TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- ASSATA SHAKUR!!!

Hello everybody!!! It has been a HOT MINUTE since I posted on here, so excuse me if this is long…  BUT ANYWAYS!!! Todays book is thoroughly inspiring and informative, offering an alternative history; the flip side of a coin that has us all in its clutches, exposing the sinister and ubiquitous state sanctioned violence that upholds white western capitalist patriarchies. It is with great esteem and admiration that I introduce todays book… ASSATA: An Autobiography. The story of the FBI’s most wanted woman.

First and foremost: Assata Shakur is a fucking bad ass and we should all worship at her feet. Now we have that out the way I can make my next statement: how and why isn’t Assata’s story more pronounced in popular culture and mainstream histories of Black American resistance to racism?!? We all know Malcolm and Martin, but where was Assata on the history syllabus?!? Perhaps my ignorance stems from individual laziness, or a lack of prompts into further investigation from a white background unconcerned with disrupting the status quo. But I also strongly believe larger white supremacist algorithms have worked hard at disrupting the astounding influence of Assata’s activism, painting her out to be a monster rather than the martyr she truly is.

Prior to reading her book, the only knowledge I had of Assata was that she is Tupac’s god mother, and was in the Black Panthers. In my basicness, I imagined god-like qualities for her, assuming that she had been born enlightened and was always down for Black liberation the moment she exited the womb. Reading Assata, you follow the events and experiences that accumulated towards her acute awareness of racial inequality- how she describes the segregated south and its forbidden amusement parks, or how cruel she was to the first boy who loved her on account of his skin and how other kids teased him. It is not easy sailing following the path that unfolded for Assata to learn her activism, her enlightenment to violent abuse systemically and sustainably enacted upon the Black American community (I could go into her developing awareness of gender differences as well, but despite her undeniable intersectional feminism, Assata’s book is proudly preoccupied with racial politics).

However, as this is a very personal account and as Assata is still in hiding (she can’t give certain names or go in-depth about her escape, as the US government could use it against her), it feels like some larger historical details and general explanations of political happenings are missing. If you are wanting to educate yourself on the wider history of Black Liberation, especially the Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army, then this book is a great place to start but you will still need to do further reading to fully build the whole picture.

Assata has a brilliant knack for exposing hidden realities underpinning the seemingly innocuous face of the ‘American Dream’. She interjects some history lessons about the American Civil war alongside the unfolding of her own education, as she was taught to praise Northern America for helping end slavery, feeling betrayed and rightly furious when deeper investigation during her college years revealed a very different truth. Assata critiques many facets of culture where black people are exploited but never praised, and thanks to Assata spilling the tea I now no longer like Elvis Presley. It is mind-boggling when you become aware of the double-sided nature of things, how the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy masquerades in flowered dresses to hide the wolf within.

Despite the scathing and rightly critical analysis of racism in American society, her voice throughout is an inviting one. There’s a bohemian coolness underlying a zealous love for life, and disrespect for abusive authority in all its manifestations. You get the sense of somebody loud but not arrogant, somebody striving to find beauty rather than be it. The style of writing is traditional prose, which narrated by Assata’s keen wit and tenderness, makes for an easy but emotional read. One element of the novel I really enjoyed was the inclusion of some of Assata’s poetry, it was interesting to see the contrast and similarities between her prose and poetry. There is a directness of line and sparse intensity of language in the poems that really enhances the prosaic progression of narrative; adding deeper intimacy into how she was feeling at the time.

