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4 Body positive books to read right now

Author:
bopo1

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

Body positivity – or ‘bo-po’ – has been gaining mainstream momentum in this past year. In some moments, this has seemed wonderful. It is heart-warming and inspiring to be able to scroll through Instagram and see people showing their bodies some appreciation. Conversations have been started in publications and between people that wouldn’t be expected. More people have started to see the problems with the ‘clean eating’ movement, and started saying ‘fuck you, I eat what I want’ to diet culture.

Unfortunately, the body positive movement that has sprung from Instagram has a huge problem – pun intended. The issue is that fat positivity and fat liberation is a movement that has existed for several decades, and it is now being swept aside. The work of fat activists has been overlooked and undermined, and the radical faces of the movement have been replaced by those already privileged in society. The bodies of white, thin or curvy cisgender women are more palatable to the wider world than those of fat people, queer people, and people of colour – but ‘body positivity’ that doesn’t include marginalised bodies isn’t doing the necessary work.

Reading is my favourite tool for learning and growing, as well as something I enjoy as entertainment. Reading anti-diet culture books, fat positive memoirs and feminist fiction has been instrumental to me in reprogramming my brain. I wanted to share some of my favourites, in the hopes that others will support the work of fat activists and learn from them too.

Every Body Yoga – Jessamyn Stanley

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I love yoga and believe in its value, but I recognise the problems with the mainstream movement. It has turned into a competition, a fitness trend, and something which can feel very exclusive. I love Jessamyn because she isn’t afraid to explain how that doesn’t fit with the philosophy of yoga. She makes it feel like something that everyone and anyone can practice, should they want to – because anyone and everyone CAN. This book provides easy to follow basic yoga poses and routines which are focused on emotional healing. She details how a practice can be done from home – making it accessible to those without the funds for classes at a fancy studio – and shows that yoga isn’t about being ‘good at it’. She is honest about her own challenges with some poses, and provides encouragement and wisdom throughout. It’s wonderful. Jessamyn is wonderful.

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls – Jes Baker

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Jes Baker – aka The Militant Baker – is my favourite person on the internet. She’s honest and vulnerable about mental health. She posts gorgeous and fabulous outfit posts. She’s unapologetic about living her life, and gives the middle finger to anyone who has a problem with it. She is funny and smart and thoughtful, providing a platform for other marginalised folks through her own work. Her first book is basically a bible, one that I pick up again and again when I need a boost and reminder to not give in to the bullshit. It’s one for people new to fat liberation, and for those who are more familiar with the movement. Read it. It’ll tell you what you need to hear.

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got A Life – Kelsey Miller

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You may have heard of Kelsey Miller. She writes for the popular site Refinery29, and started a column called The Anti-Diet Project. You should check that out, too.
Her memoir is astonishingly funny as it is painful and relatable. For me, personally, it was the first book I read that put intuitive eating into context and helped me to understand it. Reading about a real person – someone who had been in a similar headspace to me – and their journey was invaluable, as it showed it to be imperfect and complicated and ever-changing. It made the journey tangible, and feel more possible.

Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion – Virgie Tovar

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This is an anthology of essays and stories from a diverse group of people about their experiences in their bodies. There’s pieces on learning to love your fat body, finding fat community, fashion as power, sex and pleasure, giving up dieting, and so much more. It’s all well written, and it provides a window into experiences we don’t hear enough about – even though they’re hardly uncommon experiences.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s great fat-positive fiction, there’s academic work in fat studies, there are memoirs and essay collections galore. Fat liberation isn’t a small movement, just an overlooked one. These books are good places to start. They will show you the way to other activists, other work, and more fat babe radness.

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.

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:
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_

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.

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