Book review – Chelsea Watego – “Another Day in the Colony”

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Here we have the last book I read for AusReading Month: fortunately, Brona, who runs the challenge, has allowed people to post reviews after the end of the month! I continued my theme of reading books set around social justice and Australia’s Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples along a sort of curriculum: I read “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” to get a background idea of the Stolen Generations and a summary of the experience of Aboriginal peoples from when the White invaders first came; then “Growing up Aboriginal in Australia” gave the experiences of Aboriginal people growing up from the 1940s to 1990s and now we have the lived experiences of one woman who is an Aboriginal/Indigenous [she uses both terms in the book, Indigenous more often and I’m trying to reflect that] writer, academic and campaigner. This is the third book that Bill from The Australian Legend kindly sent to me in January. His review is here and I urge you to read it.

I admit right now that I’ve been a bit nervous about reviewing this book. It is not written “for” me, the author makes it clear (and fair enough, of course) and it’s doubly not about my culture, being Aboriginal/Indigenous centred and about Australia. All I can really do is set down my reactions and the connections I have drawn with other works I’ve read or cultural issues I’ve noted: and like all great works, it’s both specific to its time and culture but can have general global points drawn from it. I’d encourage people to read it for themselves if they’re at all interested in learning about colonialism, current issues of the “settlers” in a claimed territory that is actually someone else’s and Indigenous people’s lived experience.

Chelsea Watego – “Another Day in the Colony”

(13 January 2022, from Bill)

It took me a while to realise that in teaching Indigenous anything I was meant to be teaching students to feel good about being a coloniser; that in my presence I was meant to be the site of absolution both for the institution and its students. Despite transcending our role in the academy as engraved objects carved into sandstone, to enter classrooms as educators we are still being called to accessorise white knowing and affirm white belonging. (p. 109)

Dr Watego is clearly angry, and she has good reason. She is also exhausted, and as we read this book, we can see why. She doesn’t want to, and doesn’t, explain terms, history and experiences for White / settler [her term] readers, and why should she? (this fits with a long-held view of mine which I know is contentious that it’s my job to look stuff up, not the author’s job to explain her culture to me when things are easily looked up; terms, yes, experiences, no, and we get them from this book).

I’d like to say Dr Watego’s experiences are shocking, but if you’ve read a fair bit of work by Global Majority and Indigenous peoples, unfortunately they’re not. Or not surprising. She experiences racism and exclusion in academia and expected to remove guilt from White students (I’ve read Black and Brown academics talking of that here). She’s blamed for all sorts of things outside her control. If she’s in confrontation with a White person, the White person will be believed (and let go and she’ll be taken into custody). If she dares to say that someone who claims to be Indigenous but has no connection to the culture which is so communal and relational is not yet wholly Indigenous, she’s told she’s wrong. She encounters White anthropologists who try to tell her about her own lived experience. She sees her own people denigrated for having poor health outcomes when it’s clear those outcomes are a direct result of the pressure and colonisation, institutional and intersectional racism, sexism and classism imposed upon them by a coloniser ideology that believes they should have died out decades ago. (This last reminded me of the blame heaped upon Global Majority People in the UK when they died disproportionately of Covid: it was biological or due to “lifestyle choices”, not of course because they were forced into poverty and overcrowded living and compelled to go out and do risky face-to-face work while the White middle class sat in our homeworking isolation.)

In this bold and usettling book, Dr Watego sets down her experiences on her terms. She is able to print a (perfectly reasonable, well-argued and massively referenced) article that ended up not going out in an academic journal because the publishers weren’t keen on the racist stereotyping and violence clearly portrayed in the book being exposed without having some spurious balance: she did claim room for a rebuttal and letter to the managing editors in the journal. She states powerfully in the final essay that there is no room for hope, only for sovreignty, and for standing your ground, not fighting back, for strategies and not solutions. You’re not going to read this to feel better about the world or your place in it, apart from the fact that there are people like Dr Watego who are managing to speak out and get published so others can see themselves reflected or learn about what’s happened and happening. There is a superb playlist in the back of the book of “songs that brought joy” while she was writing it, and I salute her (not that she needs my salute, obviously) for including that in what is a confrontational and at times very dense read.

