Inter-Media

(Thanks to my dad for the title. Hi, Dad *waves*)

Another mini-In the Media post of things I think are worth reading from (or that I’ve come across in) the last couple of weeks.

On the key topic of diversity, Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Gohas a fantastic piece in The Guardian, ‘Stop pigeonholing African writers‘.

Scarlett Thomas wrote a great piece for The Guardian on writers, sex and how male and female authors writing about sex are seen differently, ‘Forget EL James, let’s have some real dirty fiction‘.

Claire Fuller Colour

Claire Fuller won the Desmond Elliott Prize this week with her brilliant debut, Our Endless Numbered Days. Judge Louise Doughty wrote, ‘The Desmond Elliott prize reminds us that authors need long-term support‘ in The Guardian and prior to the announcement of the winner, ‘The Desmond Elliott Prize 2015: Why an author’s background makes no difference to talent‘ in The Independent.

Sunny Singh, writing on Media Diversified, looks at the reaction to Rihanna’s new video, ‘So We’re All Still Talking About Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money?‘ Which I think is a really interesting piece to read alongside Eva Wiseman’s column in The Observer this week, ‘Why is there always a backlash against feminist stars?

Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen, wrote a very powerful piece for The New York Times last month, ‘The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning‘. While Irene Monroe on the Huffington Post looked at the Stonewall riots and asked why brown and black LGBTQ people have been written out of the narrative, ‘Dis-membering Stonewall‘.

Really interesting and grim piece from Michelle Thomas on ‘Tinder Dating‘ on her blog. Prepare to be angry. Which leads me to Laura Bates’ piece in The Guardian, ‘The Kim Kardashian sex-tape flag at Glastonbury was a particularly nasty attack‘.

At which point I have to mention Salena Godden’s brilliant new poem, ‘Flags: Kanye and Kanye‘ on her blog.

Sloane Crosley in The New York Times wrote, ‘Why Women Apologize and Should Stop‘.

On my favourite magazine site, The Pool, there are loads of cracking pieces: Viv Groskop, ‘The one word that undermines women at work‘; Sali Hughes, ‘There is no such thing as a superior mother‘, which goes nicely with Nina Stibbe’s beautiful piece about her mum, ‘People say my mother was awful. But there’s no one I’d rather spend time with‘; I also loved Sali Hughes piece about culling friends, ‘Why culling friends is OK‘, and Lauren Laverne wrote another cracking blog, ‘What’s happened to social mobility?‘. There’s also a fantastic interview with Cathy Rentzenbrink whose brilliant, heart-wrenching memoir The Last Act of Love has just been published. You can listen to the Director’s Cut or the 12 minute edit.

There’s also a fantastic interview with Candace Bushnell in The Cut about her new novel Killing Monica and Rebecca Mascull’s on The History Girls blog talking about her second novel Song of the Sea Maid.

In Nells In the Media, there are cracking interviews with Nell Zink (fast becoming my favourite writer purely on the basis of her candidness in interviews) in Vice and Nell Leyshon, whose last book The Colour of Milk was a Fiction Uncovered winner, in The Independent.

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And in Naomi In the Media, the two discussions I took part in for Fiction Uncovered on Resonance FM are now available to ‘listen again’. The panel on diversity chaired by Nikki Bedi and including Danuta Kean and Nikesh Shukla and the discussion with Simon Savidge, chaired by Matt Thorne on blogging and the changing face of reviewing. There’s a full list of links to all the panels and interviews from the day on Simon’s blog Savidge Reads.

Also, I’m interviewed as part of Hayley Webster’s brilliant literary efestival, ‘All the Words‘. As are Antonia Honeywell, Alice Furse, Claire King, Amanda Jennings, Claire Hynes, Suzie Maguire and Devika Ponnambalam.

I’ve cheekily included a photo of myself so I can mention Helen MacKinven’s cover reveal for her forthcoming book Talk of the Toun and claim my photo was totally inspired by it. Best cover ever.