Ultimately this autobiography does exactly what it should: gives unprecedented access into the inner mind of one of the 20th century’s most radical revolutionaries. Her bravery and determination in defying the norms of a fucked up world are very inspiring- resisting arrest, giving birth in prison, escaping to Cuba- and I wish I had found this book earlier on. Not only to learn more about the history of Black Liberation to fight white supremacism manifest in all western capitalist societies, but because I really think she is a great role model. Assata teaches us to think for ourselves, to know your enemies and not build your own prison from their lies, her story is for anybody who wants to dedicate their life to being a free individual.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

“…My patience was zero. i didn’t want to wait for something to happen. i was into living and living for now. i was hungry, starving for life, but at the same time i was growing more and more cynical every day. i wanted to go everywhere, do everything, and be everything, all at the same time. i wanted to experience everything, know how everything felt. i had many zigzag conflicting ideas rolling around in my head at the same time. One day i was happy just to be alive and young and moving. The next day i felt like the world was coming to the end. Everything in my life was jagged, sharp, unfinished edges. Nothing happened calmly. Nothing was like i had thought it would be when i was little…”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- THE HOUSE OF IMPOSSIBLE BEAUTIES!!!

Helloooo!!!!!

It has been a hot minute since I last blessed the internet with my unwarranted literary insights and opinions, BUT NO WORRIES I AM STILL HERE TO BLABBER INTO THE ETHER!!!! The book today is a slightly chunkier tome which may be why it took me a tad longer to organise my thoughts but I am so glad to have ploughed through, which ended up happening with ever increasing speed- such irresistible words. It has beauty and tenderness at its core, swirling in a universe of New York streets, glittering fineries and many, many cigarettes. The House of Impossible Beauties, by Joseph Cassara is not a book that will leave you quickly.

Paradoxically, it was actually by watching TV that I found out about Impossible Beauties. For anyone whose eyes haven’t yet been graced by the drama unfolding in the TV show POSE (The Category is: FIERCENESS!), then get on it!!!!! Pose (and Cassara’s novel) is inspired by ballroom culture curated by lgbtq+ people of colour from mainly Black and Hispanic descent- in particular and especially transgender women and drag queens- during the 1970s/80s onwards in New York. Mostly rejected by their original ‘nuclear’ families, young gender non-conforming people would come to the city homeless, and (hopefully) become members of their own self-made communities; putting on Balls, runway dance battle extravaganzas to celebrate (and read to filth) each other’s’ existence, dressing as whoever they wanted to be, away from the cruel white supremacist, heterosexual mainstream.

Impossible Beauties is inspired by the lives of Angie Xtravaganza and Venus Xtravaganza- of the Xtravaganza House- two transgender women who should be celebrated for their undeniable contribution to queer culture, but also towards fashion and club history. One criticism I have read, is that Cassara based his novel on real history without doing the necessary research. I believe he couldn’t conduct any face to face interviews with people who had been influential in the scene, and many dates in the novel are not in synch with details surrounding how the AIDS epidemic impacted lgbtq+ life. I will say there seems to be a lot of empty gaps in the novel, often serious events in the characters’ lives are omitted, and regarding scene setting- there is only one ball actually detailed in the entire book! I think omitting the personal scenes is one way to emphasise already devastating loss further, letting emptiness breathe for itself. A lot more effort has gone into imagining quotidian detail in fleshing out past backstories and how characters relate with each other, which I do still adore. It just would have made a lot more sense to set a greater portion of the book at the actual balls, considering that is what it’s based off!

Having said that, what the book lacks in historical clarity is made up for with emotional detail: this book will make you smile, it will make you weep. The way the characters are followed as they grow up into themselves, only to be misunderstood or devalued somehow, and the damage that leaves, is a searing study on the humanity of outsider-ness. All of them- Angel, Dorian, Venus, Hector, Juanito and Daniel- are fun-loving souls entangled in the needless brutality of a world that doesn’t want them to be fabulous. The love they have for each other is immense, but this love comes with an unspeakable baggage of trauma, trauma they must navigate around each other. But humans are humans, mistakes are made, and devastating hurt ensues. I did not think a book could be so brimming with laughter and dancing and sequins, yet simultaneously so deeply rooted in pain, violence and goodbyes.