One powerful lesson that was reiterated for me here (which I did learn when reading a book by a non-Indigenous Canadian about Indigenous Canadians last year and bought a new book instead) was to go to “own voices” for books about Indigenous and Global Majority peoples, which I do do on the whole, but I need to stay in this space and not go back to White people’s, even if not Australians’, narratives about Indigenous/Aboriginal peoples like the one I read last year. And I recommend this powerful and strong narrative by very much an “own voice”.


This was Book 3 for AusReading Month and Book 12 for Nonfiction November.

Nonfiction November Week 5: New to my TBR

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It’s the final week of of Nonfiction November – thank you so much to all the hosts! This week it’s New to my TBR time! I always save it to post at the end of the week because I usually see books on other people’s roundups that I fancy. For me, these books aren’t necessarily going on my TBR right away, but are going on my wishlist. I waited until today to look at everyone else’s Week Fives as there’s always something I’ve missed, and I added the last one on this list this week, so am vindicated in that!

Week 5: New to My TBR with Jaymi at The OC Bookgirl: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR?

Books I have added to my Wishlist this November

Terri Janke – “True Tracks: Respecting Indigenous Knowledge and Culture” from ANZ LitLovers’ Week 1 post

Dylan Taylor-Lehman – “Sealand: The True Story of the World’s Most Stubborn Micronation” from Plucked from the Stacks’ Week 3 starter post

Rachel Bertsche – “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend” from Lisanotes’ Week 3 post

Guillaume Pitron – “Digital Hell” from Words and Peace’s Week 4 post (not out in English until October 2023, though!)

Mark Gevisser – “The Pink Line: Journeys Across the World’s Queer Frontiers” from She Seeks Nonfiction’s Week 4 New to my TBR post

What about last year’s list?

These are the books I added to my wishlist last year.

Richard Seabrook – “All the Devils are Here”

Hanif Abdurraquib – “A Little Devil in America”

Amy Ettinger – “Sweet Spot”

Rachel Johnson – “A Diary of the Lady”

David Epstein – “The Sports Gene”

Ian Williams – “Disorientation”

Amrit Wilson – “Finding a Voice” I bought this one and it’s in my house but has not yet reached the top of the TBR pile!

Michael Twitty – “The Cooking Gene”

So one out of eight purchased or otherwise acquired and none read so far! Ah well! Here’s to next November and a hint to everyone doing it – start making notes for all the weeks as you go through the year – much easier than flailing around trying to remember stuff from the previous 12 months!

State of the TBR – December 2022

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Looking at last month’s picture, I have done quite well again! Incomings have come in but books have come off the TBR, too. Even though I’ve added five books to the little pile at the end, it’s not as big as last month.

I completed 23 books in November (thanks to my week’s holiday and doing Novellas in November), and am part-way through three more (one my Emma Read and one reading along with Matthew), plus the long-term ongoing Tolkien and Sagas books. I read all my ebook TBR books for November (my picture was wrong last month; I have yet to review two of them), and also got my September ones and all but one of my October ones read or (one) started. I read eight out of the fifteen novellas I put out to choose from and two others (one in from a publisher then read right away, one from the TBR), making a total of ten, and I read three books for AusReading Month (one left to review) and twelve for NonFiction November.

Incomings

Incoming print books. I had some lovely books in this month.

“Mary & Mr Eliot” by Mary Trevelyan and Erica Wagner is an author copy from the publisher – it’s based on Mary Trevelyan’s manuscript about her friendship with T.S. Eliot which I copy-typed a few years ago to start off the process for Erica to edit and provide commentary on it. Lovely publisher Michael Walmer kindly sent me a review copy of his reprint of Howard Sturgis’ “On the Pottlecomble Cornice” which I promptly reviewed for Novellas in November and the British Library Publishing folk kindly sent me “Stories for Christmas and the Festive Season” which of course I have saved to read this month. We had a tea party at Ali’s the other weekend and Meg gave me her copy of Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” while Ali passed me her copy of Elisa Shua Dusapin’s “The Pachinko Parlour”. I went to a Brian Bilston poetry reading run by The Heath Bookshop last week and bought a copy of his latest book, “Days Like These” (a poem for every day of the year!), and finally I received a copy of Nigel Green and Robin Wilson’s “Brutalist Paris” which I had helped crowd-fund. What a lovely variety of ways to receive books!

