Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (tr. Sam Taylor)

Lullaby on tiled floor

a nutshell: a seemingly flawless nanny, Louise, has just killed the two young children she cherishes, and this utterly addictive novel rewinds to unravel why

a line: “Her heart has grown hard. The years have covered it in a thick, cold rind and she can barely hear it beating. Nothing moves her any more”

an image: Louise’s spiralling obsession with avoiding waste sees her dig out a gone-off chicken carcass binned by the mother and, in a distressing scene, instruct the children to scrape off the last bits of meat, washed down with big glasses of Fanta so they wouldn’t choke

a thought: as the only white nanny in the neighbourhood, Louise is an anomaly among the community of immigrant nannies who gather with the kids at the local playground;  in Slimani’s story it’s the mother, the boss, who is an immigrant

a fact: the book was inspired by the 2012 murder of two children by their nanny in New York – though it was very well received in France, it didn’t have the same reception in the US

bonus quote: Slimani says of writing: “For me, it is freedom, freedom from everything: when I write I’m not a woman, I’m not a Muslim, I’m not a Moroccan. I can reinvent myself and I can reinvent the world”

want to read Lullaby? 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