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Summer reads 2017

Author:
sophia3

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

It’s that time of year again. If you’re lucky, the sun is out and shining gloriously down on you. If you’re British, it’s occasionally poking through the clouds a bit – and you’re chasing the patches of light whilst simultaneously groaning about the ‘heat’.

Oh yes. It’s Summer.

The best thing about Summer – in my humble opinion – is that there’s time to read, and no restrictions on what it is that you read. It makes me nervous that in a few years, my life won’t be structured around academic years, and I won’t have this open space to dedicate to lounging around, reading book after book. But I’m trying not to think about that too hard – I’ll save the breakdowns about my impending adulthood for more convenient times, such as exam season.

I’ve just finished my first year at university, where I study English Literature. I have read a few books for pleasure here and there, but I’ve found that when I’ve had free time I’ve wanted to spend it on other pursuits – by which I mean Netflix. I never thought I’d say this, but I haven’t wanted to read that much. I’ve been excited by new books and blew my student loan in Waterstones at the beginning of each term, but I haven’t read many of them. I’m generally very content to spend 85% of my time reading, but when I have no control over my TBR pile and said pile is full of pretentious essays that make little sense, and unsatisfying poetry written by white men I’m less keen. I love my degree, but it does suck some of the joy out of my favourite hobby.

However, now that I’ve had some time to decompress – and exhausted everything of interest on Netflix – I’m ready to read again. And I’m excited about it. Hopefully, you’re also feeling excited about it. It’s exciting. Books mean that not going on holiday doesn’t matter – you can travel all over the universe and across time, from the comfort of your home.

If you’re looking for some summer reading recommendations, you’re in the right place. I’m not going to patronise you and suggest nothing but novels about romance, shopping, and chocolate (which can be great fun, of course, but I’m tired of the assumptions that these kinds of lists tend to make). There are plenty of places you can go to for that. Powered By Girl is here to give you an alternative.

If you’re a fan of graphic novels, try….

PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi. All of Marjane Satrapi’s work is wonderful, but this is definitely the place to start. It’s an autobiography of her childhood and young adulthood, depicted in a beautiful and distinct style. Marjane grew up in Iran, during and after the Islamic Revolution, and PERSEPOLIS provides a great insight into what that was like. It is situated in personal experience but it also reveals a lot about the history and politics of the time. If you’re looking for something more lighthearted, EMBROIDERIES is fun and engaging, and is a completely unique work. It’s also a personal favourite of mine, just saying.

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If you’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale, try…

THE POWER by Naomi Alderman. This book has the greatest concept ever. Women can kill men with touch. If that isn’t the ultimate superpower, I don’t know what is. I also love ONLY EVER YOURS by Louise O’Neill, a novel heavily influenced by Margaret Atwood’s feminist masterpiece. It thoroughly critiques beauty standards and diet culture through compelling storytelling. It’s dystopian and yet hits incredibly close to home – it reflects the reality of our world and that is disturbing. If you struggle with an eating disorder, please be careful as it is brutally honest and does use numbers. Look after yourself and please reach out for support if you are triggered.

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If you’re pissed off about bi-erasure at Pride, try…

BI: NOTES FOR A BISEXUAL REVOLUTION by Shiri Eisner – a validating and thought-provoking manifesto for bi babes, everywhere. Reading this will make you feel powerful. It will remind you that it is not you that is wrong. They are.

If you miss One Direction and those solo careers aren’t quenching your thirst, try…

GRACE AND THE FEVER by Zan Romanoff. In case you’d forgotten, I love One Direction. And yes, I’m enjoying their solo careers, for the most part. But I miss them being THEM. To fill the void, I am reading a lot of boy band related fiction. YA authors sure do know how to fulfil a gal’s needs. GRACE AND THE FEVER DREAM does fangirls justice. It doesn’t patronise us. It doesn’t laugh at our expense. It is written FOR us. It is an ode to us and the way that we love wholeheartedly. It is fun. It is wonderful. I’m so completely obsessed with it. I think anything that I can relate back to One Direction is something I’m going to be obsessed with, but this book stands on its own in its brilliance.

Here’s to a summer of thousands of pages. Enjoy!