I won five NetGalley books this month:

“The Silence of the Stands” by Daniel Gray (published November) is about football’s lost season in the lockdowns – whose blog did I see this on?? Alexis Keir writes about returning to St Lucia and tracing his family’s journeys to the UK and New Zealand in “Windward Family” (Feb 2023) and in “Black Girl from Pyongyang” by Monica Macias (Mar 2023) we’ll learn about how the author was transplanted from West Africa to North Korea to be raised, and how she searched for her identity once she’d grown up (that’s going to be a good one for the Stranger than Fiction segment of NonFicNov next year!). “Happy Place” (April 2023) looks like another good novel from Emily Henry, a break-up novel with a big lie to all the friend group and Shauna Robinson’s “Must Love Books” (Feb 2023) pits a young Black woman against the world of publishing.

And I bought three e-books from Amazon in their Black Friday sale:

I always think I have Trevor Noah‘s memoir, “Born a Crime” but I didn’t, until now. John Cooper Clarke is one of the few poets I like and I couldn’t resist his autobiography, “I Wanna Be Yours”, for 99p. And Patrick King’s “Stand Up For Yourself, Set Boundaries and Stop Pleasing Others” might stop me making myself labour over these massive posts (right?!).

So that was 23 read and 15 coming in in November – back in the right direction!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Settlers: Journeys through the Food, Faith and Culture of Black African London” by Jimi Famurewa, which is a NetGalley book published in October and is marvellous so far, Jini Reddy’s “Wanderland” is my readalong with Emma and most entertaining so far, and I’ve finally got to reading Dave Grohl’s “The Storyteller” with Matthew, so he does a bit of the audio book (with Dave narrating and a musical background) on his walk and I catch up with the book (no Dave’s voice or music) at home.

Coming up

This month, I’m taking part in two challenges: my own Dean Street Press December, of course (see my main post here) and I’ve laid out all the DSP books I have in paperback plus one more modern one on Kindle. I’m looking forward to seeing what I and everyone else can read in the month from this lovely publisher.

And I’ve also decided to do #DiverseDecember to maintain the diversity of my reading, though I don’t have a main post to link to for that. So upcoming are Nova Reid’s “The Good Ally”, Riva Lehrer’s memoir of her life and art living with a disability, “Golem Girl” and Rabina Khan’s essays, “My Hair is Pink Under this Veil”. I have my lovely Christmas stories from the British Library, too, and my great big Larry McMurtry, “The Evening Star”. This isn’t the end of Larry McMurtry Rereading, though, as I only have “Cadillac Jack” left so am going to read that in January.

My NetGalley TBR for December has just two books, but of course I have September to November ones, too:

“Beyond Measure” and “Femina” are older ones I need to get read, “The Racial Code” and “The Christmas Castle in Scotland” are two from October I need to polish off (the latter saved on purpose of course) and Meron Hadero’s “A Down Home Meal for Difficult Times” and Eris Young’s “Ace Voices” are published in December.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s one book to finish and 21 to read (ten of them paperback novels and I have a week off over Christmas …), but I’m looking forward to it all!


How was your November reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection? Are you doing Dean Street December with me?

Novellas in November – catching up with a last few reads

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I seem to have managed to run out of days in November, what with all the challenges I’ve been doing. So here are short reviews of the last few Novellas in November I fitted in this month. I’ve really enjoyed this challenge, as ever – from picking out a grid of possible reads to working my way through them. I got up to ten this month, eight from the grid of possibility, one that I was sent to review and read and reviewed within the month and one that I inexplicably didn’t include on the grid, so not bad going, and it’s been fun reading everyone else’s reviews, too.

