, and girl power trilogies such as The Hunger Games and Divergent being amongst the most successful. And yet, QPOC, particularly women, trans, and non-binary folk, are severely lacking. So along comes this novel, this outstanding novel, whose protagonist is a queer latinx young woman, and the book is blatant about that – the cover clearly and proudly depicts a woman of colour, and (not to stereotype, but…) she has an undercut, so clearly, she is queer (really, how many cishets do you know who have undercuts?). In moments the novel can feel a little bit 101 on intersectional feminism and being queer, but most of the time, the knowledge that is conveyed fits well. It’s about learning who you are and embracing that, it’s about the liberation that comes with finding your community, about respecting other communities, about challenging the norms and the crap you have internalised. It’s about a summer of discovery, and makes for a funny, emotional, and enlightening read.

If you want something to fill your heart like Perks once did, minus the manic pixie dream girl syndrome… Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

I can’t sing the praises of this book enough, and the thing that I want most in life nowadays is for Kate Scelsa to announce that it is going to be turned into a film, because I feel a physical NEED to see this adapted for the screen. It would have the best aesthetic. And I would also bawl, annoying everyone in the cinema. This was a book that I really connected to, it was the first time I felt like I’d read about being a teenager with depression and how it affects your life in a way that truly resonated. It wasn’t dramatic about it – of course, sometimes depression IS dramatic, but it’s so rare that it is written about in a non-dramatic context. It still gets intense, but it also gives a picture of a ‘regular’ life – Mira is depressed, and some days she can’t go to school, others she can. It’s a depiction of depression that resonated with me as I read the book, and I think is relatable for many. Beyond that, it’s a tale of friendship, and it is just so beautiful. It will make you feel ALL THE FEELINGS. I love these characters, I love their relationships with each other, I love the way they view the world. I’m certain that you will love it all too.

Hopefully, some of these books will take your fancy. If you’re not convinced, I dare you to give one a try anyway! I didn’t think that I was going to like Remix at all, for example, but after a glowing recommendation from a highly trusted friend, I picked it up – and I am so glad that I did. It ended up being one of my favourite reads of last summer! Read a couple of pages if you see a copy in your local bookstore, and I promise, you will fall in love with at least one of these beautiful stories. Then you can sit back, relax, and lose yourself in them. Enjoy your summer!

The Orlando shooting: alternative media

Author:
orlando

Trigger warning – Orlando shooting

Here is a page dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the Orlando shooting at Pulse night club. 49 people were killed on Saturday – the biggest mass shooting in recent US history. They were queer people, predominantly Latinx queer people. As the media continues to blame Muslims and those with mental health difficulties, we thought we’d gather some alternative media. The articles below are by Muslim people and queer people, predominantly QTIPOC. We’ll keep adding to this list, so please send us anything you think should be included.

A video from Familia: trans and queer liberation movement

“We Must Remember That The Orlando Shooting Happened At A Gay Club On Latin Night” by Marie Southard Ospina

“Latinx LGBTQ Community & Its Stories of Survival Should Be at Center of Orlando Response” – an interview with Isa Noyola

“Queer Muslims exist – and we are in mourning too” by Samra Habib

“The hate behind the Orlando massacre” by Khaled A Beydoun and Mehammed A Mack

“Today is a tragic, sad day for the world’s LGBT community” by Shon Faye

“70 Percent of Anti-LGBT Murder Victims Are People of Color” by Michael Lavers

UK Black Pride press release

Noorulann Shahid speaks on channel 4 news

“Here Is What LGBT Muslims Want You To Know After The Orlando Shooting”

In honour of our dead: Latinx, Queer, Trans, Muslim, Black – we will be free – Black Lives Matter

“Defining safety for all queer people in the wake of Orlando” by Jacqui Germain

“This is how LGBT Muslims are responding to the Orlando shooting” by Fiona Rutherford and Aisha Gani

“Dear white, hetero, cis people: please don’t co-opt this tragedy” by Mariella Mosthof

“80 percent of LGBT people killed are minorities” by Leo Duran

“In Honor of Orlando: 10 Books That Celebrate Queer Latinx Identity”
A statement from the London Latinxs –

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Safra Project

“It was shocking and saddening to hear the news of the Orlando shootings yesterday, and to see the effects upon the world and community. I cannot describe how it feels to identify as queer, and to watch such a story unfolding- particularly, to read that the worst attack in recent US history was a hate crime based on gender and sexuality. My thoughts have been entirely with the victims and their families- not just those of the 50 lives lost, but also the countless other lives so broken by the acts of one person. At the moment, the entire community is in a state of grief and shock; it has been a hellish time, and I have not yet come across any individual who identifies as LGBTQ+ and hasn’t been affected. However, I have also been bearing in mind that, whilst this is a particularly bad attack, this is not a new thing: that the LGBTQ+ community history is steeped in discrimination and hate crime- which, whilst being an incredibly awful things to consider, is also powerful. There have been attempts to tear us down time and time again, and we are still here. The LGBTQ+ community is incredible in it’s adversity and solidarity, in it’s true meaning of the word community, and it is that that I, personally, am holding on to at the moment.” – PBGer Bex Dudley

