Some books I love … #17

Book reviews

Another non-Andrew-Smith book! Shock … horror.

It is this bad boy:

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Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is one of those rare books that you kinda feel is written specifically for you.

If I had to liken it to anything I’d say it’s got the plot intricacies and governmental story arcs of Star Wars mixed with the funny, cosy style of writing of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (one of my favourites, but weirdly I haven’t included it in this blog series), and it’s really down to a lovely bunch of backers on Kickstarter that the book exists: Becky Chambers wrote in her acknowledgements that if it weren’t for those generous souls, she would have had to have found another job, which would mean she wouldn’t have been able to write it.

So the basic plot line (no spoilers):
A few hundred years into the future (just a guess; I can’t recall seeing anywhere that mentions how far exactly) Ashby Santoso is the captain of the Wayfarer, a tunnelling spaceship that literally punches holes in the universe to make tunnels between galaxies and star systems. Ashby receives a job offer that he can’t refuse, and so he and his crew travel a stupidly long way, all expenses paid, to a colony of extremely dangerous, volatile creatures in order to make a tunnel. It’s space adventure mixed with a little bit of interspecies romance and a lot of language barriers.

There is an exceptional cast of characters:

  • Ashby: Captain
  • Rosemary: Newly appointed Administrative Clerk
  • Kizzy and Jenks: Mechanical and Computer technicians
  • Dr Chef: Literally what his name says.
  • Corbin: Algaeist
  • Sissix: Pilot
  • Ohan: Navigator
  • Lovey: AI

Kizzy was probably my favourite, and I’m guessing that it was Chambers’s intentions to create a character so likeable it’s almost sickening.
Jenks, Kizzy’s technician partner, has a very morally ambiguous relationship with Lovey, the ship’s AI (short for Lovelace, which I’m guessing is a generous nod to Ada Lovelace, who invented algorithms and is often cited as the world’s first computer programmer. A pretty fitting name!) Jenks is just as wonderful as Kizzy; his heart’s in the right place but his decisions aren’t always well thought out.
Sissix belongs to a species of polygamous, orgy-obsessed reptiles, the Aandrisks. Ohan, Sissix’s navigator, is probably the hardest to describe, given the fact that he is a single character referred to as “they”. It was a little difficult to get my head around at first, but once you find out more about Ohan, it’s actually really sweet that everyone aboard the Wayfarer is respectful enough to identify Ohan as a plural. Ohan is a “sianat pair”, basically an individual who has been infected with a virus that gives them a multi-dimensional view of the universe, hence why they are useful as navigators. It’s essentially one character being possessed by a secondary character and an aspect of the characterisation as a whole that I found particularly imaginative. Bravo, Becky!
For me, Ashby is a little too soft for a captain, but considering that Chambers’s aptitude for producing characters that go against the stereotypical grain (specifically with regards to gender, race/species, culture and hierarchical systems) I think that may have been a way of challenging what it means to be a leader. Ashby is very accepting of ideas other than his own; he is open to compromise, he is polite and respectful of other species, and he takes his female crew members seriously: a trait that a lot of our current leaders could do with adopting.
Dr Chef is the most adorable, caring, compassionate character ever! He’s a Grum: a species who (in my head) is like a mash-up of a slug, a caterpillar and a walrus but with six legs and an organ-like voice box that means he can make loads of different noises at once. I wonder if Becky Chambers was thinking of Heimlich from A Bug’s Life when she was writing Dr Chef.


Anywho, Dr Chef is aptly named; he’s a professionally trained Doctor who later retrained as a chef, so a very economical recruit on Ashby’s part.
Corbin isn’t so loveable but he is useful. He’s the ship’s Algaeist, spending his days making the fuel for the ship by cultivating algae. His character is kind of fitting, too. He’s a slimy, mean character who keeps himself to himself and cannot stand being wrong. Reading his scenes, I spent most of the time hoping someone would push him off the ship. Alas, that didn’t happen.
And last, but by no means least, is Rosemary, the newly hired Clerk. She’s practical, pragmatic and orderly, just as you’d like a clerk to be.

It’s hard to distinguish who the “main character” is as the novel is written from all of their perspectives, each getting their own share of pages in which to unravel their own story, and each is just as important as the other.

The physics of the universe is beautifully described and pretty easy to follow. The tech isn’t so futuristic that it can’t be imagined, but a lot of it is pretty neat. Chambers describes a world in which AI’s are commonplace and the tech to place them into living, functioning bodies exists, although illegally. Other tech like artificial gravity, in the form of nets that are laid into the flooring, is a pretty neat idea, and some of the weapons that Dr Chef describes when he recalls his past is horrific enough to make one’s skin crawl. Chambers’ ability to build a complex world and fill it with relatable, believable characters and all the added politics of intergalactic relationships and alliances is testament to her skills as a writer.