Tessa Wardley – “Mindful Thoughts for Runners”

(25 December 2021, from Meg)

A nice little book looking in quite a lot of depth at mindfulness for runners, covering starting running, enjoying different weather, communities, injury time, etc. I particularly liked that the images through the book were really diverse, and there are lots of details of things you can do like not taking the headphones, noticing different kinds of trees and plants and taking note of the feel of the ground beneath your feet. There’s an environmental element, too – treading lightly, reusing water bottles and the like, which was nice, and a useful chapter on approaching running as you age.

Maya Angelou – “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now”

(21 January 2022, from Ali)

A book of essays first published in 1993 without any real explanatory matter around them: there’s an Acknowledgements page which mentions two magazine editors who encouraged Angelou to put down her thoughts, but nothing with each piece. But anyway, they’re good, succinct essays with Angelou’s usual direct style and straight talking, encouraging us to do the right thing and be authentic, in summary. Slotting in gaps in her autobiographies, the collection is notable for having quite a lot about her faith, which I don’t remember as a huge part of those works, including the moment she was brought to humility by reading and re-reading a passage about God’s love. I can only presume this is why the book was marked by Virago “Autobiography/Spirituality” on the back of the book: it’s not the main part of it by any means, though. Funny and moving stories mix with exhortations on various subjects: the pieces are short and easy to read and it was an enjoyable collection: I’m looking forward to reading the other two I have TBR.

Hans Siwik – “Iceland: People, Sagas, Landscapes”

(20 May 2022)

I found out about this book in Paul HalfManHalfBook’s April 2022 roundup, where he listed books recently acquired. Intrigued by the title, I managed to hunt a copy down on Abe Books quite soon afterwards. I don’t know if he’s read it yet as I couldn’t find a review.

After a potted history of Iceland, Sigurdur A. Magnusson, who wrote this and presumably chose/edited the other texts, explains that “

No direct correspondence was sought between the texts and the photographs of this book. Word and image may be said to create fruitful tension that should expand rather than confine the central theme, which is the interplay of man and nature … (Foreword, n.p.)

and indeed if you look for a clear correspondence, you won’t find one. There are some longish selections from 1950s and 1960s translations of the sagas interspersed with blocks of very fine colour plates of photographs of landscape and the odd person. The saga selections include my (and probably everyone’s) favourites: Gudrun being asked which husband she loved best in Laxdaela Saga and Gunnar’s death from Njal’s Saga with other bits from Egil’s Saga and Grettir’s Saga.

One for the Iceland/sagas completist maybe, and it was a bit disappointing that there was no list stating where the photographs were of. But a nice book to while away a few hours with.


So that rounds up my go at Novellas in November. More non-fiction than fiction as usual – Matthew did suggest it should be called “Not-Many-Pages November” as even the official page includes non-fiction (though he concedes Novellas in November is the better name!)

These were Books 8 – 10 for Novellas in November, all three from the original selection of 15. They are also Books 9 – 11 for NonFiction November.

Book review – Dr Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas – “This is What it Sounds Like”

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I have been reading my NetGalley books behind the scenes, filling in September, October and November’s publications, and have saved up some reviews for next week but this is a good solid non-fiction title that fits in with Nonfiction November. Yes, it’s a music/neuroscience book by a Rogers but is very different from Jude Rogers’ “The Sound of Being Human” (links to review on Shiny New Books) and the two books complement each other nicely.

Dr Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas – “This is What it Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You”

(25 October 2022, NetGalley)

Music’s features do not predict love – music listening does. Two people can listen to the exact same song and report dramatically different accounts of “This is what it sound like … to me.”

Rogers is a sound engineer who worked for such luminaries as Prince: she went back into education mid-life in order to study psychology and came out with a PhD and as a professor of cognitive neuroscience. Ogi Ogas is more in the background, providing neuroscience detail and notes on research and being credited as co-author.

Rogers’ central thesis is that there are seven dimensions of music listening, and by paying attention to these we can work out why we love a particular piece of music / song / record and even learn something about ourselves in the process (I wasn’t entirely convinced by this: does my love of the timbre of an American slightly whiny man’s voice (They Might Be Giants, REM, Weezer, et al.) really say much about my own personality?). The dimensions themselves are useful pegs to hang decisions about music on: authenticity, melody, realism, rhythm, etc. and the suggestions for tracks to listen to that feature various aspects of these were useful and interesting and enlivened a few dinner times.

