Book Lists for All Humans #5

BookListsforAllHumans

It’s been a while…not because there haven’t been lists published that weren’t gender balanced, I’m sure there have been, more because while I’m not compiling In the Media, I’m not in my media Twitter feed and so I’m not seeing them. However, I was on the Guardian website this afternoon and they’d published a new ‘Top 10 books’ list. DBC Pierre deserves some sort of award for producing the whitest, most male list I’ve seen so far. Apparently, women/people of colour don’t write books that writers should read. Be told people, only white men know how to write.

Here’s my alternative list, please feel free to suggest your own additions/alternatives in the comments:

To create a setting that feels as though it really exists: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

To see complex characters, whose behaviour raises questions about morality, in action: Waking Lions – Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (translated by Sondra Silverston)

To write successfully from a child’s point-of-view: My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

To manage a complex structure based on a lunar cycle and as good as any box set: The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

To change point-of-view in every chapter, including that of a dead body, and detail some of the atrocities of which humans are capable: Human Acts – Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

To incorporate your own life and letters into fiction/essay/critique: I Love Dick – Chris Kraus

To bring a historical character to life: Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

To write a coming-of-age story in fragmented sentences: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

To write a metafictional account of a massacre: The Gypsy Goddess – Meena Kandasamy

To create an unreliable, first person narrator: The Private Life of Mrs Sharma – Ratika Kapur

 

Links are to my reviews.

Book List for All Humans #4

BookListsforAllHumans

Publishers Weekly asked Mexican writer, Daniel Saldaña Paris for his ‘10 Essential Spanish Language Books‘. On reading the list, I discovered only three women writing in Spanish wrote ‘essential’ books: Josefina Vicens, Rosario Ferré and Carmen Laforet. To be fair to Paris, he does comment that the number of translations from Spanish to English is heavily in favour of male writers. However, I thought, there must be loads. And then I struggled to get to 10 even after trawling the blogs of friends who focus on translated fiction. Here’s what I’ve got. I would love more recommendations, I can add them to the pile for Women in Translation Month in August.

Faces in the Crowd – Valeria Luiselli (translated by Christina McSweeney)
A translator with a small family writes about ghosts and sees the ghost of Gilberto Owen, eventually he attempts to take over the narration. One of my favourite books. (Link to my review on Bookmunch.)

The Rest Is Silence – Carla Guelfenbein (translated by Katherine Silver)
At a wedding, 12-year-old Tommy overhears a conversation in which it’s revealed his mother killed himself. He begins his own investigation as his father and stepmother deal with their own problems.

No One Will See Me Cry – Cristina Rivera Garza (translated by Andrew Hurley)
Joaquin Buitrago, a photographer in the Castaneda Insane Asylum, believes a patient, Matilde, is a prostitute he knew years earlier. Her life was disturbed when a young revolutionary hid in her adopted father’s home.

Leonora – Elena Poniatowska (translated by Amanda Hopkinson)
A fictionalised version of the life of Leonora Carrington.

This Too Shall Pass – Milena Busquets (translated by Valerie Miles)
‘Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shocked at the unexpected loss of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realises that she has no idea what her future will look like.’

The Winterlings – Cristina Sánchez-Andrade (translated by Samuel Rutter) (forthcoming August 2016)
‘Two sisters return to the small parish of Tierra de Cha in Galicia after a long absence, to the former home of their grandfather, from which they fled when they were just children. At Tierra de Cha, nothing and everything has changed: the people, the distant little house in the rain, the acrid smell of gorse, the flowers, the crops, the customs. Yet the return of the sisters disrupts the placid existence of the villagers, stirring up memories best left alone.’

Stone in a Landslide – Maria Barbel (translated by Laura McGloughkin and Paul Mitchell)
’13-year-old Conxa has to leave her home village in the Pyrenees to work for her childless aunt. After years of hard labour, she finds love with Jaume – a love that will be thwarted by the Spanish Civil War. Approaching her own death, Conxa looks back on a life in which she has lost everything except her own indomitable spirit.’ (Link to review by Stu Allen.)

A Man of His Word – Imma Monsó (translated by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent
A novel of two interweaving strands exploring the narrator’s love, Cometa, and their life together as well as her life following his death. (Review by Tony Malone)

And two ‘big-hitters’:

Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel (translated by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen)
The history of the all-female De La Garza family and the unrequited love of Tito and Pedro.

The House of the Spirits – Isabelle Allende (translated by Magda Bogin)
A family saga played out against a backdrop of revolution and counterrevolution.