Book Review: My Daughter’s Army

Author:
mydaughtersarmy

By Christiana Paradis

I just finished reading My Daughter’s Army by Greg Hogben and the moment I put it down my heart was pounding—I just wanted more! It’s honestly taken me several days to fully put all of my thoughts about this book together and write the review that it deserves. The book follows Adam Goodwin, an attorney, who finds a baby abandoned in a train station. Goodwin goes on to adopt and single parent the child, Sera. As she ages Sera becomes an international advocate for women’s equality and her dad remains her number one supporter through it all. Here’s a quick run-down of a few of the reasons why I loved it and why feisty feminists everywhere will want to snag a copy!

  • Hooray for representations of healthy masculinity! This book is told from the perspective of Adam Goodwin, who is a father raising a sweet, caring, and loving daughter who will stop at nothing to improve the lives of women around the world. In presenting the book like this, it highlights the topic of single fatherhood, which is often overlooked. Adam finds Sera abandoned at a train station and takes on the responsibility of raising her along with his brother and three female neighbors. Additionally, Adam’s character never hesitates to express the true love that a father possesses for his daughter. We hear so much about the problems of toxic hypermasculinity and the ways in which it works to stifle male emotion. This book does the opposite. It presents the true beauty of healthy masculinity and particularly this father’s never-ending duty to support his daughter in any way that he can to help her achieve her mission.
  • Not another gay tragedy! Adam Goodwin is a gay single father. The way in which his sexuality is referred to is monumental for two reasons. First, Adam’s sexuality is not the main focus of the book, in fact it is only mentioned in reference to the loss of his partner. Thus, his character’s sexuality is presented just as normally as any other heterosexual character. Often when LGBTQ+ characters are included their sexual identity becomes their only. To the contrary, My Daughter’s Army presents sexuality as any other qualifying distinction and moves on. It was a breath of fresh air to see the normalization of an LGTBQ+ sexuality. Secondly, despite several upsets the character endures throughout the book, his sexuality is never a point of tragedy. Often LGBTQ+ characters endure tragic fates or are continually presented in stereotypical depictions. In this work, Adam’s sexuality is not a cause for depression or sadness, but rather just a piece of the character that is presented in a positive and empowering light, which is a drastic change from most novels.
  • Feminism and Faith. Towards the middle to the end of the book religious connotations begin to make an appearance. (I hate spoilers so I will not tell you how or why.) At first, I was a little reluctant to this addition; however, it is integrated into the text in a way that the reader doesn’t feel forced into understanding or accepting the character’s religion in order to enjoy the work. The religion is presented mostly as non-denominational with Christian undertones. Additionally, once I had finished the book and reflected on it I actually realized that this integration helps reconcile some ever persisting ideas that feminism and LGBTQ+ issues automatically clash with ideas of religion. It was wonderful (even if you don’t have any particular religious affiliation) to see the integration of these two spheres of thought, coming together in a mainstream title.
  • The US isn’t the center of the universe—International Feminist Representation and Inclusion! One of my favorite things about this book is that it integrates international feminist and women’s issues. It tackles everything from human trafficking to honor killings and it presents them in a way that is raw and real; yet takes into account cultural implications for the communities in which they are taking place. Often feminist works tend to stick to one particular issue or present third wave feminist issues only on a national level, this book goes above and beyond to include women’s issues on an international scale. THANK YOU!
  • Powered By Girl! But finally–my absolute favorite thing about this book is that it highlights the amazing accomplishments that internet activism can have and it is entirely powered by girl! This book is a homage to all social justice activists working in the field and behind computer screens to make a difference in the lives of women around the world. It presents how internet activism can make a difference, but also encourage real action offline. The accomplishments and implications of Sera’s work throughout the text are a true testament to the work of feminist organizations like PBG and others around the globe. Sometimes work in this movement can be exhausting—this book put into perspective that we are making a difference and each day at a time, little-by-little, the world is becoming a better and safer place for women.

Please consider purchasing and reading My Daughter’s Army. You will not be disappointed!

Fractured Families: A Review of The Green Road

Author:
the green road

By Anna Hill

Content note – brief mention of: death, bi erasure, aids, white saviourism, physical abuse and childhood neglect and abuse

If The Green Road by Anne Enright had not been shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction I wouldn’t have picked it up. The novel is set in the west of Ireland and follows Rosaleen Madigan and her grown and growing up children. The four children: Emmett, Dan, Hanna and Constance start the narrative in various places and states of growing up (Hanna is 8 in the first chapter) – from Dan in New York during the aids crisis to Constance in a hospital in Limerick in 1997.

