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Autumn reads – book recommendations from PBG

Author:
sophia5

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

There’s nothing better than finding a shady spot and sitting in it for hours, safe from boiling to death. If it’s your thing, you can also lie out in the sun with your book – just don’t forget the sun-cream!

If you’re stuck on what to read, you’re probably surrounded by suggestions – your local bookshop probably has a ‘beach reads’ table – but they may not be up your street. If you’re tired of the same Sex In The City wannabe books, PBG has a few recommendations for you…

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

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You’ve probably heard about (and maybe seen) the movie Love, Simon, by now. I promise, the book is better – Simon’s friends aren’t quite the same assholes to him as they are in the film. Well, now there’s a sequel to the book and it focuses on Simon’s best friend Leah. Who, as anyone who read the first book probably picked up on, has a Thing for another friend. Who happens to be a girl. Oh, a book about a bisexual girl? Who happens to be fat (again, this is the book – not the film)? And a rocking drummer in a cool all-girl band? Check, check, and check. If that doesn’t make you want to read a book, nothing will. It’s heart-warming and tender – a little less cheesy than Simon, but just as wonderful. It’s the happy ending queer girl love story we deserve.

Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

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Bluebell, AKA BB, AKA Big Bones, is a sixteen-year-old girl who is perfectly happy with herself. She’s fat, and loves food, and has no problem with either of those things. But, of course, some people do. Big Bones is about appreciating food, loving oneself, navigating change, the value of family relationships, and so much more. It’s a truly delightful book and easily devoured in a day.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

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Even more gripping than We Were Liars. Shocking, I know. But it is. Genuine Fraud centres on the life (or rather, lives) of Imogen, a smart woman who uses her intellect to constantly reinvent herself. She is many things, depending on what she needs to be at each moment. It’s a character study, at heart, but it’s also a psychological thriller – with plot twists and suspense aplenty. It can be gory at times though, so be mindful if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with!

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

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First up, the hype for Sandhya Menon’s novels are well deserved. If you haven’t already read When Dimple Met Rishi, you NEED to go and do that first. It really is as brilliant as everyone says it is. It’s heart-warming and hilarious in all the right places, and Menon’s writing is beautiful. Twinkle is much the same in that respect. It is laugh-out-loud funny and has a rom-com feel that would make it perfect for the big screen. It will resonate with young creatives, and with anyone who’s ever been confused about a crush. Which is the majority of us, I think.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

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The lovely Louise O’Neill is a PBG favourite, that’s for sure. Her most recent novel, The Surface Breaks, is a feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid, and it’s everything you would have wanted it to be. It’s written in the sharp, cutting prose that O’Neill is known for, and the darkness that is typical of her writing runs through every page. It stays true to the horror and tragedy of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, but is also the most unique retelling of the story written at this moment in time. It looks at beauty standards, sexuality, fat shaming, sexual harassment, and more. Once again, Louise O’Neill has done something special, built something bold, and broken the surface.

PBG’s Best of 2017: Film and Television

Author:
sophia4

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

FILM

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures came out in 2016 in the US, but only landed in UK cinemas in February this year. It’s a true story untold until now, one of three African-American women whose contributions to NASA in the 1960s were integral to the process of sending the first astronaut into space. It’s a feel-good film for sure, one which educates and entertains us consistently. The three leads – played by the wonderful Janelle Monáe, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P Henson – are funny and full of heart, and are a dynamic trio to watch. Most significantly, this is a film which empowers black women and young black girls, a film which shows them their own power and encourages them to pursue the things that excite them. This film is many things, but first and foremost it is a love letter to those girls who need that nudge.

The Big Sick

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The premise of the Big Sick reads like another manic pixie dream girl film: boy meets girl; boy screws up, girl gets sick + is barely present for a period of time; boy grows up as a result. Thankfully, it is more than that – so much more. It’s smarter than that, and Zoe Kazan’s character Emily has far more autonomy and intricacies to her personality than these types of characters are generally granted.

