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The literature of hope #2

Author:
hope-painting

By Anna Hill

Sorry for the 8 month break this series took, but hope is a pretty scarce resource when the whole world is on fire. But I’m back and ready to share some hopeful bits and bobs with you. Hopefully you can find something that nourishes you and renews your faith in yourself and your community.

Happy playland – webseries

If you like musicals and queer girl love this is the webseries for you!! Made by the incredible candle wasters (who previously have made adaptations of the Shakespeare plays a midsummer nights dream and much ado about nothing), it explores billie, cris and zara’s relationships as they work at Happy Playland – a kids playground in its last few weeks of being open. Its also about anxiety and following your dreams and is so wholesome! Definitely an incredibly cute relief to the absolute horror that being alive is.

Amandla Stenberg’s video on Teen Vogue – “You Are Here”

Amandla has made this really sweet and calming video. It’s a very soothing thing to watch. Its also a lovely reminder to check in with yourself about how you are and how your body is doing. A space for you to listen to Amandla’s voice and remember that you deserve self kindness and comfort.

W.I.T.C.H. PDX

W.I.T.C.H PDX is a branch of an international witch conspiracy fighting against oppression of all kinds, inspired by the 1960s group of the same name. From their website:

A SINGLE WITCH IS A DANGEROUS OUTLIER. A COVEN IS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH. AN INTERNATIONAL CIRCLE OF WITCHES IS UNSTOPPABLE.

WE AIM TO USE OUR POWER TO FIGHT INJUSTICE IN ALL ITS INTERSECTIONAL FORMS, AND HELP DISMANTLE THE WHITE SUPREMACIST PATRIARCHAL SYSTEM THAT PERPETRATES IT.

WE WILL NOT CONFORM. WE WILL NOT OBEY. WE WILL NOT BE SILENT.

They even have information about how to set up your own W.I.T.C.H. group, with three simple rules: you must be anonymous, intersectional and differentiate your group with the name of your city – so if that sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to do it! There is so much power in witchcraft and community!

On top of their general inspiring amazingness they also fairly recently came out with a zine which I proceeded to print and stick to my walls! I would definitely recommend you do so too!!

radical softness by soofiya

this tiny poetry book is full of vulnerable, poignant poems and inspiring images. It’s about survival and self love, post traumatic stress disorder, resistance, domestic violence, gardens and swimming and much more. Its also funny too – one of my favourite poems is this one:

I prayed to Allah

to make me special.

I wanted superpowers

Telekinesis.

God gave me a hormonal imbalance

I think if you like rupi kaur’s book milk and honey that you will enjoy this collection too!

Audre Lorde – A litany for survival poem

(it’s the first poem in the pdf file this link takes you to)

my favourite lines are the last three, but the whole poem is a glorious reminder of how we have survived and how resilient we are. How we can get through this because we have!!

So it is better to speak

remembering

we were never meant to survive

I hope you found these helpful! Sending you resistance and power!!

You can read the first literature of hope post here.

The literature of hope – a new series

Author:
8659436706_19916251fd_k

By Anna Hill

What exactly is hope? And how can we use it to keep going in the face of oppression, fear and trauma? I don’t have a solid answer for the first question (except maybe the words “warm yellow light” like physically, but also in ur soul), and as for the second I think there are a lot or resources that discuss this very topic! In this new series, created in response to my own rising hopelessness (coupled with my mental and physical illnesses) in the face of Brexit, Donald Trump and the continuing rise of fascism throughout Europe, I am going to highlight different texts (including films, books, articles, paintings and so on) that focus on Hope.

To start the series here are some emergency hope pills in the form of a comic, a non fiction book, an article and a twitter thread:

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

This book was offered for free after the American election and so has sprung up again, although it was written during the Bush administration (so around 2003/4).

Solnit explores what is powerful about hope and I think its important to cultivate that – even if hope feels like lipstick you don’t like wearing, or an uncomfortable jumper, its in the interest of the political elite [those who benefit and uphold the current structures of power [like Donald trump]] to keep us hopeless. Because without hope there will not be energy or vigour in our protests, in our resistance. You can start with a baby step towards hope, you can start by looking after yourself, by hoping for a kinder world, for justice, for peace.

“Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.” – foreward to the third edition, 2015

How To Be Ungovernable

I recently read this article and I thought I would mention it because it’s important – I think I sometimes forget what noncompliance can and does look like, so this was a good reminder. Share the article as much as you can so you can be ungovernable too. Fascism shouldn’t be given a platform and we need to do our best to disrupt and fuck it up as much as we can. It’s amazing how people are organised. You can do this. You. Can. Resist.

This Fuck Theory Twitter Thread

This twitter thread made me do a 180 on my own approach to hope, political action and queer theory! This is, in part, because I am a massive theory dork, especially with queer theory – but anyone who has read queer theory can tell you it’s a pretty dismal world view.

Queer theory hinges on futurity – that is that queerness will only be redeemed in the future, that we will always strive for queerness but never get there and the death drive i.e the will to die – that is such negativity that death and loss and pain are the only queer things and the only pure resistance to heteronormativity that you can put up with. Theory is only useful if it can be used on the streets – but if this theory is used politically on the streets then queer people are in even more danger than usual. Being invested in your own survival and happiness is not “buying into” heteronormativity and capitalism, it’s necessary if you want to stay alive. Glorifying death, loss and horizons is theoretically interesting but in the present day it fucks over a lot of people and discourages them from taking part in politics and imagining a world that we CAN get to that allows more of us to be free and to cared for. Your joy is radical! Cultivate it! Share it!

The Movement by Gail Simone and [readable in full here]

This comic book series is one of the best I have ever read! It has, in true DC fashion, been stopped only 12 issues into the series, HOWEVER, what we do have is wonderful. The comic is about 6 homeless teen vigilantes who care for a neighbourhood in coral city. They call themselves the Movement and are basically fighting against police brutality – the issue starts with a policeman being sexually violent against a young girl, who is then protected by The Movement and who then try to take the policeman and put them on trial on their own court.

The lead members of the movement are a great mix of people (which is basically accuracy tbh) – some of the group are survivors of abuse, some are physically and/or mentally ill, many of them are queer, some are immigrants, some are poor, most of the group are women! The group as a whole is lead by an incredibly powerful, wondrous black girl named Virtue. Plus there is an Aromantic, Asexual character!!! Cannonly!! This is what a resistance team actually looks like! And I think that’s why it gives me such hope – rather than shifting a story of fighting against evil through a white cis middle class straight boy (looking at you Harry Potter), it is a story we can legitimately dream ourselves into. When I wrote my notes on why I loved this I wrote in capital letters: JUSTICE, REVENGE, COMMUNITY. Which I think sums it up nicely!

(As I said this series does start with sexual violence which is alluded to/replayed throughout the first six or so issues – so if you can’t deal with that I would skip this. The comic is also, on the whole pretty bloody and violent, so stay safe and stay away if you need to.)

That’s it from the first instalment of the literature of hope, hopefully some of my fellow PBGers will contribute so we can create a bank of warm yellow light for each other when our own resolves are low.

What gives you hope? Let me know! I’m on twitter @_lily_luna_

Powered By Girl’s Winter Feminist Gift Guide

Author:
5020935650_2ab6969092_z

By Anna Hill

As winter fast approaches and various celebrations come about you might be thinking about what you want to ask for, and what you want to get others!! So I made a handy list of suggestions for you to peruse and/or send to a parent/friend/add to that amazon wishlist!

Fiction

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya

This masterpiece of a book is so beautiful! It’s written by a bisexual trans woman of colour and is full of accurate depictions of what being bisexual and experiencing biphobia is like. Its an illustrated novel chronicling the life of one specific boy as he discovers himself and learns to define who he is himself, alongside a really lovely re-imagining/retelling of Hindu mythology.

Carol/ The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Perfect for those wintery-Christmas-cold feels, Carol tells the story of Therese Belivet, a shy but artistic set designer and Carol, an older glamorous women on the brink of divorce. It’s a story set in the 1950s and is full of intricate and deep silences and omissions, portraying the lives of lesbian and queer women at that time. It is a great reminder of survival and love. This is also now a film which you could watch and discuss especially with the context that Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian herself, wrote it originally, but the director of the film was a straight man named Todd Haynes – how might that switch up perspectives?!