The Green Road is also about the way families work; the way that we misunderstand and create images of our relatives in our heads. It’s about the gaps between people, between recognition, the space between cliffs and words and darkness of waiting – for say a play to start, or for people to die or be cured. There is so much expecting that everyone is disappointed. The novel is also about what being a mother means; what having children does to you and your life and how that might negatively and positively affect your perspective. Enright offers us some different versions of motherhood, from Rosaleen who is dramatic and difficult to Constance who finds her children comforting and safe, to Hanna who is erratic and messy.

As an opening Hanna’s chapter is beautifully crafted and unlike the messy whirlwind that she epitomizes, or the “dirty protest” of her behavior and life – it is intricate and detailed. The observations Hanna makes as an eight year old girl learning about death and growth are captivating. The rest of the family tease Hanna sometimes cruelly, saying that her “bladder is very close to [her] eyes” and, as every crybaby will have heard (me included) “here come the waterworks”! Hanna’s connection with fluids is interesting because she is associated with them throughout the novel – not just tears, but also blood and alcohol which lends her to a very traditionally emotional feminine body vocabulary and voice.

Dan’s introductory chapter was the most heartbreaking – it follows the melancholic sweetness of queer men loving each other and dying. Unfortunately though Dan experiences biphobia from both the characters and Enright’s vision for him – Dan expresses how he loves his partner, isabelle and also says “I’m not actually gay you know”. I’m sure to some extent that Dan’s reluctance could be pegged to internalized homophobia, but it might also be because he’s not gay – because he really does love Isabelle, but he also loves and is sexually attracted to men. Bisexual men will have lost their partners to aids, they will have had aids too and simply because they are not gay doesn’t make them straight, doesn’t mean they aren’t intrinsically linked to the pain in the 1990s. I think you can read Dan’s love for Isabelle as proof of his bisexuality and this chapter contributes to the rampant Bi erasure in queer history.

Other than the lack of awareness of polysexual identities, I think the way the chapter approaches queer issues was sensitive and appropriate. One of the moments that has stayed with me the most is when a character’s mother finally comes to visit him in his last days; after staring into the eyes of her lovely son, Enright writes “he became human again. He became pure.”.

Out of all four siblings, I enjoyed Constance’s perspective best. Never prioritizing herself, Constance devotedly looks after her children and her well meaning but inept husband Dessie who “goes peculiar” when she is sick. Constance and her body are one and the same so when her body has stopped working in the way it should it’s a blip in her life – she thinks she can’t get sick because she has too much to do! Whilst waiting for the test results though there are some delicious sensory descriptions; the beauty of the mammogram with “the map of light that was her left breast” and this wonderful visceral passage on giving birth: “she remembered the undoing of her own bones as the children were born. Her pelvis opening – there was a pleasure in it, like the top of a yawn – as the baby twisted out of her. It was all so simply done. And the baby was such a force, each time.”

Even after she has given birth Constance still sees her body as a “fabulous object” for the enjoyment “for all the family”. And Dessie, clueless, once asks “How is all that?” mystified by women’s bodies.

The one character I really couldn’t stand was Emmett – I found his voice violent and misogynistic and his positioning racist and insensitive. He is living as an aid worker in Segou, Mali, but the whole chapter positions him as the white savior to Africa, which he often refers to as a monolithic, singular entity rather than the nuanced varied continent it is. His misogyny comes out in his approach to his girlfriend Alice, who he undermines and sometimes thinks about hurting physically. He treats her pain in a way that dehumanizes her seeing it as something that makes her “sweet and wild” even suggesting that her abusive and neglectful childhood was worth it because she “turned it all to good”!

The representation of childhood and the long standing affects our pasts have on us is a key thread. And that all comes to head in the childhood home the Madigan’s shared, which, unlike their family relations, is never complicated or harmful, but rather exists soaking up their lives. Here is one of my favourite passages about the house: “It was a question of texture, Dan thought, a whiff of your former self in a twist of fabric, a loose board. It was the reassuring madness of patterned wallpaper under the daily shift of light…. The house made sense in a way that nothing else did.”

Overall I think The Green Road is a delicate and dynamic novel but its structure is where it falls down. The sections can be jarring and in some cases leave too many gaps – for example we meet Hanna as a child and only again at age 37, so her life is not explored in the same way as the other siblings. Family focused novels can offer engaging ideas about growing up and relationships and I definitely think Enright succeeded here – I wouldn’t say I was blown away, but I enjoyed the fragility of the words and the subtlety of the settings.

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