Historically it may not be 100%, but Cassara certainly does not wash over lgbtq+ history with rose tinted glasses to make everything one big piss up of amnesia. Without giving too much away, one of the most heart wrenching parts for me was how the AIDS epidemic at the time is portrayed: too, too many people dying with no explanation why; people losing their lovers without being able to say it as such, grieving alone. (Never forget) Impossible Beauties is a testimony to the absolute zenith of glamour and feisty togetherness that Ballrooms gave, and a eulogy to everybody who lost all that they had in the name of living for love, real love.

May we always continue to delight in the beauty and glamour that femme queens have been serving for themselves, with a sincere and sober commitment to fight for and defend the political rights that enable such brilliance. If The House of Impossible Beauties has anything to teach us, it’s that beauty wears a brave face. Beauty always survives.

“It is about love, but a different kind. A kind that you can only find and not substitute for. And I think it’s hard for them to realise. So they go out to the balls for all the wrong reasons. Not all of them, but most of them. They go out seeking an audience of adoring fans who aren’t gonna hurl shade. And they go out looking for their Adam or their Eve, their other half, the other pea in the pod, or whatever you want to imagine it as.

I just want to shake all those darlings. Love is great, it is. But it’s also so brief. Didn’t these kids ever learn that even in the Garden of Eden, someone betrayed the other?”

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXXOXOXXOXOXOX

PS: If you are interested in learning more about transgender history and the origins of much of lgbtq+ culture now (*ahem RUPAUL*), I also highly recommend watching the documentary Paris is Burning!!!

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- The Half God of Rainfall

Hello everyone! I actually wrote about this author very recently, but after a light summer rain I wanted to dance in thunder, hear the clouds boom (do you see I’m setting up a rain vibe?). Today’s book is a blending of modern quotidian life with epic forces of Ancient mythos, and I have just learnt that it has been made into a play too- so I guess it spans genres as well as histories. The Half-God of Rainfall is the latest offering from Innua Ellams- a dramatic tale of revenge against the powers that be, in this case the gods themselves.

I talked about Candy Coated Unicorns & Converse All Stars a few weeks ago, and this long poem seems to be a technicolour extension of one of the poems at the beginning of that first pamphlet- Portrait of Prometheus as a Basketball Player. Combining the drama, power and passion required for ruling the basketball court with the patience, meter and skill for composing poetry- The Half-God of Rainfall brings apparently separate realms of sport and art, of gods and mortals together into glorious collision. It follows the story of Demi: a half-god bastard prodigy born of rape. His mother is the mystic and quietly strong Modupe, a woman drenched with the sacrifices of her ancestors, who is forced through the cruelty of the Gods to repeat that cycle of pain herself- left alone and traumatized with a life she never asked for in her arms. The powers and influence of the Gods flow down to the world of mortals below, and whilst Demi may seem like a wimp to the other boys in his Nigerian village- it is his tears that rock the world, cause devastation with their emotion. He has inherited his mother’s humanity, along with some distant power. Love and rage. A powerful combination, which the Gods in their weakening purity cannot ignore, and like the mortal men they foolhardily think they’re so different from, seek to control in order to protect themselves.

However, whilst Demi is lauded with stardom he is not really the hero of this revenge plot. Ellams’ poem is a reworking of myth and modernity to make an exciting (and very satisfying) blood bath of feminine retribution against the Gods- who for all of history have been demanding that the feminine stays on her knees, in more ways than one… With the protection of the Nigerian spirits, and what turns out to be an inter-connected rebellion of all the feminine deities across the globe- rest assured Modupe does not let the Gods decide fate easily. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but Hollywood ought to zip it with Superman and that rabble, and really should make this poem into a film because I would LOVE to watch Modupe fuck shit up all goddess style. I thought I could predict the ending from the plot, and the tradition of revenge tragedies (me being an arrogant lil boffin) but what is remarkable about The Half-God is that it uses the old and hidden to make something dynamic and timeless. We all know that mothers are superheroes without capes, but this is a revision of herstory that truly reinstates mothers- and all those who suffer under colonial patriarchal violence- to their true majesty and vivacity.

