• reading

    reading matters • Jul 14th, 2020

    How’s your new life going? I’ve been in a bit of a slump recently, finding it hard to keep seeing the positives of a situation that seemed promising back in April. House and garden tending seems to be giving way to getting back to living closer to others, I had a hair appointment yesterday and the date for my eye surgery is coming up, my book club meets in real life in September and I’m even tempted to swim again.

    I’ve been reading more, thinking carefully about the writers who tell their stories. Many of the texts I read are in French so British and US bestsellers promoted by the big publishing houses don’t come my way much, instead, recommendation, literary prize winners and good old research.  I’ve been reading women authors exclusively with a couple of exceptions for many years and now I’m actively looking for novels by black women writers. You can see the list in the photo and I’ll include the titles in translation at the end of the post.

    Speaking two languages has helped me in my anti-racist journey. I love to hear people speaking English as an additional language, they bring nuance and a new dynamic that’s lovely to hear. I feel sad when people don’t try hard enough to understand. As I child in an immigrant family we all felt we didn’t speak good English and then when I spoke in French, kind people would just say my accent came from a part of France they didn’t know very well. I get it now and I’m happy to use both languages imperfectly like everyone else. Sometimes I fall into the rabbit hole that is You Tube and watch clips of people speaking with different accents and dialects in French and American English. Listening helps us to understand, I try to speak less and smile more.

    When I started to read more about race during lockdown I wanted to help; we had conversations about race, we listed the businesses to avoid because their policies are racist, and I read many posts and articles about and from people of colour. I’ve decided to donate to the London Black Women’s Project, monies from honey sales this season at the very least, the link is here if you want to find out more. I wrote to my MP Nigel Huddleston five weeks ago to complain about the English Literature curriculum in secondary schools and ask why they are so few texts written by black authors and by women. I’m still waiting for a reply and I’ll contact him again today. This isn’t a one time thing, the inequalities are real here in the UK and I’d like to see anti-racism prioritised in the long term.

    Here are all the titles bar one from the photo, it seems that the Anne Plantagenet short story isn’t available in English. Not in the photo is La vie devant soi , The life before you – Romain Gary, I’ve lent it out.

    The belly of the Atlantic – Fatou Diome

    So long a letter – Mariama Bâ

    Tales from the heart – Maryse Condé

    Small country – Gaël Faye

    The postman’s round – Denis Theriault

    Kindred – Octavia E Butler

    A winter in Majorca – George Sand

    On my bedside is the Maryse Condé’s memoir of her childhood in Guadeloupe.

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