“What is the best way to empower yourself and those around you?”
In our experience, its to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. You start to understand the trials, traumas and triumphs of those you emulate, which often leads to greater empathy and solidarity.
But we can’t literally walk a mile in everyone’s shoes or we’d have a collection of footwear that would even make Imelda Marcos blush!
So how do we empower ourselves through understanding others? Unsurprisingly for a book shop, we have a suggestion in mind: read!
In this series, Golden Hare Books will offer recommendations and help you find new authors, books and ways of thinking that will empower us all. We want to help raise the profile of writers whose fiction dares to lie outside of a homogenous Western experience, with a significant focus on feminist literature, writers of colour, translations, excluded cultural groups and the experiences of the marginalised.
In our first empowering blog, we’ll be turning our attention to women who write about the things you don’t usually say or do in polite company, who are brave enough to ask questions and make astute observations even when doing so can get them into literary hot water.
First up in our recommendations is Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (Tilted Axis) (translated by Arunava Sinha), a novel that has caused a huge stir within Bangladesh for its frank, vivid discussion of sexuality and loneliness. We are becoming increasingly familiar with personal sexual experiences being related to us by white Western women but this feels very different. Set in Kolkata in the present day, a woman arrives alone to a deserted apartment, where she awaits an unspecified surgery.
Rare indeed is the book that discusses the experiences of poor Bangladeshi women within the pressures of a patriarchal society and keen observations leap off every page in a disarming, punchy and erotic fashion. The lasting impression is an appreciative one; for a richly-written, rarely explored world that Bandyopadhyay has woven, for the bravery it takes to speak her truth and for the insight she gives us into Kolkata life as a woman, in all its feverish, complex intensity. You can find copies of Panty if you pop into our Stockbridge store.
Another book that is unafraid to discuss women’s lives in a frank manner is Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (Charco Press) (Translated by Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff). This emotionally profound novel uses recognisable Western storytelling tropes to unnervingly explore ideas of female madness, tearing off chunks of Quentin Tarantino, Sylvia Plath and Clarice Lispector and then repurposing them for Harwicz’s own raw, intense purposes, exploring the ruinous effects of passion and the even more debilitating effects of its absence.
Daring to explore eroticism in a way that is challenging and harshly reflective, Die, My Love is for anyone who is tired of female characters being given just enough characterisation to make them objects (either desirable or detestable). This can be a harsh ride at points but seeing how brilliantly Harwicz realises the mental landscape of her characters is worth every perfectly constructed heartbreak. You can order a copy of Die, My Love here or at our Stockbridge premises.
Novelists aren’t the only ones striking out fiercely to explore the marginalised lives of women. Claire Askew’s fine collection of poetry This changes things (Bloodaxe Books) focuses on the lives and experiences of women who are too often ignored or pushed to the fringes.
Askew offers us the oxygen of rarely explored stories that are still overwhelmingly denied to us. A truly diverse range of poems that range from observing the solidarity and solidity of those around her (Frank) to the darkly humorous thoughts of a recently dead woman who, now a ghost, realises that her still living partner is truly dull (Poltergeistrix). She also delivers a superbly confrontational rebuttal of the social delusions that eroticise prostitution and ignore some of its harsher realities (my personal favourite!).
You can pick up a copy of This changes things from our store.
We’d love to hear what you think about our picks for this week’s blog. If you have any recommendations of your own, please feel free to tweet your opinions @GoldenHareBooks or come into our bookstore for a good old chinwag!