In the Media: 12th October 2014

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought-provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

This week, I’m starting with prizes as there seems to be a fair few announcements at the moment. The Man Booker Prize jury will announce its winner on Tuesday. In The Guardian, the shortlisted authors revealed the inspiration behind their books. (Karen Joy Fowler’s contains a spoiler if you you’ve managed to avoid the reveal so far.) The Samuel Johnson Prize shortlist contained four books by women. I’ve only read one so far, but H Is for Hawk is one of the best books I’ve read this year. But the prize that’s got me most excited is The Green Carnation Prize which celebrates LGBT literature. (You can see the longlist in the photograph above.) Eight women on a longlist of thirteen and the two I’ve already read (Thirst by Kerry Hudson and In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie) are two of my books of the year. Expect reviews of more of the books on list before the shortlist is revealed on the 6th of November.

Elsewhere, Lena Dunham continues to be everywhere. She’s guest editor of this week’s Stylist magazine in which she interviews herself while Ashley C. Ford interviews her for Buzzfeed. She’s also written for Pen & Ink about her tattoo. (If you’re interested in Pen & Ink: An Illustrated Collection of Unusual, Deeply Human Stories Behind People’s Tattoos, there’s a great piece on Brainpickings.) In other corners of the internet, people were defending Dunham against the backlash around her book and criticisms of self-indulgence; first, Heather Havrilesky in the Los Angeles Review of Books and second, Sloane Crosley in the New York Times.

Often just as unpopular, Caitlin Moran is in Time talking about Teen Girls, Sex and Pretending to be Courtney Love and in the Radio Times talking about the filming of her co-written sitcom ‘Raised by Wolves’. If her feminism doesn’t interest you, perhaps her piece lamenting the loss of birds in her garden in this weekend’s The Times will. (Paywalled)

Leading feminist writer, Roxane Gay has been prolific again this week. She’s in The Guardian writing about why celebrity feminists should be a gateway to feminism, not its all; on VQR Online talking about The Price of Black Ambition, and in Dissent with a Theses on the the Feminist Novel.

Other notable articles are:

And the interviews:

If you’d like some fiction to read (or listen to):

And the lists:

And the four best things I’ve read this week:

Autobiography of Us – Aria Beth Sloss giveaway

Giveaway now closed.

Last year, I reviewed a lovely debut. The story of two female friends in 1960s America who are changed by an incident at college. I described it as ‘a gem of a debut novel’ and thanks to Picador, you can win a copy of the paperback published next week.

You can click the book cover to read my review and here’s the blurb:

Coming of age in early 1960s suburban California, Rebecca Madden and her beautiful, reckless best friend Alex dream of lives beyond their mothers’ narrow expectations. As teenagers they are inseparable. But then, one sweltering evening the summer before their college graduation, a single act of betrayal changes everything.

Decades later, Rebecca’s haunting confession reveals the truth about that night, the years that followed, and the friendship that defined her.

Gorgeous, captivating and compelling, Autobiography of Us is the story of two women caught between repression and rebellion, and the sacrifices, struggles and triumphs of a generation.

Entering the giveaway is easy, simply leave a comment below. As always, I’m happy to send worldwide. Entries close at 12pm U.K. time on Sunday 29th June and a winner will be chosen at random shortly afterwards.

Edit: As usual, I’ve allocated everyone who entered a number in order of entry:

1 – erdeaka
2 – Sally Pemberton
3 – Alice
4 – Ametista
5 – theabhishekkr
6 – Suzy
7 – outonthefringes
8 – Sam
9 – Debra

And the random number generator says:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 12.06.47

Congratulations, Debra, an email’s on its way to you. Thanks to everyone else for entering and watch out for two big giveaways on the blog next week.

Thanks to Picador for the prize.

Autobiography of Us – Aria Beth Sloss

I was fourteen the day she appeared in my homeroom. A transplant from Texas, our teacher announced, her hand on Alex’s shoulder as though she needed protecting, though it was clear from the start Alex didn’t need anything of the sort…Released to her desk, she chose the route that took her directly passed mine – accident, I thought, until she turned her head a quarter inch and winked.

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Alex and our narrator, Rebecca, become firm friends despite their differences in personality, looks and family background. Alex wants to be an actress:

“Listen, I’m not exactly thrilled about it either. I would have preferred something with a little more” – she clicked her tongue – “gravitas. That’s the thing about callings – they choose you.

Rebecca finds her calling in an anatomy class and begins to sneak off to the library to study, telling no one about her heart’s desire.

But this is the 1960s and, being female, neither Alex nor Rebecca is free to choose how they live their lives. For Rebecca, this is compounded by her family’s expectations:

The life we led demanded certain expenses…And so our house was large if not overly so – more important, it was in the right sort of neighborhood; there was my schooling – private, Mother insisted; there were the cars, kept long after they had begun to rattle and hiss; a small garden at the back of the house, where she grew prize-winning roses; a yearly membership to the club we could easily have gone without, Mother declaring when my father suggested as much that we might as well go around barefoot and begging for alms. That without the club, we were, to put it plainly, sunk.

Alex and Rebecca are permitted to go to college – to experience some freedom before marriage – and take classes suitable for young women. But, towards the end of their first year, events happen that threaten not only their friendship but also the direction the rest of their lives will take.

Autobiography of Us is the story of a female friendship, the sort that you make in adolescence and return to again and again. It is the story of women coming of age in the 1960s, a time when society expected them to fulfill certain roles and left them exempt from others. It is the story of two women’s lives, lives that take in college, moving, sex, marriage, children and the sacrifices made for these things.

It was interesting to read this straight after Tessa Hadley’s Clever Girl as essentially, they follow the same plot over the same time span. The main difference being that Bristol and Glasgow become California and New York. I wonder if this change in setting accounts for the change in the tones of the books; while Hadley’s prose is dense and often serious, Sloss’ has zip and verve – particularly in the scenes that contain Alex.

Autobiography of Us is a pacey story with some surprising twists and turns. It is a gem of a debut novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Picador for the review copy.