If you love a good old plot of celestial planets and powers, sports and punch ups I would highly recommend this book. Its rhyme and metered verses make it fairly straight-forward to follow, without the laborious and cryptic language that epic poetry rooted in the ancients often remains. A modern decolonialization of myth to give the world a new taste of what power can look like, it’s potential when fuelled by love and not bloodlust.

“…Among the Greeks there is a famous tale of pride,
about a child strapped with feathers and wax. It’s told
this child who got too close to the sun fell and died.

Whenever and however this story unfolds,
it’s never admired that he flew that he proved,
it was possible, knew it, that- wings- fluttered bold,

Bright, b r o a d, a graceful glide of a thing and it moved
towards the horizon before gravity pulled.
His vengeance needed greatness… “

TOMBOY BOOK CLUB- NANCY CUNARD!!!!

Hello again!!!!! It has been a hot minute since I’ve had a chance to write! I have been twitching to get the poetry/blog ball rolling again, and so I’ve decided to indulge myself and write about a poet I don’t know too much about, but whose work makes my soul sing in the lushest and funkiest of ways… NANCY CUNARD!!!

I first discovered this poet/heiress/bad-ass icon at an art exhibition- Modern Couples at the Barbican, to be exact. After having read a few more articles about her, I can paraphrase her fascinating life with my patchy knowledge as such: Nancy was born to filthy rich parents, magnates of the Cunard shipping line and famous for their posh parties. She was always embarrassed by her wealth, but used it to fund her art: establishing a printing press, The Hours, and hobnobbing with Modernist greats (she knew Virginia Woolf- FANGIRL MOMENT), even bedding many of them as her lovers too. SHE IS A COOL LADY. In her later years, she dedicated much of her life to fighting injustice: she was involved in the Spanish civil war, actively fought fascism as it spread throughout Europe, and also used her money to help champion the artistic talents and civil rights of black people in America to fight against racism there. Nancy actually lost her huge inheritance over her refusal to concede to her family’s wishes to break up with black Jazz musician, Henry Crowder (but sadly they split eventually anyways). She helped the French Resistance in London during WW2, and somehow was even on board SS Windrush from Jamaica when it travelled over to the UK (not that she was involved in fighting for immigrant rights so much, it is just a weird coincidence she was on board). Her activist efforts are sometimes dubious by today’s standards, many rightly criticise her efforts for being heavily steeped in exoticism and White Saviour-is, not really making the efforts to fully grasp how to best help people and rather revelling in the drama. However, I do like to believe Nancy had good intentions even if her execution was not always on point. In the end, her life was very sad- abandoned by most of her former friends and artistic cohorts, sick and mentally unwell in a Sanatorium; which is also why I think it is important to remember her now, so that grim loneliness in the hospital isn’t really her end at all.

Nancy’s poetry is full of heart and soulful observations about the world around her, infused with messages- whether it is an apple tree, a bunch of jonquils or a busy Parisian street, Cunard finds meaning in many places. One of the most stunning works to me is a long poem- Parallax– she wrote in response to T.S Eliot’s Wasteland, and what she felt was an uncompromising and somewhat misplaced negativity after the chaos of WW1. Where Eliot’s work is stark and undeniably morose, Cunard is febrile and sensitive, mingling the past sorrow of lost adolescence with the happiness from those memories that still lives in details of her contemporary post-war moment. She channels exuberance with grief, sensitivity with a tasteful gaudiness for expanding on minutiae, and doesn’t present a monotone landscape of emotion. Her works are serious in their poetic sincerity, adventurous in how they manipulate traditional motifs and structures in on themselves to create fresher voices, and saturated with nerve. Whether lamenting the loss of love and beauty, traversing and interpreting/interrupting urban landscapes or challenging social status quos and injustices- Cunard has a gravitas that can change its tune, but never its conviction to making us feel something.