The film is as much about her as it is about Kumail – the protagonist – as viewers get to know her parents (as individuals, and as a couple), and see her work through her situation with stubborn persistence, frustration, and excitement. She is allowed to be a girl in love, a girl pissed off, a girl confused – all at once – without any of these states being considered some kind of fatal flaw.

More than this, the film explores cross-cultural relationships in modern day America, and navigates the complexities which come with that. It portrays Kumail’s conservative Pakistani family with humour and compassion, depicting a common reality without patronising or painting the parents as backwards or base – an unfortunately frequent pitfall in many interpretations of similar stories. The Big Sick is all around a heart-warming film, undeniably hilarious, and one which can easily be watched over and over (and over).

TELEVISION

One Day At A Time

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One Day At A Time is a reboot of a classic sitcom, a ‘genre’ which has a tendency to feel like a gimmicky money-making scheme. Thankfully, this modern update is not like that. In fact, it hardly relies on the original at all and is easily enjoyable for those unfamiliar with its predecessor – it’s not about nostalgia or references, but a wonderful series in its own right. The cast are phenomenal, driving the show with their lively performances and emotive delivery of the more poignant of moments – of which there are many. It may not be ‘an original’, but it feels like one of the freshest programmes of recent years.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend first aired in 2015, and it’s 3rd season began late this year. This is a show that has consistently been bizarre, hilarious, and engaging throughout its time on television. It has also always had a hint of psychological drama, which is really brought to head in season 3. It’s dared to do something unprecedented and opened up a conversation which desperately needs attention.

Star of the show, Rebecca – played by the show’s writer and co-producer, Rachel Bloom – has been diagnosed with a highly stigmatised mental illness called borderline personality disorder. Rebecca’s journey to and beyond diagnosis has been handled with sensitivity and nuance, her hopefulness about being diagnosed and the painful experience of coming to terms with her diagnosis are both shown. Most importantly, the show has humanised people with a disorder which wider society still considers monstrous – something which many viewers across the world feel enormously thankful for.

See our pick of the best music of 2017 here, and the best young adult fiction of 2017 here.

PBG’s Best of 2017: Music

Author:
music4

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

EVERYONE’S ‘best of 2017’ list features Lorde’s stunning sophomore album ‘Melodrama’. As wonderful as that album is, it’s not the only one to be released this year. It’s been a painful year to be a music lover, particularly for rock and alternative fans. Equally, our ears have been blessed with some amazing new sounds – many of which came from women. It’s important that we celebrate that.

Around U, MUNA

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MUNA are a band who will make you feel looked out for, make you believe that there is still good in the world – that there is good in yourself. Their debut album, ‘Around U’, is empowering from start to finish, in both its lyrical content and its dance-pop sounds. There is reflection throughout, both on personal experiences and on the wider world – the latter most present on the single ‘I Know a Place’. It is an album which leaves the band exposed, but strong. It can do the same for listeners, too.

After Laughter, Paramore

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Paramore have been one of the most exciting bands around since they emerged with their debut, ‘All We Know Is Falling’. They’ve evolved thoroughly with each album cycle, so much so that many – particularly in emo and punk scenes – have been quick to say, “they’ve changed”, as if that’s a negative. But if you really listen, it’s all a natural progression – they’ve not forced themselves into any box, and their music is better for it. ‘After Laughter’ is, unquestionably, their strongest album; one which defies categorisation as either pop or rock. Frontwoman Hayley Williams is painfully frank about struggling with mental health throughout the record, something which was immediately startling on the lead single ‘Hard Times’ and it’s opening line – “all that I want is to wake up fine”. However, these songs are dressed up playfully with 80s-influenced synths and bouncy beats, wrapped in spectacularly sing-along worthy choruses. It’s an album you don’t just want to dance to, you have to. It’s a beautiful mix of joyful escapism and a push to confront your own issues. That ‘After Laughter’ can do both at once is truly special.

