In the Media: 15th March 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. 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.

It’s been a great week for women writers and prizes. The Wellcome Prize shortlist was announced on Monday, including four books (of six) by women. Congratulations Miriam Towes, Alice Roberts, Sarah Moss and Marion Coutts. On Tuesday, the twenty-strong Bailey’s Prize longlist was announced. Chair of this year’s judges, Shami Chakrabarti discussed the need for the prize in The Guardian and Buzzfeed created a guide to the longlisted booksThe OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature has five women (of nine) on the longlist. Congratulations Tanya Shirley, Monique Roffey, Tiphanie Yanique, Elizabeth Nunez and Olive Senior. The PEN/Faulkner award has three women on a shortlist of five. Congratulations Emily St. John Mandel, Jennifer Clement and Jenny Offill. The Stella Prize, the Australian prize for female writers announced its shortlist this week too. Congratulations to Maxine Beneba Clarke, Emily Bitton, Ellen Van Neervan, Sophie Lagune, Jean London and Christine Keneally. Marina Warner won the Holberg Prize 2015. And women won four of the six categories at the National Book Critics Circle Award. Congratulations Marilynne Robinson, Roz Chast, Ellen Willis and Claudia Rankine.

It’s Mother’s Day in the UK today. Jo Hogan writes ‘Surprised by a Jumper: On Being Motherless on Mother’s Day‘ on her blog; Scottish Book Trust list ten books that celebrate pioneering women; Emma Healey wrote, ‘From Offshore to Oranges: a literary tribute to Mother’s Day‘ in the Guardian; Emylia Hall wrote, ‘The Mother of All Years‘ on her blog; Windmill Books published an extract of Charlotte Gordon’s forthcoming book, Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley on their website, and Kate Hamer wrote, ‘Literary matriarchs and their daughters, from Little Women to Carrie‘ in the Independent

Two in-depth Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie interviews have been published this week, one in Vogue and the other on Olisa.tv: part one and part two.

The woman with the most publicity this week is Caitlin Moran. She’s interviewed on Buzzfeed and on the British Comedy Guide with her sister Caroline Moran; Pilot Viruet wrote, ‘Caitlin Moran’s UK Series ‘Raised by Wolves’ Is the Teen Sitcom America Needs‘ on Flavorwire; she’s profiled by Vanessa Thorpe in the Observer and her own Times Magazine column this week was ‘What it really means to be a mum‘ which you can listen to for free here.

And the latest on the Harper Lee story: on Wednesday, The Bookseller reported, ‘State investigators interview Harper Lee‘ and on Friday, Lee’s agent issued a statement, The Bookseller reported, ‘Nurnberg blasts ‘shameful’ Lee claims‘.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

Claire Fuller Colour

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

The lists:

In the Media: 8th March 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. 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.

It’s International Women’s Day today and, as you might expect, there have been a number of articles written about and with regards to it. Verso Books published a reading list; in the New Statesman, Stella Creasy said, ‘On International Women’s Day, let’s ask men why progress towards equality is so slow‘; One Book Lane ran a series, ‘The #WonderWomen you need to read about this International Women’s Day‘; Rebecca Winson wrote, ‘We mustn’t forget the revolutionary roots of International Women’s Day‘ in the New Statesman; Somayra Ismailjee, wrote ‘Self-Love Amidst Marginalisation‘ on Media Diversified; Cathy on 746Books wrote, ‘Putting Irish Women Writers Back in the Picture‘ with links to the articles the Irish Times have been running for the past fortnight and their celebratory poster which you can download; Harriet Minter wrote, ‘No need for International Women’s Day? What world do you live in?‘ in The Guardian; Emily Thornberry declared, ‘We Need a New Equal Pay Act‘ in the New Statesman, and Lucy Mangan says, ‘Women take more than enough shit‘ in Stylist.

The Harper Lee story continues, Connor Sheets of AL.com wrote to her and got a response, ‘Harper Lee appears to be fully lucid: She just told me to ‘go away’ via snail mail‘.