Without going on and on, I will finish by including a poem of Nancy’s that I found very romantic and despondently beautiful in its intense stoicism on the pains of unrequited love. A sonnet of sorts that, in its strict structuring of lines, hides a trembling heart afraid of its own devotion, and the terribleness of the implications of being known. Nancy is a poet of mystic and fantastic vision, not fully understood but still starkly passionate in her various rebellions against family, cultural tradition and dominating politics. May we continue to rediscover and celebrate her legacy to modernism, activism, and generally being a bad ass rich bitch with a mission. The so called ‘socialites’ of today could never….WE LOVE YOU ALWAYS NANCY XOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXO

You Have Lit the Only Candle

You have lit the only candle in my heart that I am bound to worship,
Kneeling in the draughts of that cold and most solitary place,
Alone, without the stirring priests and breathless sounds of confession
That have made holy such other seclusions, and in their hour of grace
Absolved desires and sins that I am barren of. This sharp
Straight flame of yours is silent, and like a saint throws down on me,
Now I have knelt again after so long on this remembered ground,
The steadfast radiance of his mute impersonality.
You have lit the only candle that shall illumine my wayward paths;
And I tell you, before the time comes when its flames must tremble
and start,
Facing some great wind of eternity that rends and masters it,
I shall be gone with the thread of its tall spirit safe against my heart.

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!! ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’

Hello everyone!!!! Today’s book is one that I’ve had my eye on for a year or so, and finally I found it again at a feminist book fair I went to a few weeks ago and said to myself I CANNOT LEAVE WITHOUT THIS BOOK!!!! It is a collection of short stories, not a genre I usually dabble in but this was glorious; so, without further ado, I introduce to you ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’ by Kathleen Collins.

If you live for political activism and Love stories (all the best people do), these stories will fill you with a nostalgic delight so that you’ll wish you had a time machine to go back to the early 60’s, pick up a placard and march along (and fall in love with) the people who trail blazed the world’s progressing social justices we are still working on today. Collins hearkens back to the time when integration, interracial communities and ‘the melting pot’ were young American ideals still unsullied from failure. When young white people and black people still believed that simply living together would solve all the problems created by white ancestors. Of course, we know this idealism failed and that the benefits of multiculturalism often turn out in reality to contribute to the erasures and misunderstandings that it is trying to solve. But Collins is both nostalgic and critical- revealing a tense undercurrent of dissatisfaction with this periods’ short-comings whilst also celebrating it as a time of energy, of enthusiasm and hope- even if free love didn’t have such strong foundations as the political arguments that would come after. Collins shows the bad and the good of the time when people didn’t want their love to be confined by race, and these are stories of love- in all its complexities of heart-break, young love, marriage and friendship. Love and race, how the two interact with each other in the lives of young, vivacious black women.

That is one of my favourite things about this collection: all of the stories centre around black experience, and most specifically, the vast majority are focused on the narratives of black women. IDK about you, but I can hardly think of any main-stream romantic heroine/ hero of screen or fiction who is black, and not made into some mistress, sexualized beast or just generally chastised because of it (I am always open to being wrong, so if I am mistaken please let me know which rom-coms to watch which don’t make me feel like I am observing a Nazis dream of marital eugenics). Most romantic stories, in trying to please white male publishers and producers, have constructed stories of love that fulfil their notions of what it is that will complete them. Unsurprisingly, most men (whatever race) don’t want their meek beloved- who they will supposedly save from the cruelty of spinsterhood (yawn) – to outshine them; hence why so many female romantic protagonists turn out the same: white, ‘beautiful’ (read: able-bodied and skinny), alone and needing dick to rescue them from whatever it is women can’t possibly have enough brain to solve themselves- everyone KNOWS that dick is the answer to all life’s problems!!!!

