TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- The Beekeeper of Sinjar

I am writing this in honour of the International Day of Peace, and I know that can seem cheesy or hollow considering the state of affairs of our planet are far from peaceful, but one must try to do what they think is right. To all the people who don’t care and think todays meaning is a hollow gesture I will quote Nadia, one of the women who tells her story to Dunya Mikhail in The Beekeeper: “The problem isn’t that the world is going to end, but that it continues without any change…”

This book is not for the faint-hearted. Page after page becomes blurred with splodges of tears filling up the space where language should be, page after page of Terrosism and the people who will never be the same because of it. Wives seeing their sons and husbands killed, daughters sold as slaves and their relatives who escaped, feeling guilt and fear every day they are without knowing what has happened to those they love most. I can’t say this is an amazing read, or that it is a page turner; many times I wanted to close its covers and for the paper to vaporise, for time to undo itself and the stories to unravel back to a nothingness we can all build upon. But it is necessary. It is imperative that we listen to those whose voices have been trodden down so low not even death is relief, but a mere solution to an end. We must listen so that if we can help, we do with all of the strength we can muster.

The Beekeeper of Sinjar is a memoir/report of ISIS’s invasion into the Sinjar reigion of northern Iraq by the exiled Iraqi poet, Dunya Mikhail. Through her mobile phone, she listens to stories told by Abdullah, a man who kept bees before no amount of honey could make his world sweet anymore. An innocent villager turned anti-terrorist freedom fighter, smuggling humans out of hell on earth. He didn’t just use his knowledge of the local area to help as many family members as he could to escape; his mobile phone number was passed through unknown hands and inpenetrable memories like a prayer, and he answered the calls one by one. He could have ignored them, have ran away like so others had to in order to survive. But some people are so good it makes you believe that there could be a God after all- a god with pistachio tea and resolve harder than the Sinjar mountain stones.

I don’t want to write the sufferings of the Yazidi captives here, I have no words that can express them- you have to hear their voices, recorded in Mikhail’s writing to even begin to understand one grain of the cruelty flesh and blood is capable of. Even then, I don’t  think anyone will ever be able to fully understand. You just feel, and feelings like that can’t just leave. They remain until some one replies, like ghosts haunting the living for closure. I dont think anyone can read this book without being affected somehow, and I know I’m not being very eloquent right now, but trust me- if you want to learn what humanity is, what love at its strongest is, you have to know Abdullah, and all the un-named people who helped him, who didn’t turn a blind eye.

So, today regognising international peace, I want to dedicate this paltry but well intentioned post to all those who never make it: who vanish in the confusions of hatred without a trace save for the memories their loved ones can never put down to rest. The the emptinesses hollowing out the lives of those they leave behind. I don’t know the names of the people’s lives recorded in this book, but that doesn’t matter- you dont need a name to be real. I never knew as an adult how hard love would be to come by, how many people just want safety for themselves and lock the door. I want us to do better. If I could, I’d use superman powers to go and rescue every refugee/ person in fear on the planet and give them the happiness we all feel and want to keep. But I can’t. Hope isn’t a one time event and it is never completed by one person- we are all superheroes, we just forget it sometimes. I hope after today, each and every day we keep the un-named dead and living who suffer under terror and hatred in our hearts, and use that feeling without words to push us to do better for one another. Go to protests. Educate yourself. Give money to the right places when you can. But even if you dont have the time or the money to learn, it is still simple. You just have to love strangers like you should love the mirror.

I know this post is a bit of a ramble (forgive me, it’s been a long day at work)- but I hope my message meets willing ears and eyes. Because I love dogs, I’m going to finish my proclamation for the endurance of peace with a section where Dunya is in exile talking about the western love of animals… As always, please do try to read this book, IT WILL CHANGE HOW YOU TREAT HOPE!!! But more importantly, please try to bring peace and never forget… ALL REFUGEES WELCOME AND DOWN WITH BORDERS!!!!

“… People here have such beautiful dreams. To annoy Americans with our nightmares simply means inviting them into our underworld… I’ve heard from my relatives that Americans care more about their dogs than about other people. Maybe because human love is incomplete. As Iraqis, we don’t have the habit of caring for dogs. Perhaps dogs are what we really need, to know the meaning of unconditional love. A dog doesn’t care where your from, it doesn’t care about your race or religion or colour. All the dog wants from you is to throw something toward the horizon, like a worry you finally brought out of your chest, so that it can run after that thing and grip it tightly between its teeth, panting and excited, as if the whole world has just been caught between its jaws…”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- BITCH DOCTRINE!!!

Helloooo! If being inconsistent was a skill, I would be awarded soooo many different medals for my Ostrich-like avoidance of any commitment that scares me. One day, and I’m like “OMG I HAVE SO MANY IDEAS THE WELL OF INSPIRATION OVERFLOWETH THE NIB OF THIS PEN SHALL FALTER NEVER MORE HALLELUJAH!!!!” Then the next day I will be moping around all morose like a grumpy mime who can never pull a crowd, thinking to myself, “i am insignificant and nothing i will ever say will alter the course of history in any way. I am a gobby loudmouth who doesnt know shit, so sit down and zip it shrimpy and get back to the involuntary daily slog like everyone else“. My grandma always tells me off for being too volatile, alternatley feeling like the bossest of bitches there ever was VS shit on the shoe of Satan. Today my brain has been like one of those crystal balls you hang in a windowsill pane to let the rainbow out, but instead of seeing colours, the string begins to spin; I can’t stop it and all I can do is hold on and hope not to die in being dizzy with impalpable yet very real shiftings of worry.

But, today I am choosing not to be a coward and just instantly hide away in my room with a book and a cup of tea/wine. I am trying to get on with it, and so with no further adieu I present unto you firecrackers THE BITCH DOCTRINE BY LAURIE PENNY.

This collection of essays is as serious and necessary in the political climate of today as it is from the heart and funny. Laurie Pennie really does have a knack for making what can seem like far-away and untouchable problems a part of the fabric of identity. For example, she has a section of a diary of the US election when Trump won and destroyed the world as we knew it. Obviously, I am not a professional political commentator, nor even American and thus my influence and understanding of the USA’s problems are limited. But, reading Penny’s hilarious renderings of events make it seem a bit less scary, a bit less like a facsist meteor hit the earth with no comfort for any of us Snowflakes after the crash.

I think one of my favorite elements of this essay writing is Penny’s humour, a way to tackle serious and urgent problems for Britain (she also talks about wider Europe when discussing the intersections of misogyny and racism concerning immigration) in a way that doesn’t make you want to instantly cry. The other plus side being, that for essays on complex social and political issues, she tackles problems in a way so that reading doesn’t feel like entrenched academic gobblydygook; it is genuinley interesting without being overwhelming. My highlights are when she calls Trump fascism with a spray tan, and argues how the best thing for humanity would be for men to become the childbearers instead of women (I know there are complexities to gender which mean trans-men/ non-binary people can bear children, but on the whole the odious task and repercussions still go to women).

I do think one area she could have covered more was institutional racism in the UK, but considering her main focus is on gender and body politics, it would be unfair to expect her to cover all the problems of the world in one book. Although having said that, she does cover race in entertainment and culture quite in depth; where she discusses the rise of Hollywood shake-ups of racial profiling when casting for actors, and the role of race in the future of what stories we tell ourselves as a nation. She also doesn’t cover that much concerning feminism and the environment or animals, but again she isn’t God and can’t answer everything.

Penny’s last essay is ‘Utopia Someday’, and I will leave this rambling review with a quote I liked from that last essay. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, and will take my humble opinions to heart and try to read a few of her essays and journalism in the future!!!! SPEND A PENNY ON PENNY!!! (i dont mean take a piss on one of her books, but go and buy one for yourself and anyone else who needs a lesson in inclusive, intersectional feminism)

“… the instant that we do decide that we are satisfied, that there can never be a better world than this, is the instant the future shuts down and change becomes impossible. Utopia is  the search for utopia. It is the no-place by whose light you plot a course through a harsh… present. By the time you reach the horizon, it is no longer the horizon but that doesn’t mean you stop going forwards…”

(underlining is me, I just really love this sentence 🙂 )

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOOXOXOXOXOXOXO

 

Pride (in yourself)

I feel it’s always worse to be sad when it’s sunny outside. When the weather corroborates your feelings with its grim drizzle and thrashing winds, it makes sense why you feel bad for no reason because, really– who can explain the weather away ? But when it’s sunny, I just feel so guilty; here are the gods in all their glories working to give beauty to life with their pollens and light rays- and I can’t feel a thing. Not a speck of summer hits the skin and tears blend with the sweat in some awful bodily cocktail. But the best thing about the weather is it’s changes; how you bless the day you’re given and hope it will last for as long as it can. The cliche of emotions being like the weather is cheesy as hell, but it is true.