Suggestions from Twitter:

Mildew by Paulette Jonguitud (translated by Paulette Jonguitud) (review by David Hebblethwaite)

The Sleeping Voice by Dulce Chacon (translated by Nick Caister)

Underground River and Other Stories – Ines Arredondo (translated by Cynthia Steele)

The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman by Maman Sanchez (translated by Lucy Greaves)

Desire for Chocolate by Care Santos (translated by Julie Wark)

Elvira Navarro

Ana Maria Matute

Diamela Eltit

Ana Maria Shua

Guadalupe Nettel

Lina Meruane

Alicia Borinsky

Thanks to Mary Boardman, Bella Bosworth, Jeff Lyn, Caro Clarke, Lee Randall, David Hebblethwaite

 

Book Lists for All Humans #3

BookListsforAllHumans

Today’s list comes in reaction to this list on Publishers Weekly: The 10 Funniest Books, only two of which are written but women and none by writers of colour. Note to us all: only  white men are funny.

Or not. I’m struggling a little with this one as funny isn’t my go-to so please add your suggestions, especially books by women of colour from beyond the UK and USA.

Animals – Emma Jane Unsworth
friends, booze, debauchery

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day – Pearl Cleage
HIV, religion, love

Love, Nina – Nina Stibbe
nannying, working class nanny meets the literati

Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? – Mindy Kaling
memoir

Crooked Heart – Lissa Evans
war, evacuees, survival

Mr Loverman – Bernadine Evaristo
homosexuality, London, family, Caribbean

The Table of Less Valued Knights – Marie Phillips
quests, feminism, sexuality

Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu – Yi Shun Lai
dating, mothers, following your dreams

Yes, Please – Amy Poehler
memoir, feminism

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik
hijabs, dating, writing

Links are to my reviews

Book Lists for All Humans #2

BookListsforAllHumans

I didn’t expect it to be so soon but here we are, courtesy of this list of Top 10 Books to Make You a Better Person in The Guardian. Four white men (sounding good so far, right?), three men of colour, three white women. Verdict = could do better (the pun wasn’t intended but I’ll take it).

There’s a problem with this list because I don’t know what making someone a ‘better’ person means. Who decides the criteria?

I’ve gone for books that made me think about the world differently (and avoided any I included in list #1 although they’re all relevant too); feel free to interpret it in your own way and leave your suggestions in the comments.

An Untamed State – Roxane Gay
Haiti, kidnapping, rape, privilege, poverty

The Country of Ice Cream Star – Sandra Newman
Dystopia, AAVE, disease, love, war, religion

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
Love, religion, ‘cures’ for homosexuality, Nigeria, women

Just Call Me Superhero – Alina Bronsky (translated by Tim Mohr)
Disability, friendship, love, sexuality

Blonde Roots – Bernadine Evaristo
Counterfactual slave narrative, race reversal

The Repercussions – Catherine Hall
War photography, Afghanistan, love, women, history

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik
Hijab, dating, religion, family, writing

Tell No Tales – Eva Dolan
Far right, immigration, politics, crime, corruption

The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah
Race, class, albino, women in prison, perspective

The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney
Working class, feminism, religion, crime, coming of age

(Links to my reviews.)

 

Book Lists for All Humans #1

This morning, the Independent ran a book list, ‘13 books everyone should read‘. It popped up on my Twitter feed when someone I follow (a white male) tweeted it with the words, ’13/13 men, 13/13 white. Seriously?’ Clicking the link led to the discovery that the list was voted for by reddit users. My only surprise on discovering this was that House of Leaves wasn’t one of the books on the list.

What isn’t a surprise though is that yet another book list is all-male and all-white. It happens a lot in the media. Last year I got into a debate on Twitter as to whether those writers who selected 10 books related to whichever subject their latest work is on for The Guardian should be given guidelines stating/advising/suggesting they consider a diverse list. Someone (a white male) argued that because they were personal choices they should be allowed to reflect that person’s taste. A point that would be perfectly valid if structural inequality didn’t exist and the majority of people writing these lists weren’t white. At that time, Sarah Jasmon, author of The Summer of Secrets, counteracted the largely male, all-white, list of Top Ten Summers in Fiction.

I’ve long been riled by this situation: when I used to include lists in In the Media, I spent a disproportionate amount of time checking whether the lists were gender balanced. Most were not. Include the balance of white to brown writers and there would’ve been barely any lists left. Every time one appears, I think I should counteract it with an all-female list of writers of a variety of skin tones and today I’m riled enough that I’m doing just that.

BookListsforAllHumans

Welcome to the first in a series! Here’s my take on 13 Books Everyone Should Read. I’m aware there’s many more I could’ve chosen so please, leave your suggestions in the comments. I’m hoping this will become an series of excellent crowdsourced book recommendations. Then, maybe, the media might just have a word with itself and compile lists reflective of the actual world rather than its own narrow one.

Citizen – Claudia Rankine

To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronté

Americanah – Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Human Acts – Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

Quicksand and Passing – Nella Larsen

Geek Love – Katherine Dunn

Push – Sapphire

I Love Dick – Chris Kraus

Trumpet – Jackie Kay

(Links are to my reviews.)