The story itself is brilliantly paced; although the novel is mainly character driven there are still moments of action, of comedy and of seriously upsetting tear-jerking emotional stuff. There is intergalactic political turmoil in which the Toremi Ka (the nasty dangerous species I wrote about above) ignore the conditions set out by the Galactic Commons for their alliance. There are blood-curdling stories of warfare and of sacrifice; stories of language barriers; stories of comradeship and camaraderie; stories of love and loss, of parenthood, of same-sex parenthood and equally moving stories of non-parenthood.

What struck me as probably the most poignant strand throughout the book was that of the plight of humans. Humans are no longer the dominant species: there are species that rule the galaxies who are bigger and stronger and less stupid than we are (those species don’t poison their own planets). The humans, once they had fought all their wars and fucked up their planet until it was no longer habitable, left Earth behind. The rich went to Mars and built weapons. Others, the Exodans, left later, and others still remain on a barren Earth and survive on what’s left of their mostly destroyed planet. I don’t really know why I love the fact that humans ballsed-up their own existence so much, but it felt really good to have acknowledgment in a fictional work of the direction we’re going in if we don’t pull our finger out and stop killing ourselves.

Another aspect of the novel that struck me as deft and beautiful are all the little character quirks that don’t force the idea of normativity (that is, heterosexuality, monogamy and gender binary) on the reader. The characters are allowed space to be themselves and the fact that the focus is on the actual human/alien/sapient species, rather than just their gender identity or sexuality, is really refreshing. Chambers isn’t making a statement about these things, they are just part of her characters’ everyday lives, just as they are aspects of everyone’s identity in real life. Same-sex, interspecies and polyamorous relationships are written about with grace and ease, gender-ambiguous characters are given the respectful pronouns of xe (rather than he/she) and xyr (rather than his/her). I’m a huge ambassador for everyone being able to live their own lives how they want to – whether cis or trans, binary or non-binary, gay or straight or somewhere in between – for me, personally, the acknowledgment of all the differences that make us who we are was one of the loveliest parts of the book.

Really, though, it was an excellent read, and one that will stay with me for a very long time. And thankfully, there’ll be a sequel in October this year!! Woooooo!





It’s been soooo long


Ok, I feel slightly ashamed that I haven’t written a blog post since June, not even in my Books I Love series (despite the fact I have definitely read books since June)! Nevertheless, I’m still getting traffic daily so I’m assuming people are still interested in my tiny life. 

Christmas has been hectic as always, but I’m loving having a bit of time at home with my manfriend and my littles and remembering what it feels like to have a bit of spare time now and again. I’ve eaten far too much cheese and chocolate but I’m not going to feel bad as it’s  Christmas. 

Uni (second year) is racing by, and although it’s wonderful and stressful and I’m learning so much I feel like it’s kind of slipping away. I’m practically half way through my degree and I feel like I’m in some kind of time warp … 


 Image from here

Anywho, so far I’ve had to research Female Genital Mutilation for a two week poster project, which was horrifying (but my own horror is absolutely nothing compared to what the survivors feel) and made a poster that highlights the issue and encourages discussion. My tutors were really happy with it, and the poster even made it onto the course Instagram page which is super exciting!! 


I’m currently working on my main module in which I’m studying female comic book artists, writers and protagonists. I’ve discovered the wonder that is Noelle Stevenson, creator of Nimona and co-writer of Lumberjanes (incidentally my new favourite comic!) and I’m now tasked with having to make my own comic, which I’ve been working on for several weeks, and it’s amazing and frustrating and so so hard all at once. I definitely have a new-found respect for comic books artists, and I understand why the artwork often has more than one creator – attempting to be the writer, concept artist, inker, letterer and everything else in between is absolutely exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I love it so much but I think I would be happy to do just one of those jobs rather than all of them. The fact that I’m having to learn how to do it all myself is a huge positive though. At the end of the day I’m at uni to learn this stuff and figure out where my weaknesses are. 


I originally wanted to look at the different issues affecting women and girls in different areas of the world (having thought about the varying levels of gender equality whilst working on the poster project) and I originally wanted to look at the issue of honour killings in the Middle East, and although I’m happy with the ideas I’ve sketched out I felt like I was more likely to make a good job of something I knew a little more about (and it was easier to research) so I decided to pursue the topic of abortion rights in Northern Ireland (eeeek). 