I’ve been feeling BLEH for a while; a conglomeration of university ending, friends falling apart like the blown petals of flowers, and a sense of unceasing unimportance and confusion. But, it helps to get a little perspective. I saw one of my old friends yesterday who often also feels BLEH, but feeling BLEH together is actually the way to end BLEH, funnily enough. We went to a queer film screening in our hometown to celebrate pride month, and seeing so many stories of love denied, or mutilated, or hidden or so happy it could die was as uplifting as it was soberly life affirming in the different scales and durations in facing the problems we’re thrown. I’m not saying that all suffering is the same, or trying to erase lgbtqi+ narratives back into the soup of heteronormative obscurity, where specific and ignored problems are straightjacketed back into the confines of societal ignorance: I’m just saying, listen to others. You’ll learn a whole new way to see your own pain, and hopefully be able to help the other person/people too.

One of my favourite short films was about a trans kid called Nasser. Their mum keeps trying (in good faith, she isn’t trying to be horrible) to make them wear dresses, to have their unruly hair down; but all Nasser wants to do is eat crisps with their friends in their hideaway and to fix bikes with their dad. Not everyone knows what it’s like to feel wrong in their body, to feel trapped in your vision of yourself and what the world sees and dictates. But, I’m sure everyone, at least once, has wished they could be someone else- has wished to escape and exist in another’s body and life. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel shitty. And here is my point: listen. Nobody expects you to have the world answers or to be born with the heart of mother theresa. It is hard fucking work being tolerant and not judging, but it is so necessary. I really don’t want this world falling into a heap of depressed floppy bodies, all too lazy to learn how to love. Slipping back into the amnesia of claustraphobic understandings of life as an object, rather than a thing that’s always moving. The shadows as they play on curtains. The taste of chocolate as its sweetness hits you, then mellows away. The dragonfly’s one day.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful pride month, doing everything you can to support and give back to the lgbtqi+ community as an ally; or celebrating your love wherever you can to uplift others less fortuante to be romantic in their own countries (it pisses the hell out of me how most commonwealth countries still uphold homophobic laws- THANK YOU EVIL BRITISH EMPIRE AND YOUR PUTRID INFLUENCES THAT REMAIN). I am planning to go to Pride in London this Saturday, so yay! But if you still haven’t signed any petitions, made any donations or at least educated yourself a little about the lgbtqi+ community and how to rid injustices against them in the wider community (and also to rid the community internally of intolerance)- there is always time. And caring for others is the best way to care for yourself. love is a human right .JPG

XOXOXOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXOXOXOOXXOXOOXXOXOXOXOXO

PS- obviously don’t tear your soul to shreds trying to make everyone happy. You do what you can, and you understand that you’re amazing even if you can’t make the whole world love you as you wished. :))))))

The film event was run by CINE-SISTER. You can find them @CineSisterFilm on twitter. Give them a follow!!!!!

Canines and Hijabs

I keep thinking how remarkable it is that a being with no audible voice in my life, with no tangible dexterity of any human language is capable of teaching me so much of Love. I am referring to Flush, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pet spaniel who Virginia Woolf wrote a book about after reading the Browning’s love letters.

I watched many interesting talks today about Muslim women; whether the hijab is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ (Personally, I no longer believe in ‘right’ or ‘wrong’- just kind and unkind, happy and unhappy- these things warp and change day to day, but they do not pretend to be as monolithic and grand as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ try to be), about the visibility of Muslim women and what it even means to be Muslim anymore in all the lies and stereotypes we are fed every day for the ends of perpetuating profit, blood money.

Just in case anyone’s interested, here are the talks I listened to-

  • What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  • What We Don’t Know About Europe’s Muslim Kids and Why We Should Care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter

  • The Muslims You Cannot See | Sahar Habib Ghazi | TEDxStanford

 

  • The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen

I think we should all try to be a bit more like Flush in these times when myth pervades over smiling at strangers in the street. When I watch my dogs on our walks, they never slow down to a pace of shyness when a new puppy lollops out on our horizon- my dogs sniff, they they circle and play; I like to imagine in human terms they would be saying “Hello fellow Soul, how do you do?