New Virginia Woolf Vintage Editions

Vintage has just released some beautiful new versions of Virginia Woolf’s work – my favourites are The Waves and Orlando. The Waves is an experimental modernist novel about five people and the way their lives wind together throughout their lives. The prose and imagery are amazing and inspiring. Orlando is very different – it’s a fun novel detailing the life of Orlando, a character that fluidly switches gender and time span, traveling from Istanbul to London to Russia.

Refugee Tales

This book is a double gift!! Refugee Tales is a collection of testimonies set out in a similar form as The Canterbury Tales and the entire profit of the book goes to Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Refugee Help! Which means you get a shiny new book, and someone else gets funds that will help their wellbeing.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

This is a Young Adult Novel about a young Bruja [Latinx witch!]!! Perfect for the aspiring witch in your life; this is a story about mistakes, growth, family and identity. The novel is also part of the #OwnVoices movement, which means that it was written by someone who identifies with the main characters the story is about!

Ragdoll House by Maranda Elizabeth

Maranda Elizabeth is currently my favourite author and I attempt to include their work in every conversation! Ragdoll House is a wonderful novel about queer girl friendship, survival and love. This was described as a “queer punk classic” by one goodreads review and I couldn’t agree more! The prose is great and its always great to support mad disabled self-published authors.

Non-Fiction

Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson

Yes!! This is by The Mara Wilson, of Matilda fame! This is a collection of personal essays Mara has written about what it has been like for her growing up as a young girl and a former child actress. Her twitter account never ceases to entertain me and neither does this. Her honesty and wit is enthralling and her perspective is really interesting.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is a current feminist classic! You might have seen the ted talk this small book is based on, or you might have heard the section that is played in the Beyonce track Flawless. Either way, you probably will have come into contact with this book! With a stunning cover this is the perfect gift to baby feminists to help them on their way to greatness!

The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions Of A Wildly Better Future

This looks like a really interesting and hopeful read – what does a feminist utopia look like? What exactly do we want from liberation? In this collection over 50 authors discuss their feelings!! Including but not limited to Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock and Sheila Bapat, in various different formats including interviews, poetry and short stories.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

A collection of voices from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic British folks today exploring ideas about why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it feels like to be “othered” – in all its forms, from being an “ambassador” for your race to having to jump through hoops to be seen as a “good” immigrant. Get angry when you read this!! Get challenged by your own prejudices!! Get learning! Perfect feminist work to enjoy and digest over the winter so in 2017 you can reify your perceptions, refocus and really help to destroy inequality and racism wherever you see it.

Comics and Zines

Beyond the Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfe R. Monster and Taneka Stotts

A beautiful collection of diverse and exciting comics! Featuring, but not limited to, an agender ghost working at a tea shop, constructed gay robot aliens falling in love, Chinese-russian bi polyamorous astronauts and a monster queen falling in love (with no words!)! In other words, it’s everything you have been missing! More information on it here

Jem and the holograms!

Jem is one of my favourite comics because of how diverse it is, and not just sexual and romantic orientation wise, but also in terms of body type!! This comic tells the story of a band made up of sisters as they try to thrive, using technology that is so advanced it can create a holographic lead singer! Full of vibrancy and excitement, Jem and the holograms is especially good for pop punk fans!! (but I pretty much think everyone should read it because all the band members are so god damn CUTE.).3 volumes are out so far!

Hysterical femme – karina killjoy

This is one of my favourite zines of 2016. It’s about being a femme survivor, taking up space and working to love yourself and other femmes and other survivors too. It’s so affirming to read that there is no right way to heal and that there are others who feel how I feel! Its about still being angry and hysterical and mentally ill and still being treated with kindness and understanding rather than being deriding and frustrating. This zine is beautiful and validating and I hope everyone reads it one day!