In the Media: 24th May 2015

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. I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely and the categories used are a guide, not definitives.

The Cannes Film Festival’s been in the spotlight (haha) this week for turning women away from a screening because they were wearing flat shoes. Heels as compulsory footwear for women may or may not (depending which day it is someone asks) be part of their dress policy. Helen O’Hara writes ‘How the 2015 Cannes Film Festival became all about women‘  while Laura Craik asks, ‘Is the tyranny of high heels finally over?‘ both in The Pool. Hadley Freeman wrote, ‘Can’t do heels? Don’t do Cannes‘ in The Guardian, while Elizabeth Semmelhack wrote, ‘Shoes That Put Women in Their Place‘ in The New York Times

The other big feminist story was about ‘wife bonuses’ after Wednesday Martin wrote a piece for the New York Times called, ‘Poor Little Rich Women‘. Amanda Marcotte asked, ‘What’s Wrong With “Wife Bonuses”?‘ in Slate

Awards this week went to the five 2015 Best Young Australian Novelists, three of whom are women, all of whom are women of colour – hurrah for progress. Also in Australia, the shortlist for the Miles Franklin Award was revealed, four of the five shortlisted writers are women. The O. Henry Prize Stories for 2015 were announced. Of the twenty selected, fifteen were by women. You can read those by Dina Nayeri, Molly Antopol and Lynne Sharon Schwartz by clicking on their names.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:

Feminism:

Society and Politics:

Film, Television, Music and Fashion:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction to read:

Photograph by Kwesi Abbensetts

If you want some poetry to read:

If you want some non-fiction to read:

The lists:

Ghana Must Go – Taiye Selasi

When one of your favourite writers – in this case Teju Cole, author of Open City – declares that a book ‘renews our sense of the novel’, you pay attention. When the writer of that book is then named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists while her debut has barely left the printing press, you get your hands on a copy and read.

Ghana Must Go is the story of the Sais family. The father, Kwaku, who ‘dies barefoot on a Sunday before sunrise, his slippers by the doorway to the bedroom like dogs’ as the novel begins; the mother, Kwaku’s ex-wife, Fola, who surrendered her dreams to allow Kwaku his, only to find herself abandoned with four children. And the children who each play their allotted roles in the family: Olu, the eldest and the administrator; the twins, Kehinde, the peacekeeper and Taiwo, the brooder, and the youngest, Sadie, the crier.

The novel is divided into three parts. The first tells Kwaku’s story, allocating him the position as the dominant member of the family. He sees himself as the lead in his own story too:

He does this, has always done this since leaving the village, little open-air productions for an audience of one. Or for two: him and his cameraman, that silent/invisible cameraman who stole away beside him all those decades ago in the darkness before daybreak with the ocean beside and who has followed him every day everywhere since. Quietly filming his life. Or: the life of the Man Whom He Wishes to Be and Whom He Left to Become.

Part two guides us through the lives of the children, who they’ve become as adults, or in Sadie’s case on the cusp of adulthood. Which leads us to part three, where the children travel from Boston and New York to Ghana to their mother’s house, following their father’s death.

Ghana Must Go is about feeling like an outsider – an African in America; an African-American in Africa; a younger or older sibling in a family including twins; a twin who’s severed contact with their other, and most of all, within yourself. It’s about those moments when you struggle to reconcile yourself with your own behaviour.

Selasi has a distinctive voice. Her sentences have a rhythmic quality unlike anything I’ve read before:

She was his.
And she was perfect.
And she was tiny.
And she was dying. And he felt it, felt this dying, in the center of his chest, the force gathered, raw panic, overwhelming his lungs, filling his chest with a tingling, thick, biting, and sharp.

Her use of short sentences and lists take a moment to get used to but once you’ve adjusted to her flow, her style seems entirely natural.

Teju Cole described Ghana Must Go as ‘an astonishing debut’ and it is. It’s incredible that a first novel can be this stylistic, this fully realised. But it is and it holds great promise of things to come.

 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy.