This is my first blog post written during the social distancing period, so firstly let me send my love and well wishes to everyone. I understand these times are unprecedented, that they conjure fear and uncertainty. I hope that you find your centre in all of the chaos and that you know there are means of support for whatever problem you are facing, big or small.
If you know me personally, you know I will 100% cancel my plans to finish a book. I love reading, and for the last twelve months or so have made an effort to get back into my usual routine. However the social distancing restrictions don’t leave room for much else. I’ve found comfort in my books and I hope these texts bring you some entertainment and food for thought.
Inside out, Demi Moore
I was given this book for Christmas last year. Although I’m not very familiar with Demi Moore as an actress I had seen her speak on an episode of Red Table Talk. I knew she had an incredibly trialling childhood, that she had addiction problems and that she had done the work to enable her to speak her truth. Naturally, I had known she was controversial at times, from tabloids and the general invasive nature of the internet.
Her narration holds your focus and her story of early childhood and teenage years was heartbreaking. As the book progresses she finds a rhythm and her inflections were vulnerable and believable. I don’t read many memoirs, especially about individuals that I’m not invested in, or engage in their art. I think there’s a certain sincerity in her recounts and an accountability that comes with almost losing everything.
Like many of us, Demi has made some questionable choices, personally and professionally. While this book is her opportunity to tell her side of the story, I thought she held her resentments in check for the most part. This book encouraged me to take a step back and reflect. To look at my life and from all sides take responsibility of what I allow in my space and the decisions I make.
The Cross of Redemption, James Baldwin
There will be very few recommendation lists of mine without a Baldwin book on it. The Cross of Redemption is my most recent read of his. To read Baldwin is not always a settling experience. I idolise him not just because I see myself in his novels, because I agree with so much of his politics- but because the subject matter is challenging it’s raw and it can be painful.
It’s important to note that the collection spans almost forty years. They were not intended to be bound in one book. It wasn’t curated and to read each piece in order can feel as though Baldwin is almost repetitive. Which in many ways he is repetitive in his didactic manner, in a good way.
The essays are an insight into Baldwin’s time, he is a master of the English language and his work is morally uplifting needless to say inspiring. The book reviews highlight his playful sarcasm. Baldwin’s nonfiction, in my opinion, is much stronger than his fiction (with the crucial exception of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,”) The curator includes a short story, “Death of a Prophet,” which was a study for the novel and anticipates its brilliant prose
If anything read an essay whenever you need to feel encouraged in these dark and trialling times, Baldwin is a timeless voice and beacon of hope.
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
‘White Teeth’ dances with notions of race, identity, and religious antagonism. Although the book is a fiction, of course, the tension between ethnicities, even while the white majority loses their shit is not fiction. Even though ‘White Teeth’ debuted as the 21st century was dawning, it painted a fictionalized but very real picture- speaking the struggles America, England, and Europe are going through right now.
I encourage anyone who appreciates reading to look into Zadie Smith. The tone of her books are special, she understands pace, she has a unique sense of humour and no matter who the character is that is painting whatever picture it may be, you manage to see yourself in them.
This book is her debut novel, and I enjoyed returning to it in such a time of unrest and fragmentation. It is timeless, it speaks on who we were, holds a mirror the choices we’re making doing now and perhaps even presumes what may come.
Boys Will Be Boys, Clementine Ford
This book was a gift, I had already read and obsessed over fight like a girl and I was incredibly thankful to have received it. This book is not for the faint of heart. It is seething, fiery and demands you to stand to attention.
While I was enamoured by Ford’s words I was in part expecting an unpacking of the constructs that impact the push and pull of toxic masculinity. Rather, it is a heartbreaking recount of horrifying behaviour we as women endure.
I understand it’s important to not tip toe around our adversity, and I can appreciate this boom in that it’s much bolder and confronting than Fight Like a Girl. I just hope it speaks to more than the converted.
If you read this I hope you have the guts to get informed, because when you move beyond the traumatic details, beyond the feeling that this may be Facebook rant bound and sold in the thousands, you realise you are being called to arms. That there’s so much to learn and so much more we can all be doing.
I hope these recommendations are of some help to you, and as I share more of my interests I hope this becomes an exchange. We need connection now more than ever.