Rainbow, Kesha

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Kesha’s return to the pop landscape has been, objectively, the best thing to happen in 2017. Lead single ‘Praying’ is beautiful and bold, a battle cry which has resonated with survivors across the globe. If you haven’t spent half the year screaming these lyrics dramatically, or crying as you listen along… good for you, probably. The album is colourful and full of magic, and it is incredibly vulnerable. It’s a love letter to Kesha’s younger self, to all the scared and traumatised people trying and struggling to heal. It’s a reassurance, a promise, and a manifesto.

All We Know Of Heaven / All We Need Of Hell, PVRIS

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PVRIS’ debut album, ‘White Noise’, was equal parts dark and catchy. Their sophomore release, ‘All We Know Of Heaven / All We Need Of Hell’, similarly manages this, and it is stronger in both aspects. It is a weighty album, filled with the emptiness which stems from separation – from lovers, from those around you, and most significantly from yourself. Lynn Gunn’s vocals are haunting, ethereal in tone yet wholly substantial in force. Songs such as opener ‘Heaven’ and ‘No Mercy’ are anthemic and intense, perfect to jump around and mosh to – even in your bedroom. These are impressively slick songs with raw emotion driving them. The themes of Gunn’s lyrics are what connect people so strongly to this band – and the hugeness of PVRIS’ sound ensures that when they’re packing out arenas, undoubtedly rather soon – they’ll be ready to fill that space.

See our pick of the best film and television of 2017 here, and the best young adult fiction of 2017 here.

An interview with Anteros – the bitter dream pop band making waves

Author:
anteros

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I spoke to Laura Hayden of the band Anteros recently…

 

Hi! Can you please introduce your band to people who haven’t heard of you before?

Hi, we’re Anteros. We make bitter dream pop.

 

It’s nearly the end of 2017 – what have the highlights of this year been for you?

We feel like this whole year has been one big highlight with the amount of tours and releases. Supporting Two Door Cinema Club, White Lies and Blaenavon were great fun and we learned a lot. Then we got to record and release our Drunk EP with Nick Hodgson [Kaiser Chiefs], and then we got to tour that on our first headline. We had a summer full of festivals, and we recorded our double AA side during the gaps in between them. Working with Charlie Andrew [Alt-J, Marika Hackman] was also a highlight.

 

What’s your favourite part about performing your songs up in front of people?

Watching people connect; smile, dance, and sing along. It sounds cheesy but knowing our music and our shows can have that effect on people makes us really happy. That’s all we want.

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What’s been your favourite you’ve done?

Community Festival this summer was definitely one of our favourites. London is home for us, so it was great to play to a big crowd of people who were dancing and singing the words to our songs. I don’t think we’ll forget that set anytime soon.

 

Is there anything you’d like to change about the music industry?

Where to begin?! Let’s start with equality. I wish there were the same amount of women as there are men working behind the music business. It’s still very much a Boys Club. It’s slowly getting better, but we just can’t wait to get to a point where the numbers are evened out.

 

Who do you look up to in music?

There’s so many great women in music, so the list is endless. Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, Gwen Stefani and Madonna are probably our top four. But you’ve also got to look behind the artists! We feel so lucky to have great women working with us at our record label.

 

Have you witnessed sexual assault at live music events?

Hell yeah, unfortunately! Just the other night I had to stop our set to ask two guys to leave. They thought it was appropriate to comment on my breasts during our set. Nobody says a word when guys take their shirts off on stage, but how DARE a woman wear no bra under a white tank top?!

However, it’s everywhere. Music events are just a fraction.

 

Do you have a message to those who have had that kind of experience?

Don’t be afraid to stand up and speak up. I was, for such a long time. But not confronting people about it means they think can get away with it. People around you WILL back you and stand up for what is right, but it has to start with you.

[If you are harassed or assaulted at a gig and don’t feel able to speak up, that’s okay. Girls Against and Safe Gigs for Women are here to support you.]

 

As a band, what do you think you can do to help combat the issue?

Speak up. Do everything we can to ensure our gigs are as safe as we can make them for everyone. We don’t tolerate abuse or bullying in any shape or form.

 

You can find Anteros on Facebook and Twitter.

Anteros’ song Bonnie is out now. The band will be in the studio in early 2018, recording their debut album…

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.

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