But in these stories shine black women, from many different class back grounds, but specifically focusing on middle-class/ boujie black girls which I found refreshing opposed to the stereotype of all black people always being poor. Black Women (Collins often chooses to focus on lighter skinned black girls) who are exploring love on their own terms and are not afraid to break out of stereotypes white people and even their own well-intentioned family’s force upon them. There’s the girl who cuts her hair and lets it grow natural and falls in love on a summer French course (with her professor- I didn’t wanna give spoilers but that story was so sweet I couldn’t stop smiling); there’s the sophisticated, cultured and elegant black girl who doesn’t need white validation, or to demean other black girls to prove her worth; there’s painters, mothers, freedom fighters, violinists, and daughters. They may not always be ‘empowered’ as such, as in many stories the girls are wrangling with men emotionally distant, abusive and just generally immature- not leaving relationships as quickly as we may like with our more modern ways of thinking. But each woman is an agent of her desire, and all the stories speak of some awakening, whether it be realising what love is, or figuring out how your skin colour affects what love is available to you- these stories are beautiful in how they show emotion so fleetingly and yet so powerfully, without the breadth or scope a whole novel would have to use.

Collins also worked with film, and this influence can be seen in some of the stories. Because they’re so short, many of the stories don’t get their emotional depth from the coming together of plot, but from the overlapping of time periods and omissions of narrative that allow you to fill in the gaps yourself. One short story, ‘Interiors’, is a set of two monologues from a husband and wife; its 9 pages, but the way Collins’ fits so much story into such ‘little’ prose, so much heart into sentences that don’t reveal everything- it does as much work that a story triple its length may not achieve.

I will stop blabbering now, but honestly these stories do not take ages to read and anyone interested in race, relationships, civil rights, art or LUV would adore these stories! Collins has long been forgotten as a black woman playwright, director and author and reading these stories it is wonderful she has been rediscovered from the mire of history to enlighten us again!!!!!!!

“… The night I danced for you. Why am I recalling such a simple time? We were taking a walk and suddenly I started dancing. I don’t know why; it wasn’t like me at all. I just wanted to jump outside my coloured looks and make you laugh… Why am I recalling such a simple time? We said good bye. We never saw each other again. Once my father mentioned that you’d moved to Washington, become a doctor, married. But all that seemed beside the point. It took so well between us…

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!!! Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire!

Hello everyone! With the recent descent of Trump and his white supremacist cronies in the US mid-terms ( may they sink ever lower) and the higgeldy-piggeldy MESS that is Brexit, Windrush and Grenfell swamping the UK with arguments over who is or is not allowed protection under ‘great’ Britannia’, it seems appropriate to talk about this book now. Today’s post is all about Akala’s first novel Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire’- I know he has also released graphic novels- i REALLY wanna read them- but I mean in terms of non-fiction hardbacks.

Natives is clever, to say the least. It boasts pages and pages of educational anti-colonial, anti-racist facts and footnotes, and you can tell that it has been a passion long in the making, articulately put together to tackle some great issues of race and class for not only Great Britain, but the entire history of the world: Apartheid and segregation, education and prison systems, white supremacy and imperial history are amongst some of the topics Akala touches upon. His aim with this book is to analyse the way race and class both intersect and feed off each other in conflict with the white state and upper classes, and how these historically institutionalised concepts affect a singular life in the making.

Akala uses the story of his own life to examine the workings of history and politics around him, and how these forces have shaped who he has become. Some people may feel he is boasting by constantly asserting his own past and achievements into the narrative of global history, but I disagree. All the auto-biography included is relevant to the intellectual arguments he makes, his own experiences generating courses of study to analyse the fates of so many working class black boys in the country. Life shown in contrast against the statistical hardship of so many others (not that Akala himself has never known these struggles himself) only makes his achievements more commendable, and indirectly highlights the need to implement what Akala’s book is trying to equip us with and inspire: the knowledge and urgency to ensure that more such rigorous insights can be written by more people who know first hand the effects of state racism and violence onto a child’s future.

It reminded me of another book about race I read earlier this year, ‘Brit(ish)‘ by Afua Hirsch, in which she also recounts the difficulties of forming an identity as a mixed race child in the UK whilst unearthing and lambasting historical racism. However, I will say that though using the same method of analysis of auto-biography these two authors’ early lives could not be any more different. With Hirsch growing up confused, but ultimately sheltered in her posh Wimbledon neighbourhood, whereas Akala’s past is definitely not privileged in any sense of the word as we would expect in the UK; yet he has a surer sense of his identity with close ties to others from the Caribbean and to young boys in similar shoes as his own. Hirsch’s book is also amazing!!!!! It shows a different environment to Akala’s, which actually enforces the point which Akala is trying to make: it doesn’t matter how high up the ladder of capitalist achievement a black person can go or is born into, they will still be ‘Othered’, still be stereotyped somehow.

This definitely isn’t a book you can rush through, it’s one you have to think over before going to the next page; maybe that’s just me, but there’s so many facts and ideas about so many topics that it would seem negligent to simply graze over them without properly trying to understand the point at hand. This is a perfect book to start learning about key concepts and issues underpinning race in Great Britain- but Akala also uses his mixed Jamaican heritage and travels across the globe to give nuanced opinions about how race and class operate differently and arbitrarily for each country depending on it’s history and geography. I think his most powerful writing comes from critiques of the UK education and Prison systems, where argument is always founded on fact and long-meditated analysis fed by numerous theorists (who he references in the back- great for people looking for further reading once they’ve finished this book!).

The lens isn’t just focused on the effect of racism and classism on black and brown people though, Akala also turns arguments back on whiteness itself. Deconstructing what is the ‘default’ identity for governments and culture to build around, and showing its true nature: not ‘default’ at all, but a highly constructed, conceptualised and insidious weapon of Capitalism to pit man against man (or woman)  despite their similar material circumstances. This is a scathing attack, and a brilliant one. As the title may suggest, it isn’t the thugs or hooligans who we should be most worried about (still, fuck the bigoted scum bags) but the ‘powers that be’,  that create the ideas and conditions in which racism can grow unchecked. From teachers defending the KKK as America’s crime fighting vigilantes (the part where he talks about his teacher arguing that the KKK stopped crime by killing black people is horrendous, but when out against the backdrop drawn from history sadly not that surprising), Nelson Mandela as an upholder rather than complete destroyer of apartheid in South Africa, to the police who end up asking him for advice on how to tackle ‘black crime’ (his critique of ‘the idea of ‘black-on’black’ crime is unquestionably good) after trying to arrest him- no authority figure is safe from Akala’s most effective weapon: his brain.

To conclude, I am going to quote a section of the book where Akala is highlighting the double edged sword that is white supremacy; at once giving it’s wielders a sense of superiority, yet completely negating any sense of individual strength of mind they could have by centring superiority on the assumed, and false, inferiority of others.

If you care about ending inequality, this book is for you xoxoxoxoxoxox

“…The long and short of it is that the master makes himself a slave to his slave by needing that domination to define him… We talk about white privilege but we rarely talk about the white burden, the burden of being tethered to a false identity, a parasitic self-definition that can only define itself in relation to blacks’ or others’ inferiority…”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB-The Daylight Gate!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN MY WITCHES AND BITCHES, MY GHOULS AND GIRLS!!!! Welcome to today’s Tomboy book club on this SPOOKY OOKY KOOKY SLAM DUKEY HALLOWEEN!!!

The book I’ve chosen today seems appropriate in its evil doings and filthy ways: its full of witches digging up graves and fucking Satan, but we’ll get to more of that later. I’d never heard of Jeanette Winterson’s ‘The Daylight Gate‘ before I was crouching down hurting my knees at the bottom shelf of a charity shop bookcase with grandma looming over me (rifling through the DVD’s trying to find more films with her fave actor she loves to gush over- sorry for spoiling the secret, Chrissy), when I saw the name of beloved Jeanette and instantly reached for the spine.