There’s lots of detail, especially in the later chapters, about what our brain is doing when we hear familiar music or music we score highly when we first hear it.

Woven through the book are details of Rogers’ life in music, the developments in the technology of recording and how they changed what music sounded like, her reaction to various songs, records and musicians, and even a chapter on how the facets introduced in this book relate to music production. There are also short pieces from a range of her students and associates on their favourite piece of music and why they love it, so the text stays lively and varied throughout. The notes are great and there’s also a website, a playlist and the like to allow you to explore the text and its concepts further.

A really interesting and well done book, never boring or too technical.

Thank you to Random House for selecting me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “This is What it Sounds Like” was published on 6 October 2022.

This was Book 8 for Nonfiction November.

Book review – Anita Heiss (ed.) – “Growing up Aboriginal in Australia”

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Back to AusReading Month and I’m continuing my theme of reading books set around social justice and Australia’s Aboriginal peoples along a sort of curriculum: I read “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” to get a background idea of the Stolen Generations and it gave me a short history of the experience of Aboriginal peoples from when the White invaders first came; this book charts the experiences of Aboriginal people growing up from the 1940s to 1990s and “Another Day in the Colony” which I am starting now, will fill in a lot more gaps hopefully (I don’t think I’ll get to “Lies Damned Lies” but can save that for next AusReading Month of course). This is another of the books that Bill from The Australian Legend kindly sent to me in January. His review is here and we largely agree on the pieces that most struck us, interestingly.

Anita Heiss (ed.) – “Growing up Aboriginal in Australia”

(13 January 2022, from Bill)

… this anthology is not one of victimhood: it is one of strength and resilience, of pride and inspiration, demonstrating the will to survive and the capacity to thrive against the odds. Growing up Aboriginal in Australia paints a landscape of a country that has created leaders who form strong communities, with a generous heart and passion for change. That is why this anthology matters. The goal is to break down stereotypes – many of which are identified with these pages – and to create a new dialogue with and about Aboriginal Australians. (Introduction, p. 2)

This excellent book takes 50 submissions from Aboriginal people living in Australia which (sometimes loosely) follow the theme of growing up. Some of them relate in a straightforward manner what it was like to be a child in Australia, some take the idea that they are still “growing up” and some just fill us in on what life continued to be like. I don’t think I’d heard of any of the contributors, but some are well-known writers, academics, musicians and sports players and some are ordinary people. The ages of the contributors range from 13 to people who must be in their 80s and this gives an excellent perspective as some are from the Stolen Generations (Aboriginal people, especially those with lighter skins, who were taken from their families and ‘raised’ on missions and in special schools to ‘protect’ them from taint by their darker-skinned relatives) or are children of people who were stolen, or look back to a fractured family line because of this vile policy: we really see how that has reverberated through the generations.

I learnt a lot reading this. Many of the contributors described their anguish at being lighter-skinned, asked to prove their Aboringinality, told they could and should ‘pass’ for non-Aboriginal, were questioned on what proportion of their heritage was Aboriginal and found they were too light-skinned for some of their family group or activists but too dark-skinned for European-origin Australians (this chimed with the works I’m reading on people with dual heritages elsewhere in the world, but with special horrors to do with their geography). I also hadn’t realised that Aboriginal people were only accepted as actual PEOPLE in the 1960s when there was a referendum about ‘allowing’ them to appear on the census and vote – before that, they were counted as sort of part of the flora and fauna [Edited to add: this is actually a myth, please see the comments and links by my Australian blogger friends below]. And I was completely unaware that people were captured and removed from Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and other islands and used for labour.

It’s not all doom and gloom: there’s a lot of humour, a lot of anger and pushing back, and a lot of people finding their Aboriginal heritage and connecting with it, learning the traditional ways and cultures of the different Aboriginal groups and becoming workers or activists or educators in their communities and beyond. Interestingly, although I re-read his review after I’d finished the book and put down some thoughts, I liked similar essays to the ones Bill chose: for example, “Two tiddas” by Susie and Alice Anderson, who record a dialogue about their feelings about being Aboriginal, and Dom Benrose’s powerfully sarcastic apology to “Dear Australia” for basically existing or pushing back: “I am sorry I can’t tot paint, play football or run really fast” (p. 17). There’s a lot of intersectionality, too, looking at race, class, gender and/or sexuality, with Celeste Liddle in “Black bum” unable to separate her experiences of being Aboriginal from those of being female.