And an absolute joy of a series in Vogue: for the whole of March, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does ‘Today I’m Wearing‘.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

The lists:

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:

The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert

Alma Whittaker, is born on the 5th of January 1800 to Henry, a botanist and Beatrix, conversant in seven languages and an expert in botany too. Being a woman, however, Beatrix uses her talents to run the household while Henry is the ‘public face’ of his business.

To mark the occasion, Henry harvested a pineapple from his largest greenhouse and divided it in equal shares with everyone in the household. Outside it was snowing, a perfect Pennsylvania winter, but this man possessed several coal-fired greenhouses of his own design – structures that made him not only the envy of every plantsman and botanist in the Americas, but also blisteringly rich – and if he wanted a pineapple in January, by God he could have a pineapple in January. Cherries in March, as well.

The first section of the book acquaints us with the story of Henry’s youth, how he made his fortune and how he came to marry a Dutch woman most definitely his equal. It’s very entertaining.

The focus then moves to Alma.

She wanted to understand the world, and made a habit of chasing down information to its last hiding place, as though the fate of nations were at stake in every instance…

Alma had been born to the correct parents for these sort of restless inquiries; as long as her questions were respectfully expressed, they would be answered.

As a result, Alma grows up a clever girl and is allowed to sit next to her father at the dinner table from her being four years of age. This is a privilege as the Whittakers often invite philosophers, scientists, inventors, translators and actresses to dine with them. ‘She was allowed to ask questions, so long as her questions were not imbecilic.’

Two other females come to share in Alma’s life. One arrives in childhood and the other in early adulthood. The first is Prudence, the daughter of the head gardener on her father’s estate. The gardener murders his wife, seemingly after she’s cuckolded him one time too many, and then hangs himself. The Whittakers take Prudence in as their own.

Prudence’s arrival changed everything at White Acre. Later in life, when Alma was a woman of science, she would better understand how the introduction of any new element into a controlled environment will alter that environment in manifold and unpredictable ways, but as a child, all she sensed was a hostile invasion and a premonition of doom. Alma did not embrace her interloper with a warm heart.

The second is Retta Snow who Alma finds wandering in the garden at White Acre after Retta’s family mov into the new estate two miles down the river. Retta helps the sisters communicate in a way they are unable to without her presence.

Life moves on and while Prudence and Retta marry, Alma stays at home carrying out scientific studies and – after discovering a book titled Cum Grano Salis, an account of one man’s lifetime of erotic adventures – exploring her own body. Alma is lucky enough to not just have a room of her own, but to have two contrasting rooms.

While the rest of White Acre flowed along in its customary activity and combat, these two locations – the binding closet and the carriage house study – became for Alma twin points of privacy and revelation. One room was for the body; one was for the mind. One room was small and windowless; the other airy and cheerfully lit.One room smelled of old glue; the other fresh hay. One room brought forth secret thoughts; the other brought forth ideas that could be published and shared. The two rooms existed in separate buildings, divided by lawns and gardens, bisected by a wide gravel drive. Nobody would ever have seen their correlation.

But both rooms belonged to Alma Whittaker alone, and in both rooms, she came into being.

But shortly after, tragedy strikes when Beatrix dies unexpectedly. On her deathbed, Beatrix makes Alma promise she will never leave her father and with that, her dream of being an eminent scientist dies.

It’s far from the end of the story, however, but I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what comes next.

The Signature of All Things has much I loved: Gilbert uses the three women – Alma, Prudence and Retta – to explore three different potential outcomes for women at that time; Alma’s a fabulous character who refuses to allow the life she’s ended up with to conquer her; there are several key themes explored which highlight the inequality of the time – women’s rights, racism, homosexuality, missionaries; her father Henry’s story is hugely entertaining, and the ending, where Gilbert allows a significant real scientific finding to converge with Alma’s fictional, one is superb.

However, the novel was just too long for me – I felt it sagged in the middle – and had I not been reading it as part of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize longlist, I just might have given up on it. I’m glad I didn’t because, as I said, the ending was superb, but I felt like I’d slogged through a couple of sections to get there.

Overall, this is worth reading, it’s a work of feminist literary fiction with a formidable woman at its forefront.