Lady in a Boat by Merle Collins

a nutshell: both disquieting & loving, this expressive poetry collection spans family history, the Grenadian revolution and Caribbean life more broadly

a line: “It seems the apocalypse | will be televised”

an image: Collins returns to a haunting image of a friend lying in a stinking drain, with a pig nudging at his body, which gave me the horrifying impression that it is one taken from life

a thought: the poet writes of wandering to wrestle with her furies, and the imporance of knowing the arrogance of wandering and seeking the humility of home – something that particularly struck me, as a person living on the very opposite side of the world to where I grew up

a fact: the poet was deeply involved with the Grenadian Revolution and served as a government coordinator for research on Latin America and the Caribbean

want to read Lady in a Boat? visit here

Days in the Caucasus by Banine (tr. Anne Thompson-Ahmadova)

a nutshell: this is the captivating memoir of Banine, born in one of Baku’s multimillionaire oil-rich families in 1905, who shares how she came of age in a time of immense sociopolitical turbulence

a line: “Who can tell the importance of dreaming? And of reading!”

an image: I loved Banine’s halcyon memories of the countryside, and of the family’s travels by carriage through the heart of the oil district – surrounded by derricks & cisterns – bathed in the smell of oil that delighted her nostrils

a thought: some of their childhood ‘games’ seriously unsettled me, particularly in Banine’s cousins’ abject hostility towards both women & Armenians from a young age (I know it was more than a century ago, but still I found some of her revelations horrifying)

a fact: I was curious about Banine’s description of New Year being celebrated on 21 March in Azerbaijan to coincide with the first day of spring – it seems more meaningful than the mid-winter one we celebrate in the UK!

want to read Days in the Caucasus? visit here

The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli (tr. Kristina Cordero)

Blue spine of book with title and author, blank red cover, yellow brick wall in background

a nutshell: subtitled ‘A Memoir of Love and War’, this is a stunningly rich remembrance of an acclaimed Nicaraguan writer’s involvement in the Sandinista Revolution and how she came to age as a passionate feminist in & out of exile

a line: “I couldn’t go on living if I didn’t believe in the creative powers of the human imagination”

an image: on returning to Managua after a heart-rending medical procedure in NYC, Belli presses her forehead to the plane window and realises the runway is beautifully lit by oil lamps – since recent storms had wreaked havoc, they had relied on these with the hope it wouldn’t rain

a thought: Belli’s account certainly made me reflect on social responsibility & collective joy – esp. as my partner is currently reading Lynne Segal’s Radical Happiness – but I never quite pinpointed whether her primary source of joy is herself or collaboration (sometimes she singles out the former as the key to happiness, other times the latter)

a fact: Belli’s most well-known book, The Inhabited Woman, is a semi-autobiographical novel which raised gender issues for the first time in the Nicaraguan revolutionary narratives, yet she considers herself a poet before all else

want to read The Country Under My Skin? visit here