One tiny criticism I had is that I struggled to find a pattern or structure in the book, so while it showcased diversity in ages, backgrounds and experiences, you sort of dotted from one to another without a clear pathway through it. The introduction by the editor only explains they came from 120 submissions and notes on why the anthology matters, which is great, but I’d have liked to understand the selection and organisation principle. This is a minor point, though: the thing that matters is the diversity, own voices and chances for people to express themselves and readers to find themselves mirrored or to learn.

At the end of his review, Bill notes that many people of his generation and younger don’t understand/accept that racism existed and still exists in Australia and adds his hope that school children are all reading this book: I add to that hope and also think it’s very important to know about these issues outside Australia, hence being very glad to have had the opportunity to read this powerful, fascinating and moving book and share about it here.


This was Book 2 for AusReading Month and Book 7 for Nonfiction November.

Nonfiction November Week 4: Worldview Changers

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Week 4: (November 21-25) – Worldview Changers: One of the greatest things about reading nonfiction is learning all kinds of things about our world which you never would have known without it. There’s the intriguing, the beautiful, the appalling, and the profound. What nonfiction book or books has impacted the way you see the world in a powerful way? Do you think there is one book that everyone needs to read for a better understanding of the world we live in? (Rebekah @ She Seeks Nonfiction)

I found it tricky to find books for this week as I wanted to do this on books I’ve read since 1 November last year. However, some of my books for the second question I read before last November.

What nonfiction book or books has impacted the way you see the world in a powerful way?

I came up with Symeon Brown’s “Get Rich or Lie Trying“, which is an exposé of the world of internet influencers, or rather those who try desperately to monetise their lives for various reasons, including hauling themselves out of poverty, and who are used and abused by companies who know their desperation.

Damian Hall’s “In it for the Long Run” opened my eyes to the actual environmental costs of the hobby of running – I have only travelled far to race once, and combined it with a holiday, but it made me think, and it made me pre-order his new book, as yet unread, “We Can’t Run Away from This” (pictured here), which covers the issue in more depth.

Finally, Sabeena Akhtar’s “Cut from the Same Cloth?” opened my eyes to the anti-Black prejudices which exist in the Muslim community in the UK, as well as showcasing the huge variety among hijabi women here, which I already knew a little more about.

Do you think there is one book that everyone needs to read for a better understanding of the world we live in?

A book that profoundly changed my worldview last year was Shon Faye’s “The Transgender Issue“. I hadn’t really understood that in order to gain medical acceptance and treatment, trans folk had to follow a pathway, a narrative, which was very restrictive and limited how they were ‘allowed’ to experience the world. Once I’d gathered that, I was able to understand the issues a lot better and fit in a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle for myself.

With all the opprobrium, misunderstanding and vileness that gets thrown at refugees and asylum-seekers across the world, I’d love people to read one of these two important volumes I read this year. “American Refuge” looks at people who have come from all over the world to one town, and “Refugee Wales” tells the stories of Syrian people who have come to South Wales. Equally important would be “The Good Immigrant” and “The Good Immigrant USA

Finally, for people in the UK to understand that people who look the same as them or people who look different to them, depending on the reader, have been here since prehistory, I’d recommend two big books, David Olusoga’s “Black and British” and Hakim Adi’s “African and Caribbean People in Britain“. Olusoga does have a shorter version aimed at younger people which is comprehensive, too, and there was an interesting TV series.


Three books that opened my eyes in different ways and one and a selection to change everyone’s world. What did you pick for your week and what books have opened your eyes this year?

Book review – Mo Wilde – “The Wilderness Cure”

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Another book coming off my NetGalley TBR and this one was published in October (I have two from September, three more from October and two from November to read; I included “Black Voices on Britain” in my October and November TBR pictures in error and have talked about it in my last post. So we’re getting there, right? (helped by holiday reading last week!).