I’ll try and remember to update when I’ve finished in January!!! (Don’t hold your breath, though) 

Some books I love … #16

Book reviews


Why couldn’t Caitlin Moran have written this book ten years ago?!! The benefits I would have gained from reading this as a sixteen year old (not necessarily sex tips, but psychological benefits) are mind-blowing.

Fat, fourteen year old, billy-no-mates Johanna Morrigan tells her story of life on a Wolverhampton housing estate with her rockstar wannabe dad, postnatally depressed mum (after the unexpected twins) and brothers Krissi and Lupin, whom she loves very much but who don’t give much love in return. It’s 1990 and Thatcher has just been ousted from government (much to the entire housing estate’s approval) but life is pretty tough for Johanna. She’s not popular, she wants a boyfriend and she loves music, like many other teenage girls, but when her family is threatened with a cut in benefits – which she is convinced is her fault – she makes the decision to kill herself. In actual fact she just wants to kill the old, annoying Johanna and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde.

She writes and writes and writes all the time, reviewing her favourite music and sending them in to various music publications, and eventually finds herself earning a fairly decent weekly wage, for a fourteen-year-old.

Feigning confidence and sexual promiscuity, she finally gets her first kiss aged seventeen, and very quickly falls into a cycle of shagging men, not really properly enjoying it but thinking it’s ok because at least the bloke liked it, and then having to finish herself off afterwards. She takes sexual advice from strange men in clubs and applies them to her sexual encounters with varying, although mostly negative, results.

The characterisation is wonderful, and I love the fact that even though she’s pretty much in love with a cockney geeza named John Kite, the relationship is very much plutonic, and the incredible rapport they build together makes up for the meaningless, emotionless sex she has with idiotic characters like Tony Rich and Big Cock Al.

Some of the musical references were lost on me (having been born right at the end of ’89, and the book being set late 80s, early 90s) but I understood completely how music can totally change and influence how adolescents come to understand their world. I had a similar fan-girl love for Muse and Queens of the Stone Age which I still carry with me to this day. Not all teens are obsessed with music, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s a major part of growing up and figuring out who you are, and Dolly Wilde essentially builds her entire life around the music she loves and the music she reviews scathingly in D&ME magazine.

I’d say the book is like a how-not-to-build-a-girl manual. Except for the fact that the story arc takes us through all the shitty, gritty awfulness that comes with the territory of adolescence. Chapter twenty-four contains the epiphanic denouement, where all the wisdom Johanna has learnt from her many mistakes melds itself together and she realises what life is about. If I had read this book as  a teenager I would have ripped it out of the book and stuck it on my wall and memorised it by heart as a motivational mantra for when times get tough.

So what do you do when you build yourself – only to realise you built yourself with the wrong things?

You rip it up and start again. That is the work of your teenage years – to build up and tear down and build up again, over and over, endlessly …”

Other little snippets made my inner-feminist particularly happy:

“For in a way that feels quite unfair, the only way I can gain any qualifications at this thing – sex – that is seen as so societally important and desirable, is by being a massive slag, which is not seen as societally important and desirable. This often makes me furious”

And this:

“All my life, I’ve thought that if I couldn’t say anything boys found interesting, I might as well shut up. But now I realise there was that whole other, invisible half of the world – girls – that I could speak to, instead. A whole other half equally silent and frustrated, and just waiting to be given the smallest starting-signal – the tiniest starter-culture – and they would explode into words, and song, and action, and relieved, euphoric cries of “Me too! I feel this too!” 

Which is exactly how I felt when I joined a feminist group. Caitlin Moran is a feminist and it is noticeable by the way she writes Johanna’s story with such passion and ferociousness, particularly in regards to Johanna’s sexuality.

Pages 167-168 contain a wonderful fictitious interview with John Kite about the differences between rich and poor. It was these pages that showed just how passionate Caitlin Moran is about the issue of UK poverty, about politics, about life on benefits.

As a work of rebellious fiction, this has all the ingredients of a fantastic, fun read – biting humour, a loveable, although misguided, angsty teen protagonist, a great family, lots of sex and all the sights and sounds of “LANDAN”, and although in places the plot is a little thin, it’s never boring, there aren’t any parts of it that I thought were lacking, and I just really, seriously enjoyed it. And most of the people on my Saturday bus journey to work think I enjoyed it too. Oh, how it made me guffaw!

I’d recommend this to anyone, seriously, anyone. As long as you’ve got a sense of humour and aren’t sexually repressed. (Or maybe those people need to read it even more? LOL!)

16 reasons why we still need Feminism.

General scribblings

Women owe feminism a LOT. More than a lot.