The literature of hope – a new series

Author:
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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_

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys – A Review of Viv Albertine’s autobiography

Author:
Viv-Albertine

By Amy Callaghan

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. According to Viv Albertine, guitarist of revolutionary all-girl punk band the Slits, this was a phrase expressed frequently to her by her mother during her childhood and adolescence, ‘Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys – that’s all you ever think about!’. On the surface, that’s what her autobiography appears to be about as well – Albertine’s memories and anecdotes are anchored in the clothes, music, and boys influencing her at the time. Yet her book is more than a whirlwind tale of the legendary punk scene, told through aesthetics only – it is an open and thought-provoking appraisal of Albertine’s entire life.

Albertine’s autobiography is, as punk fans would hope, an insight into what it was like on the inside of the punk scene in the 1960s and 70s, as well as what it was like to be a woman in such a world. However, this is not, in my opinion, the main reason why this book stands out as a radical piece of feminist literature. Rather, it is Albertine’s brutally honest assessment of her whole life, pieced together in an occasionally jarring order, which is the most striking and revelatory aspect of this book. From her childhood, raised by a single mother in North London, and her maintaining issues with her father until his death in 2009, to her battle with cancer, her desperation for a baby and her struggle to conceive, her time as a Hastings housewife, and how the deterioration of her marriage coincided with her increasing desperation to make music again, Albertine holds nothing back, and it is this (at times borderline alarming) determination to be completely truthful about her experiences as a woman throughout every stage of her life which makes this such an inspiring work.

Albertine’s completely frank writing is at times almost unnerving. She doesn’t care if the reader is made uncomfortable by what she has to say or how she says it – the entire book is like a declaration of ‘well, these are my experiences, I lived through this, and I’m certainly not going to sugar-coat it’. It doesn’t, however, read as intentionally playing on shock value. Above all, it is honest. It’s refreshing to hear directly from a woman on often taboo subjects such as menstruation, masturbation, crabs – Albertine refuses to fall into the cultural trap of preserving the modesty of a woman’s body, and writes about these experiences in the same reflective and honest way in which she confronts everything else. It is brilliant and defiant in its rationality.

She writes openly about an abortion she had in 1978 and about how she did not regret it until 20 years later, and has not stopped regretting it since. Still, however, she is emphatic in her support for the right for a woman to choose whether or not to have an abortion. This section of the book takes on a new significance when she writes, many chapters later, of her difficulties in conceiving, the babies she lost through miscarriages, the amount of money and effort poured into IVF, and her eventual success and joy in becoming a mother. Albertine’s writing here is emotive and powerful, and the reader cannot help but feel strongly for her life – for someone unfamiliar with Albertine’s personal life, one could almost begin to root for her as one does for a character in a fictional novel, were it not for her occasional italicised retrospective remarks from her current perspective.

Of course, Albertine’s experiences as a woman in the 1970s punk scene is a substantial section of the book, and incredibly revelatory in itself. The Slits were a defining band in post-punk, and a massive step forward for representation of women in punk as well as in the music industry as a whole. When she writes of the complete lack of representation of any women doing what she wanted to do in music – Albertine couldn’t see any female punk guitarists so firmly believed for a long time that her only access to that world was through the men she associated with – it hammers home the lack of representation women still face in the 21st century. The fact that a girl with no musical training was determined enough to pick up a guitar and play, particularly in such a trailblazing band as the Slits, is nothing short of inspiring.

In an interview with Paper magazine 6 months after the book’s UK release, Albertine expressed her surprise that anyone was inspired by the book. ‘I wanted to show the flipside of someone who looks like they’ve got their life together and what is really underneath it all, so I wrote all the downsides, and yet people found it very inspiring.’ she said. Yet it is difficult to see how Albertine’s book couldn’t be inspiring. Albertine’s experiences, while at points completely distinctive to her era and generation, will hold familiarity with women across every generation, and her publication of this honest confrontation and assessment of her life is an incredibly brave decision.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys was recommended to me as a feminist and music lover. But I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their interest in music. Even if you’ve never heard of the Slits, never been into punk or any kind of subversive culture, there will be something in Albertine’s book that will resonate with you and your own experiences. And even if there isn’t – her life is bloody interesting enough to have you hooked regardless.