Queer Indigenous Girl #2

This is a lovely submission based zine for black, indigenous people of colour who are queer, trans, 2-spirit, mentally/chronically/physically ill and neurodivergent. In prioritizing these folk’s voices it’s really great to support and read their work! It’s a colour PDF zine with art and illustrations. It also talks about what living with ADHD is like, depression and survival.

Poetry

milk and honey by rupi kaur

This is a firecracker of a collection of poetry. It’s split into four sections and each of them meticulously breaks your heart and sews it back together over and over.

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Another energetic feminist poetry collection, this one focuses on being the main character in your own story, recovering from abuse and inheriting the power that is inside of you! Plus it’s written by an asexual author who is outspoken about books and social justice on tumblr.

Radical Softness

This is the CUTEST feminist poetry pocketbook made by wonderful graphic designer and general cool person Soofiya. Perfect for the person who is SO busy kicking the kyriarchy to the ground that they only have short amounts of time to read poetry. You can read this anywhere and everywhere ingesting all the great vibes from it whenever you need to!

Heartless Girls

This is a poetry zine by Emma T and it has such brilliant poems! My favourite line is probably “I don’t know how to stay tender/ with this much blood in my mouth”. Emma’s poetry is raw and vulnerable and that’s why its so great!

That’s it for my suggestions, I hope you found something fun off this list!

What is queer fiction?

Author:
IMG_7257

By Anna Hill

When I first started my search for mirrors in the form of queer books I was often recommended entirely non-queer books. I think this is because people have fundamentally misunderstood what queer fiction is and how good and valuable representation works. Here are some of the problems I have found:

One [side] character does not a queer book make

Throughout my journey the recommendations people made to me simply reaffirmed some of the things I already knew – that only white men are gay enough, or even interesting enough to be represented; and that if you are a lesbian or worse – a bisexual woman – you do not exist. I was recommended good books, but not good queer books. Books with straight girl main characters and straight romance pushed as the most important aspect of girls’ lives, with sad, buried gays and sick pitiful gay friends, but never part of the main story.

The lie that a queer book is one with a glimpse of a queer person has been spread, for example by lists like this. Books like Weetzie Bat and The Perks of Being a Wallflower have been put on it, but it’s Weetzie Bat’s best friend who is gay, it’s Charlie’s best friend that is gay! The main character in both these stories is straight. On other lists people have suggested Liberty’s Fire, Remix or Letters To the Dead – all of which have queer side characters, brothers or friends, but are lead by heterosexual and heteromantic love stories.

Queer books should be intersectional

On top of that the number of queer books I was recommended to begin with normally told the stories of white, cisgender, male characters. From Will Grayson, Will Grayson to lesbian classics like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Carol or Fun Home (all of which do count as queer fiction), all are overwhelmingly whitewashed. The queer literature we continue to celebrate often simply reaffirms the idea that there is an acceptable, palatable type of queer and the majority of the queer community are not it.

The moments when you finally find those books that make you feel seen and validated are radical and nourishing. They are so important that, without them, I don’t think I would have survived. Being able to claim a historical and literary ancestry helps to centre queer survival and power today. Suggesting so-called queer fiction which doesn’t centre intersectional queer main characters allows all queers to be disempowered from their own narratives; we are not important or valid enough to be the heroes of any stories, even our own.

A quick counter-list of 15 queer books to read:

(I have yet to read any aromantic or agender books :()

KEY:

* are for poc

b is for bisexual characters

a for asexual

I for intersex

t for trans

  1. The colour purple by alice walker*
  2. Snapshots of a girl by beldan sezen*
  3. Huntress by malinda lo*
  4. Aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin alire saenz*(b)
  5. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson*
  6. The song of Achilles by madeline miller
  7. Far from you by tess sharpe (b)
  8. She of the mountains by vivek shraya*(b)
  9. Not otherwise specified by Hannah Moskowitz*(b)
  10. None of the above by I.W Gregorio (i)
  11. Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis*
  12. Pantomime by Laura Lam (i)
  13. From under the mountain by Cait Spivey*(a)
  14. A safe girl to love by Casey Plett (t)
  15. If I was your girl by Meredith Russo (t)

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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