The book is based off the true history (don’t worry, it still has the magical flare and fictional spell that Jeanette has made perfection) of the Lancashire Pendle Witch Trials in 1612- the home county of Winterson, too. Using details from the first ever witch trial in England to be documented, a narrative grown around the bones cast aside by history- like a reincarnation of spells- to flesh out a deliciously sordid and luscious tale of love, hatred, superstition and injustice.

Alice Nutter is the main character in the novel (it is really easy and addictive to get through though, I managed to get through it in 2 days and it would be great for a long journey!), a suspiciously aloof woman who has the audacity to live and control her own wealth without the direction of a husband’s hand. This book is full of contradictions and paradoxes, and whilst sometimes it can be a bit confusing trying to balance all the time, I think the way Winterson has created her characters to be so multiple and contradictory just adds further to mystery of the plot and hexes murmured. Alice is at once old and young, a mature woman with the face of a younger self; she is rich and supposedly got there by learning to be a merchant cloth dye trader- but how, and who taught her? Then there’s Old Demdike, the pustule ridden hag locked away in Lancaster Castle facing death, seemingly devoid of all tenderness and romance, but who actually has a past much more wild than I thought could pan out.

The male characters in this book on the whole are dicks- they are the powers that be spreading the atmosphere of fear and hatred which sent so many to death for simply choosing to live a little wilder. This book is set during the reign of King James, who is famous for writing ‘Daemonologie‘- an extensive study of witchcraft, and the ‘Dark Prince’ for whom they sell their souls. And also famous for being the target of the failed gunpowder plot, when Guy Fawkes and his lot wanted to blow up Parliament- it’s a pity they failed. But the book makes very stark the simultaneous persecution of Catholics and alleged Witches espoused under King James, making one wonder if its really witches who were the targets, or if witchcraft was merely a scapegoat for Catholics to be pinned with (“Witchery Popery, Popery Witchery“) as a justification to make those in power feel less guilty?

Using the rich men in charge to harass and essentially bully old homeless women and their families puts starkly in the foreground how class and gender were a big role in why people were really executed. It sort of makes the book more scary, as it’s not the witches who are the monsters- desperately trying any vile thing they can concoct to try to save their grandmother. The true Satan-spawn are the emotionless, and money-minded authorities- not giving a toss who they kill or why, so long as it advances their careers. They do say the real monsters aren’t the ones hiding under your bed…

Though I will give a warning to the faint hearted, this is a gristly book. Within the first ten pages a woman is raped (the book also features paedophilia and incest- but that is way to horrifying to go into here), and Winterson does not stop these relentless punches against ones morality. There are beatings, grave-diggings, torturings and orgies. Some of my highlights include when a head is severed from its rotting corpse, has a tongue ripped out of a boys mouth stitched inside its toothless jaw, is boiled in a pot and left on the side to speak. Or there’s the time teeth fall from the sky into Alice’s lap, or the time there’s a party for Satan and he literally starts shagging someone in the middle of the room with everyone watching- or the time a door knocker turns into human flesh… this book is weird, but a good weird I think. Not that I endorse any of the above acts, but the gore and fantastical gruesomeness is  one of the reasons I love Winterson, she writes the most far-fetched things, but always manages to make it seem plausible in a way we dream of.

Winterson also always manages to put my favourite part of any story in amongst this bleakness: love. That may be the most devilishly strange thing after all, that love could survive in such a place. But it does, and whilst weird, the love stories conjured in this book are wild and soaring.

I won’t write anymore, most of you either want to go trick’o’treating or partying with one of those awful plastic clown masks- I hate those. But I hope you give this frightful tale a go, and it says that it was in production to be made a film so maybe there is a film too?!? Anyways, I hope you have a lovely Halloween and don’t piss off any ghosts or anything XOXOXO

“…’Do I believe in witches? He did not like that question. The question that followed he liked less: If Alice is a witch, how can I love her? He would love her if she were a wolf that tore out his heart. And he wondered what that said about love…”