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The only reason monsters exist is because we make them. Which means we can also un-make them, and I guess that must start with ending fear. Understanding that each human, regardless and yet resulting from colour creed gender age etc ect, is a plethora of nerves and arbitrary intellects. No one is a closed book ending, we must stop conducting this society as if we are robots; we must think like dogs. I treasure what Virginia says: “Flush knew what man can never know- love pure; love simple, love entire; love that brings no train of care in its wake; that has no shame; no remorse; that is here, that is gone, as the bee on the flower is here and gone.” 

Today’s poem is by a Farsi poetess, Forough Farrokhzad- an Iranian modernist thinker whose poem ‘Born Again‘ is so beautiful and strong she gave me shivers, my arm hairs stood up on the tube. ‘Born Again‘ is rather long, so I didn’t want to include it here; instead here is ‘Gift‘… xoxoxoxoxoxooxox

Gift

I speak out of the deep of night
out of the deep of darkness
and out of the deep of night I speak.

If you come to my house, friend
bring me a lamp and a window I can look through
at the crowd in the happy alley. 

Forough Farrokhzad

Spectrum Hearts

Today is when love was first legalised in glorious Britannia. By love I mean freedom- I mean not being afraid if you wanna kiss your neighbour’s lips- the boy who likes cricket and has freckles like strawberry seeds. Or your girl next door; her hair crimson at dusk and webbed topaz at dawn lolling shoulder blades. Love means bodies without fear: it means we see ourselves truly, without pretence or glamour.

It makes me feel such shame that we locked this away and threw away the key in ‘honour’s’ name for too fucking long. The glitter was dulling behind bars, and feet that should have been slow-dancing on wedding floors were stagnating in cells instead.

I am of the opinion that we are all a little bit gay on the inside: that people who deny themselves a little taste of colour are so mopey and angry at others because they’re jealous. So the old saying goes- happiness is the best revenge. What happier revenge than love; what do people try to stifle more in this world than compassion? I am only young, but I have my opinions. Thus says my brain: Love, desire; they’re persecuted because they are needed more than wanted, they are powerful beyond definition of language.

I am so proud with of the punk/prog/ gay pride progressions my country has made since it’s (fluctuating and never truly ending) dark ages. But other countries still deny their citizens the right to hold hands with beloveds in summer bloomed parks. To kiss in front of cinema screens; or to wed, that gold ring and memory forever. My love and thoughts go out all the way to those still trapped and afraid- I use my freedom of expression to hope, to will for yours. LGBTQ+ community: you are loved, please don’t feel ashamed or wrong or deadly. You are beautiful like festival colours and flower smells. You are beloved unto this soil, and please don’t let yourselves go down due to ignorance. You are seeded strong- will last out all winters.

Today’s poem was written when I was 16 and at a Pride March with all my friends. I remember feeling so alive, so liberated and joyful to be in the sun without fear on that pavement, holding up banners and shouting aloud into the sky and shop window faces. Happy LOVE. That’s all there is to it; LOVE, LOVE, LOVE xoxoxoxoxox

 

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PRIDE

I belonged there, dancing.
I belonged there- in the sherbet
fizzing July sun; laughter
and drums spectrumreaching
ears as second nature.  Pavements
baked in this crowd, excitement.

A carnival of colours marrying hope
with young fuckery on London’s
summer seasoned walkways.

Gimps and holy men and
inflorescence of old dykes holding
hands- our people glittering.
Mirages of possibility finally conjured
into warm heavythumped blood.
Souls sing “FUCK YOU”
and peace- no longer a classroom fantasy
but flesh, a commitment or kiss.

Dancing did so I whole
belong. Sweaty palms agripped
placard as grail- awakening,
awakening childlike loving
glee and must never be lost.
We shuffle with crowds, not noticing
how every step, each movement
is only a dust-breadth;
resembling twigs floating down
greenweeded river in this concrete
jumble- we pay no mind to swans staring
out shop windows or the dwindling
of scaffoled hours. The present was a
Present- and that’s where I
belonged.

The repetitions of her in my life-
collapsing yet again into crossed legs
on park floor fuzz in old trainers,
smiling as she starts off the roll-up,
sunning ourselves as strawberries
would. (If we had time to contemplate
such metaphors.)

We are enraptured in NOW,
this gay teenage fantasy-
warm wine swigged straight from the bottle
and we not yet 18, sparkling giggles down
our throats; rucksacks
smuggled on rails.
Face-paint smudged by
caresses- smiles and shouts;
this delicate stasis.

No worries of beating red
sticking to teeth like glue-
No terrified of myself dissolving,
dissolving…

It was my pride-
our pride of all hopes,
We belonged there
all the heart long.