Powered By Girl’s Winter Feminist Gift Guide

Author:
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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!

Powered By Girl, the book!

Author:
Print

By Yas Necati

Hi, I’m Yas, editor here at the Powered By Girl blog. When I first started calling myself a feminist, I was 15. It was confusing, inspiring, life-changing – as you can imagine. I began to campaign with, and make friends with, a lot of people who were a lot older than me. Some people thought this was weird, but it taught me something really valuable; when we work across generations, we learn so much more. There’s power in intergenerational communities.

Around the same time I labelled myself a feminist, I reached out to an online community that I’d come across through googling “teen feminism” on the Internet. This community was called the SPARKmovement, and through connecting with them, I began writing for Powered By Girl. I met someone called Lyn Mikel Brown, an older feminist who became like a mentor to me, and 5 years later, we’re still working together on PBG.

Lyn’s one of the wonderful co-founders of this website, and she made me feel at home as an activist. It was pretty daunting as a teen to step into a community I knew nothing about. At first I felt young and silly, but a year on, when Lyn interviewed me for her book – also called Powered By Girl – I felt confident, welcome and even like my voice and my actions could make a difference to the issues I cared about.

As well as working with Lyn to write for PBG, I started campaigning too. I learnt a heck of a lot from the people I campaigned with, mostly because they showed me how to campaign effectively by treating me as an equal member of the team. When I was 16, I started campaigning for No More Page 3. I was the youngest team member, the oldest was in her 50s, and I really believe the campaign was as successful as it was because we learnt from one another, and reached out to people of all different ages to get involved. It was a revelation being on that team because I was treated and respected equally to everyone else, whereas in most spaces I would have been dismissed because I was still a teenager. No More Page 3 made me feel welcomed and supported, and this helped me gain confidence as an activist. After all, how many other mainstream campaigns do you know of that would take a 16-year-old onto their main organising team?

I think the best thing about the teams at No More Page 3 and Powered By Girl was that they trusted me, respected me, and treated me like an equal, rather than trying to tell me what to do. I can’t speak on behalf of any other young people, but I for certain know that I’ve never liked people who think that just because they’re older, they understand everything better than I do. I think if at 15, the adults I’d met had tried to lecture me/act as if I was naïve compared to them, I would have shunned away from the movement. Instead I was lucky enough to meet people who were much more experienced, but didn’t treat me like I was immature in spite of this. Instead they used their skills, knowledge and networks to bring me into the community and support me to make my own decisions as an activist, by having faith that I could.

PBG is a perfect example of this. Powered By Girl is a community of 13-22 year old activists, supported by a few adults who overlook everything, and support us along our activist journeys. Powered By Girl has always been about us, the young women. From the moment I started writing for them I knew that our voices were central, and from the moment I took over as editor I knew that our choices as young women would be respected, and it was up to us how we shaped the organisation, what we wrote about, and what we wanted to get across.

This year I turned 20, and it feels really strange not being a teenager any more. For the first time, I feel like one of those adults who might be meeting teen feminists, and I’m not sure I’m prepared for that. I’ve started reflecting on how I was supported, and how I can offer this support to young activists. I often look back and wonder how Lyn made me feel so included and empowered when we first met 5 years ago. I take inspiration from her when I say that intergenerational activism is about supporting and respecting each other, showing not telling, and sharing what we know with others, generously and with kindness.

I’m really proud that I could be a small part of her new book “Powered By Girl: A field guide for supporting youth activists”. The thing about Lyn is that she’s always showed young people different opportunities, rather than trying to tell them what to do. It’s scary thinking that soon, or even now, I might be meeting teen activists, and in the same position tat she was when we first met. I don’t think I could do as good a job as she did at supporting me. But at least I’ll have her book to help!

“Powered By Girl: A field guide for supporting youth activists” is published by Beacon Press. You can buy it here: http://www.beacon.org/Powered-By-Girl-P1228.aspx

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We are Powered By Girl. We're young women who write for young women. We do it because we believe there's more to 13-25 year old women than clothes, boys and celebrities. So please have a look at our stuff, and join us!

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