Even if a certain Tumblr says we don’t. I would estimate that the vast majority of people that think we don’t need feminism have no clue what feminism actually means, or advocates, or campaigns for.

Much of the freedom and equality we enjoy today comes from a movement that stemmed less than two hundred years ago, when a growing number of women grew tired of being seen as lesser beings than their male counterparts. Yes, we have it good nowadays. We have rights, we have birth control, we can stay out as late as we want, but we wouldn’t have any of these freedoms without feminism. So I lay forth many reasons why feminism is still important to this day.

1. Because feminism is NOT about hating men. It does not advocate the oppression of males. That would just be stupid, considering the fact that the point of feminism is to bring women out of oppression and onto the same level as men.

2. Because finding ways of blaming a rape victim (what was she wearing? was she drunk? was she flirting?) is a despicable practice. Why should we be asking these questions of rape victims when victims of other crimes aren’t? I don’t suppose for a second a victim of burglary or murder would be treated in the same way depending on the clothing they were wearing at the time. And that’s not to say that men aren’t victims of rape, or that women don’t ever rape. It’s just that the vast majority of rape victims happen to be female, and the vast majority of the perpetrators, the ones that appear in court for their crimes, are male.


3. Because women are still slut-shamed, whilst men are mostly not. I have never heard of a guy being called “easy” because he had sex on a first date.

4. Because we are still told what we can and can’t do with our bodies. We are told we should breastfeed and then we are kicked out of restaurants/swimming pools/shopping centres when we do so because we should be modest and discreet.

5. Because we are told how our bodies should look, what we should wear, how much body hair to have, how much make up to wear and if we fall outside of the safe zone we are told we are unfeminine. We are not allowed to have wrinkles or stretch marks or saggy tits without it being seen as a “flaw”.

6. Because the normal “route” a woman is still expected to take in life is that of wife and mother. People still can’t seem to understand when a girl says marriage isn’t what she wants in life, or that she doesn’t want to have children. Those same life goals aren’t expected of men.

7. Because it’s still big news when companies like Disney hire a female to direct an animated blockbuster.

8. Because in Hollywood, women are asked how they juggle their work and home life and men are not.

9. Because western governments are still predominantly composed of middle/upper class white males, which only makes sense in those countries where the population consists only of middle/upper class white males. Yes, governments are a lot more proportionally representative than they used to be, but there is still a long way to go.

10. Because sexist and derogatory remarks about women are passed off as “banter” and if a woman or girl speaks up and defends herself she is seen as “uptight” or “hormonal” or told to “calm down”.

11. Because men need feminism, too. Men don’t need to be shamed or told they are feminine for having emotions. Boys don’t need to feel like they have to be “macho” or “tough guy” to be accepted. Boys should be allowed to play with dolls and play kitchens because one day they might need to feed themselves and they might even end up fathering children.

12. Because when men do end up becoming fathers and they do something fatherly, like taking their children out or going on play dates or becoming a stay-at-home dad, they are hailed as some kind of saint for doing what mothers are expected to do every day without much exaltation. And it shouldn’t be like that. I love seeing men make an effort with their children. Nothing makes me glow more brightly with happiness than seeing my partner doting on our daughters, but this shouldn’t be an anomaly. We’ve come a long way from Mary Poppins-style parenting roles (Mr Banks’ children could probably have done with more doting from their father) but there’s still a long way to go.


13. Because female genital mutilation, female virginity tests and sex-selective abortions still happen in many countries. We may have a certain level of freedom and equality in the western world but in too many developing countries women don’t stand a chance.

14. Because women are taxed on sanitary products. According to tax law, they are deemed as an unnecessary, luxury product. I wonder how unnecessary and luxurious they’d seem if we all stopped using them and bled all over the place, or if every woman took a week off work around her period because she couldn’t face going in.

15. Because in the UK, on average, women earn 80.9p for every £1 a man makes for the same work. So basically, the 19.1p we are being swizzed on is a tax on having a vagina (in addition to tampon tax, which is essentially punishing us for having a uterus). The issue is being challenged in some places in America (where on average women earn 76c for every dollar a man makes), with pop up shops springing up where women are charged 76% of the ticket price, while men are charged full price. This might seem unfair on men, but it’s no more unfair than the gender pay gap, which will take 70 years to close if it continues to close at the current rate.

16. Because human trafficking is still rife across the globe, and it is mainly women and young girls that are trafficked, and sex trafficking is the predominant sector into which these people are coerced.

Feminism is not about ditching men and becoming lesbians. It incorporates “fem” in it’s title because at the time of its birth, females truly were oppressed and they had to fight real damn hard*  for the luxury of freedom that we have today, but it remains a movement that fights for the equality of both sexes and  it still hasn’t reached all of its goals.

