Top 10 Tuesday | Books I meant to read in 2017 but never did!

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly book tag run by The Broke and the Bookish who provide us with a different prompt every week! Anyone is welcome to join in on their blog, in the comments or any other way. 

– Top 10 Books I Meant to Read in 2017 –

This one was harrrddd to pick only 10 books for because like most other readers I am guilty over an overflowing TBR list. There were a few books that I picked up at the end of 2016, as well as early in 2017, that I never ended up reading last year as I kept buying more… So, in no particular order, here is a list for you all to witness my shame!

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ARC Review: The Original Blues: The Emergence of the Blues in African-American Vaudeville | A Comprehensive Look at the Evolution of the Blues

TITLE: The Original Blues: The Emergence of the Blues in African-American Vaudeville 1899-1926
AUTHOR: Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff
SERIES: N/A
RELEASED: February 2017; University Press of Mississippi
GENRE: Non-Fiction
FORMAT: e-Book

KEY INFO: black southern vaudeville, development of the blues, leading role of women of colour, racial segregation, appropriation by white people, academic text
REPRESENTATION:
women of colour, bisexual woc, lesbian woc, people of colour 
CONTENT NOTICES:
minstrelsy, racism, racial segregation and Jim Crow, alchoholism

amazon // book depository // goodreads

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Continue reading “ARC Review: The Original Blues: The Emergence of the Blues in African-American Vaudeville | A Comprehensive Look at the Evolution of the Blues”

ARC Review: Things a Bright Girl Can Do | “History’s About Everyone”

TITLE: Things a Bright Girl Can Do
AUTHOR: Sally Nicholls
SERIES: N/A
RELEASED: September 2017; Andersen
GENRE: YAHistorical Fiction
FORMAT: e-Book

KEY INFO: young suffragists, relationships, class, world war 1, activism
REPRESENTATION:
female main characters, lesbian, potential trans masculine character, queer relationship, mental illness
CONTENT NOTICES:
white feminism, trans coded character, PTSD, poverty, violence

amazon // book depository // goodreads

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‘When they writes up the history of this war,’ said Nell’s mother. ‘I hope they tells about the wives and children starving to death!’

‘They won’t,’ said Nell, gloomy socialist. ‘It’ll be all “Our Boys”, and everyone enlisting and people doing without chauffers to help the war effort.’

Things a Bright Girl Can Do is a brilliant and enjoyable book which gives 3 young people’s perspectives on the suffrage movement and World War 1. We follow Evelyn, an upper-middle-class girl who becomes torn between her desire for suffrage, education and sweetheart Teddy; middle-class pacifist Quaker May for whom there is no question of suffrage being the most important thing in the entire world; and working-class Nell, struggling to help keep her large family afloat as the war hits them the hardest and with men withholding jobs from women who “dress like boys”. Just to put it out there, I absolutely LOVE historical fiction books like this which present history in a dynamic, accessible and enjoyable format and which write stories about people that history often ignores. It felt so refreshing to read a fiction book which dealt with these issues, especially one that actually does things like clearly differentiates between the suffragists and the suffragettes, includes poor women, and has an LGBTQ romance! Sadly, as others have pointed out, TABGCD is completely missing any reference to women of colour, who have been entirely erased from the suffrage movement .

As a working-class person who identified so hard with Nell, it is perhaps unsurprising that I found her to be the best character of the book and there were times when I became frustrated with how often her story became sidetracked by a, frankly quite irritating, romance with May (my least favourite character by far). While I felt that May’s character offered some interesting perspectives on suffrage and war from a pacifist Quaker pov, her character was wholly unlikeable, grandiose, immature and sanctimonious to the point of distraction. And although I did enjoy Evelyn’s character a lot in the beginning, as her story moved away from suffrage, education and family towards an out and out romance with her best friend, Teddy, I became quite bored with Evelyn’s character development towards the end of the book. However, I did think it was valuable to have multiple perspectives on and approaches to the events of 1914-1918 across the different classes. Having said that though, I felt that particular characters and storylines could really have been deepened to give a better look at the socioeconomic and political lives of the time, and I wish that the end of the book did not feel so rushed.

