Running Commentary by Daphne Caruana Galizia

a nutshell: the Maltese woman writer I include in this project could be none other than Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose commitment to exposing injustice through her writing eventuated in the 2017 murder that sent shock waves across the world

a line: “It’s true that life is unfair and that much of it can’t be helped, but where I can do anything to avoid unfairness or to set it straight, then I will”

an image: I took the photo above at a vigil for Daphne in April 2018, which was one of countless global events that have kept her memory alive over the past 30 months (often with moving contributions from her sons, two of whom I had the privilege of meeting on occasion through my human rights work in London)

a thought: while reading through Daphne’s online notebook to prepare my blog post, I came across this article in which she notes that the real reason – which she had uncovered nearly a year earlier – for a US trip by the PM was at last being acknowledged as the truth, even though previously she had been badmouthed as a purveyor of fake news; I was struck by Daphne’s observation that in journalism, as in many areas in life, “you sometimes find the back-up you need a little too late” and touched by her readers’ comments at the time that they always had full faith in her

a fact: one of Daphne’s sons, Paul, has followed in her footsteps as a journalist and speaks about his mother’s murder for Tortoise’s podcast – I highly recommend a listen

want to read Running Commentary? visit here

Trans by Juliet Jacques

cover of Trans, featuring illustration of Juliet

a nutshell: interweaving the personal with the political, this nuanced & intimate memoir records Juliet’s navigation of her gender journey through her 20s (looping in the arts, football, the internet, & more)

a line: “what if we’re not trapped in the wrong body but trapped in the wrong society?”

an image: one of many beautiful moments is when Juliet describes a play’s parting message that the more somebody resembles what they’ve dreamed of being, the more authentic they are

a thought: I can’t imagine the weight of frustration that Juliet must have felt at the inordinate day-to-day life admin that came with her decision to live freely as a woman, e.g. the local supermarket’s demand that she supply a letter from the GP & two utility bills before they’d replace her loyalty card (which had £2.40 on it)

a fact: the national media, from The Guardian to The Sun, comes across extremely poorly in this book – whether it’s publishing the hateful bile of transphobic feminists or outing individuals in traumatic splashes, the extent to which they’ve let trans people down over the years is woeful

want to read Trans? 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

Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights Under Siege by Amira Hass (tr. Maxine Nunn)

drinking the sea at gaza book on blue blanket

a nutshell: an Israeli reporter reflects on what she saw and heard while living in Gaza, from moments of abject grief to resilient humour

a line: at one point Hass describes leaving her friends’ house in Khan Yunis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, where her friends had no running water during the day and only a limited supply of salty water at other times; she reaches the Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim and drinks from a restroom tap – “Sweet and refreshing, the free-flowing water still had an aftertaste, the bitter flavor – I couldn’t help but imagine – of apartheid”

an image: Hass describes mangled heaps of rubble (homes demolished as a ‘deterrent’) as bearing witness to the ravaged lives of Gaza’s people like the rings of a tree trunk marking the passage of time

a thought: the chapter about the agony of obtaining exit permits for families suffering with ill-health is harrowing to read, particularly the sections on injured/unwell children in need of treatment

a fact: Hass’s desire to live in Gaza stemmed from the dread of being a bystander – a legacy of her mother’s memory of some German women looking with indifferent curiosity as she was herded from a cattle car to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in 1944; to Hass, Gaza embodies the central contradiction of the State of Israel, that is, democracy for some, dispossession for others

want to read Drinking the Sea at Gaza? visit here

Sexographies by Gabriela Wiener (tr. Lucy Greaves & Jennifer Adcock)

a nutshell: quite unlike anything I’ve read before, this is a spectacularly intimate anthology from one of Peru’s boldest writers on everything from female ejaculation and polygamy to transgender sex work and motherhood

a line: “With age, unless you make an effort to grow, you’re just more of what you always were.”

an image: Wiener ends the chapter about her body dysmorphia by describing a drawing she did after someone who loves her said he wished he had met her when she was little, so he could have told her she was the most beautiful girl in the world; in her drawing, she sits on his knee, believes his words, and can grow up without tallying her flaws

a thought: recording her conversation with Isabel Allende, Wiener says Allende viewed “women’s writing” as a term used derogatively and fought against this “segregation” for years, which made me feel conflicted – after all, this project’s primary purpose is to read & promote under-appreciated work by people identifying as women globally

a fact: Wiener is among the new generation of Latin American nonfictional cronistas (chroniclers) whose work drew on innovations from the ‘New Journalists’ of the 1960s–70s and is immersive, with a distinctive narrative voice and techniques lent by fiction – according to this v interesting LARB article

 

want to read Sexographies? visit here