Migratory Birds by Mariana Oliver (tr. Julia Sanches)

migratory birds book with cranes silhouettes against rusty orange background

a nutshell: meditating on movement – both through places and time – this is a debut collection by a Mexican essayist, often with a lens on Berlin (where she lives)

a line: “fear is more contagious and lethal than any virus or bacteria”

an image: in the titular essay (the piece I enjoyed most) Oliver describes Bill Lishman’s flight to assist the migration of whooping cranes, describing the birds as charcoal strokes across the sky

a thought: in ‘Cassandra’, Oliver writes that Christa Wolf knew wars begin with language – feels like an apt observation amid the current preoccupation with ‘culture wars’ in corners of UK society

a fact: Oliver wrote that in the German language, ‘ss’ in the spelling of certain words e.g. Strasse, was replaced with an Eszett ‘ß’, e.g. Straße, to avoid painful associations with the Nazi regime, but I couldn’t verify this on googling!

want to read Migratory Birds? visit here

Our Women on the Ground: Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World (ed. Zahra Hankir)

Our Women on the Ground - on the ground

a nutshell: an extraordinary, ground-breaking, and pulsingly intimate collection of essays by 19 Arab women journalists – rather than meeting my high expectations, it soared above & beyond them

a line“We don’t publish the picture. It’s too graphic, and people are too sensitive. Those of us who count as people, with sensibilities” – Natacha Yazbeck

an image: born in Iraq and raised in Hull, Hind Hassan recalls many beautiful scenes of hospitality in the unlikeliest circumstances during assignments in her homeland, as well as a memory from the Iraqi community in which she grew up: a friend secretly slipping in & out of an ajar window to clean and cook for the whole family while Hind’s mother was having birth complications

a thought: I was fascinated by Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah’s reflections on her journey towards activating a “belated lens on gender” in her work, particularly her thoughts on the duality of selves (in the family home and the “street home”) and on power both inside & outside the newsroom – its complexity and, at times, invisibility

a fact: many of the women’s stories include the trauma of losing family, friends and colleagues to conflict zones or political repression, and it’d be remiss not to mention the very real risks they face just for doing their job – I hope their voices resound worldwide

N.B. Amira Al-Sharif’s chapter Yemeni Women with Fighting Spirits is my recommendation for writing by a woman from Yemen; as its title suggests, it’s a unique insight into resilience and empowerment in even the most trying conditions

want to read Our Women on the Ground? visit here