Mo Wilde – “The Wilderness Cure: Ancient Wisdom in a Modern World”

(12 May 2022, NetGalley)

The ‘tough guys’ are the first plants to arrive on broken land: nettles, thistles, docks and willowherbs, as well as the opportunists: mustards and cresses. As if they somehow knew that desecration of the land marks the poverty of people, all these plants also provide a rich food bank of nutritional values and medicinal powers. Nettle tops, thistle roots and stems, willowherb shoots, bittercress rosettes: these are foods for the hungry and there for the taking. Free for all.

Wilde is a foraging teacher and has been for 15 years so she knows her stuff. Quite suddenly, and unprepared, she decides she’s going to live only on what she can forage for a year, starting on Black Friday, which appears to her so hideous and wasteful that she needs to go back to the land. She’s also doing it in Scotland, starting in late November, and has to make a complicated arrangement with herself about nuts as she’s not harvested them/had some nut flour go bad. Added issue: it’s the Covid lockdowns as she does her project which affects where she can go and who she can see: it’s interesting to see this working its way into the books I read now.

I’ve read a few of these sort of off-grid, back to the land books now and I have to say that Wilde is not nearly as annoying as the men whose books I’ve read. She happily acknowledges both swaps and gifts from neighbours and others in her network and the support of one of her two independent living housemates, who goes into the project with her (the other continues life as normal but does supply honeysuckle mead and other important drinks). Wilde starts the book with a history of how we’ve eaten in the past, explaining how foraging has been important through history, and she includes information on various plants and practices during the book, as well as pleas to look at climate change, respect nature and understand that plants can have an equal intelligence to animals (it’s all that joined up mushrooms and tree roots stuff again). So it’s not just a back to the earth story but it’s more than a polemic, and I think the two sides work well together. Her rules are a bit complicated (I never understood the egg swap business) and she gets very upset when she breaks them (once, when she’s just delivered her neighbour’s baby somewhat unexpectedly and someone gives her a slice of cake!). It was interesting to read about there being seasons for carbs as well as fruits and veg, something I’d not really thought about.

I liked the practical aspects of the book, though the spiritual aspects were integrated well and not too “woo” for me (she thanked both animals she was given and trees she harvested sap from for giving up their resources to her, and she made a distinction between animals culled for ecological purposes and those killed for sport which made sense). At the end of the project, she planted 365 trees, and there’s an appendix giving more information on how to get into foraging.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for giving me access to this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “The Wilderness Cure” was published on 05 October 2022. This was Book 6 for Nonfiction November.

Book review – Angham Abdullah, Beth Thomas and Chris Weedon (eds.) – “Refugee Wales”

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I couldn’t wait to read this account of Syrian lives in Wales, plus it was the shortest book on my terrible NetGalley TBR for September, October and November (not short enough to count as a Novella, sadly) so I read this one rather poignantly while in southern Spain, on the very Mediterranean that so many people have to try to cross (we didn’t see any small boats but did sadly see helicopter and ship patrols: I tried to tell myself it was people wanting to rescue refugees). By the way, for November NetGalley books I skimmed through “Black Voices on Britain” edited by Hakim Adi and placed a short review on NetGalley: as I’ve read three books on British Black history recently most of the pieces in there, while really worthwhile and making up a great collection of primary sources, had become a bit over-familiar and I didn’t really want to work my way through all of them once again. But it’s a good and useful book!

Angham Abdullah, Beth Thomas and Chris Weedon (eds.) “Refugee Wales: Syrian Voices”

(23 May 2022, NetGalley)

Home is a sanctuary, safety, settlement. A place where you feel free and can express yourself freely. This is home. Syria is my first home, but the place that offers you all these elements is your real home. (BH)

Quite a lot like “American Refuge” which I read recently, after a short history of the situation in this case Syrian refugees have faced, this book takes the experiences of refugees and describes their life in their country before needing to flee, their decision to leave, the path they took and then their experiences settling in their new country. In this case, all of the participants are from Syria, the book forming part of a project specifically working with this group, although many of them mention people from other places, too.