On the topic of Nell and gender, I have a lot to say about this because I think that there has been a total misreading of Nell’s character (in my opinion). As a trans person, Nell’s experiences and feelings towards her gender identity absolutely scream of Nell being trans too, and I find it frustrating that this hasn’t been spoken about very much, instead, Nell and May’s romance is being portrayed as “gay suffragette’s”. Why do I think this? Well, I feel that there are some clear indications at points throughout the book from her attitude towards clothes, symptoms of gender dysphoria, and other people’s reactions towards her androgyny in a way that is different from other masculine fictional women, for example, Kay in Sarah Water’s The Night Watch.

Here are some of the most prominent examples, but there are many more littered through the entire book:

“‘I dunno, she said briefly. Cos I looks such a guy in petticoats.’
May sensed a lie, sensed the wall and retreated. Then, cautiously, she said ‘Mama has a friend who dresses like you. I mean, she wears her hair short, you know, and all her friends call her Cyril… What would you call yourself if you could?'”

The above quote occurs about a third of the way through the book. Already I had been getting trans vibes from Nell, and to see it laid out so plainly made me really excited about her character development, although sadly it never develops much beyond this point.

“If Nell had been the boy she sometimes thought she ought to have been, she would have treated May”.

The use of ought to have been here, I think, speaks strongly of Nell’s feelings of gender dysphoria which she continuously displays throughout the book.

“Other girls, mostly, didn’t much like Nell either; she wasn’t quite a girl and she wasn’t quite a boy, and that made them wary and a little contemptuous… Other girls felt like a different species to Nell. She’d decided as a child that she wasn’t one of them, and as an adult that feeling had only grown”.

“‘Look here, I ain’t being funny, but you know this is the girls’ dorm, right?… And then, ‘I ain’t trying to cause offence, right, but what are you? Peggy sez you’re a girl, but you ain’t, are you?'”

Like many other trans people, this is a conversation that I have had countless times throughout my life and is just one example of many of the way that other people interact with Nell on account of her gender presentation.

Whilst it could, of course, be that Nell is just a masculine woman, and that is absolutely fine, I just feel that these experiences so clearly mimic experiences of trans people that, in my mind, Nell is definitely a trans character. Naturally, everyone is entitled to their own opinions about this but I would urge other readers to at least consider this to be an option rather than a total erasure of these experiences in Nell’s story. It is also disappointing that the author did not take this part of Nell’s identity further, instead focusing on the romance between Nell and May.


This book was received through netgalley
Overall, I did really enjoy Things a Bright Girl Can Do, and felt that with some minor improvements this book could definitely have received 4 stars from me! It’s well-written, observant, critical, witty, and makes some excellent comments on suffrage and the war through the very enjoyable medium of YA fiction. It’s so important that more stories like this continue to be written, especially as historians are relentlessly slow in including these experiences in historical narratives.


ARC Review: The Radium Girls | A gut-wrenching and personal account of ‘America’s Shining Women’

TITLE: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
AUTHOR: Kate Moore
SERIES: N/A
RELEASED: April 2017; Sourcebooks
GENRE: Non-Fiction
FORMAT: eBook

KEY INFO: Historical biography, feminist history, dialpainters, women under capitalism

CONTENT NOTICES: explicit photographs and descriptions of radium poisoning

amazon //  book depository // goodreads

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Ever heard of Catherine Donohue, Grace Fryer or Katherine Schaub? No? And yet these women have likely saved you from enduring the same bone-splintering fate from radium poisoning.

Kate Moore’s “Radium Girls” gives us a very personal and up-front account of the labouring women of the early 20th century whose bodies literally crumbled in front of their loved ones, while the denial of radium poisoning by greedy businessmen continued to cost more women’s lives.

Definitely a must-read for everyone but of particular interest to anyone interested in Feminist and Marxist histories.

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The Greek Gods Book Tag

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This book tag was created by Book Bum and I found it on allonsythornraxx’s blog!

RULES

  • Pingback to me here so I can read all you posts!
  • You can use these graphics if you like, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
  • Tag as many people as you want, but please, share the love.

Click on the book titles beneath the covers to got the Goodreads pages!


Zeus

ZEUS – King of the Gods: your favourite book

ootp-uk-kids-cover-artHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K Rowling

I debated about putting this as my favourite book, given my distancing from the HP Universe thanks to Rowling’s insistent ‘death of the author’ mission. However, even when I can remove myself from the rest of the universe, I still get such warm glowy feels from this book and can’t deny that it’s probably one of my favourite books.

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