The experiences the participants had of managing to leave range from having an arrangement through the UN to be moved out for their healthy and safety to trying multiple times with human traffickers to get across to the UK through whatever means possible. All, however, involved the wrench of leaving, worry about those left behind, trying to reunite with family members spread across Europe and the feeling of a loss of community when they arrived … but also the good experiences they had with kind people, particularly in Wales. The stories were of course both moving and upsetting; we need to read these stories to understand what people go through.

Many of the participants give very good advice on how things could be made easier for those coming after them, both in terms of what people coming from Syria should expect, what the authorities could do to make it smoother and what communities could do to welcome people. There are varying opinions on integration and what it means, of course, and I was glad people seemed to be able to speak freely, explaining for example that they want to retain their own heritage for their children as well as living and working in the UK.

Some stories brought a tear to my eye, as they should: one refugee ate a tin of peanut butter from the cargo of the lorry he stowed away in and left a few euros to pay for it; women felt that Welsh people welcoming them with a smile was like their friends back home but was scared to talk to them because she felt her English wasn’t good enough; and one participant opened his section about living in Wales with a paragraph in the Welsh he’d learned alongside English.

Thank you to Parthian Books for giving me access to this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Refugee Wales” was published on 01 November 2022. This was Book 5 for Nonfiction November.

Book review – Hakim Adi – “African and Caribbean People in Britain”

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I’m doing quite well with my, ahem, September NetGalley reading – I only have “Beyond Measure” and “Femina” to read and review now. This one was 688 pages long, which I hadn’t realised; fortunately, I took it on holiday with me last week so could devote long chunks of time to it and get through it. It would have taken me ages reading it at home!

Hakim Adi – “African and Caribbean People in Britain”

(21 June 2022, NetGalley)

The fate of Bartholemew is unknown, but it is important to note that this early record of an enslaved African is also a report of an African engaged in the struggle for self-liberation. His act of resistance is one that would be adopted by many other enslaved Africans in Britain in later centuries.

This really is a tour de force and a lifetime’s work (well, he’s published other books, so not quite that), drawing on hundreds and hundreds of sources (20% of the book is the references) to describe the arrival and experiences of people from the Caribbean and Africa over the millennia, from prehistory and early history (yes, Cheddar Man and Ivory Bangle Woman, but also others I hadn’t encountered previously) right up until the Windrush Scandal and Black Lives Matter. Adi does offer quotations but it’s not as thick with them as other history books I’ve read recently.

In the introduction to the book, Adi references Gretchen Gerzina’s work on Black Georgians (read and reviewed here) but not the book on Black Victorians I recently read (which does reference this and Gerzina). I would say that it might be a mistake to read all three books close together as I ended up duplicating information on the (long) 18th and 19th centuries I’d read in more detail in the other two books. There is also a lot on Pan-Africanism, which is Adi’s area of specialism – there were a lot of names and organisations coming and going in those sections especially, but I do know where to come if I need information on Pan-Africanism!

Adi is careful throughout to see the agency in the people he’s writing about, as well as describing the mechanisms of slavery as people-trafficking, bringing history into the reader’s mind as being allied to things that happen now. He makes sure to weave in women’s stories and acknowledge the work women have done in grass-roots work, publishing and awareness-raising and has some passages on Black feminism. He’s also meticulous in observing how history gets/got lost, for example, the researchers at the Museum of London who admit that anecdotal evidence of Black bodies found in burials wasn’t recorded properly and now they are wiped out of the record.

There was of course a lot I didn’t know here – for example that Black people were transported to Australia and details of more racist disturbances in 1919 than the Liverpool and Cardiff ones a lot of us have heard of. We also learn a lot more detail about the colour bar in the forces in the two world wars. Throughout the book we find reproductions of pictures and newspaper pages which add a lot to the text – I particularly liked one of 1970s Handsworth. A very valuable resource that will find a happy place in academic libraries but is also approachable and readable enough for the general reader.

Thank you to Allen Lane for giving me access to this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “African and Caribbean People in Britain” was published on 01 September 2022. This was Book 4 for Nonfiction November.

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