When we live in a world where feminism is no longer necessary, when we don’t have to fight for our own bodies and pay equality and the freedom to have or not have children, then it will have done its job. But until that day I truly believe we all need feminism.

*if you want to know just how much women have had to fight for, read this even longer list  – it’s a timeline of feminism in the UK and is a huge eye-opener.

Aaaaaaand … done!


I could start by spitting out a random quote about how time flies, blah blah, but I won’t. Because everyone knows that already.

When I started Uni in September I felt like I was pretty clued up about the world, I thought I knew about art and about being cool (loljk), and I didn’t really expect to make many friends, but I was so wrong.

I know I’m only a third of the way through my degree and in the sense of how much I have learnt about myself, my creativity, and about how naive I am most of the time, it’s actually scary/incredible how much further I know I can go.

I have worked my bum off this year: for most of the year I was spending five full days in uni and the remaining two in work, and that essentially meant brushing aside my responsibilities as a parent, which made me feel such heart-wrenching guilt every single day I’m not really sure how I kept plodding along. But it’s all been worth it. I’ve had some incredible marks from my modules – ones that I am so proud of (but that I’ve been afraid of sharing because I feel like I’m bragging). And now I’m only working one day on the weekend and the summer holidays are only a week away (after the end-of-year exhibition) so now I can get back to spending quality time with my awesome kids and just having a bit of time to reflect on everything I’ve learnt and all the ways in which I’ve progressed.

Despite everything I’ve learnt creatively, though, I’ve learnt other stuff too:

  • How to use snapchat (who knew you could use it for anything other than nude pictures? Just for the record – I haven’t done any of those. Not that it’s any of your business)
  • That when things get boring, getting the whole class to draw pictures of the teacher creates instant buzz and promotes spontaneous creativity.
  • Being in a gay sandwich with Harry and Brad was pretty epic. (Half of that epicness disappeared when Harry moved away to the gay corner, but I was still left with Brad.)
  • Talking about breastmilk, pregnancy and birth with 18/19/20 year old artists (most of whom aren’t parents) is surprisingly fun and funny and enlightening.
  • I’m definitely a mature student for the sole reason I never had to pull any all-nighters. I’ve done enough of those when my children were babies.
  • My friends are crazy! And awesome and hilarious and smart and creative and talented and pretty much just wonderful human beings. I love them very much.

Roll on summer! (and then roll on year 2!)

Some books I love … #15

Book reviews


Thank you Michael Grant! (I could probably just leave it at that but I guess I should probably give it a proper review.) If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know how much I loved Grant’s Gone Series, and this one was just as much a treat as I was hoping. However, to say I was a little apprehensive about it would be an understatement as I can be a bit squeamish when it comes to horror, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance. It didn’t disappoint* and I am very much looking forward to the next instalment.

The novel tells the story of Mara, an apprentice of the Messenger of Fear, who enters a world of dead grass and ethereal mists where time stops and space bends and she’s never sure what’s real or not. Together with the Messenger, she must find those sinners who will never face justice for their crimes and make them play or pay. The games that the Game Master invents are so horrific they would make anyone think twice about committing a crime again (although I found myself thinking throughout that they would serve as perfect punishments for the xenophobic verbal diarrhoea that falls from the mouth of Katie Hopkins, but that’s a different blog post ..) and reading the vivid, visual description of someone being burnt alive made me wonder if I was actually reading Stephen King. (So gross but oddly fascinating). The case of Samantha Early that is investigated in stages throughout the novel made me feel such torment and sadness that my heart was smashed to bits by the end.

The Messenger himself was a great character, if a little guarded, and through Mara’s eyes I felt safe in his presence. I really can’t wait to uncover more of him in the next book – at the end of the book there were so many unanswered questions about him, which is awesome and has made me hungry for more, but at the same time is unbelievably frustrating. Oriax was another great character, she kind of reminded me of a pretty, punk-like pixie, her dialogue was playful and sassy and, again, I feel like I need to know more about her. Mara’s character was deftly crafted and beautifully examined throughout: even though her memories were kept hidden from her until the end of the book her personality still shone brightly. I did find myself wondering about Mara’s sexuality throughout the book. She made no attempt to cover up her feelings about Oriax, and I was kind of hoping that she would be a gay protagonist without it being a central plot line, but I knew I was wrong when she was crying about the prospect of never having a boyfriend and getting married.

The prose was tight and although the plot felt a little thin on the ground in some areas, it was made up for by some gorgeous, gruesome descriptions and mind-bending events that pushed the narrative forward. Saying that, I think the “thin” plot may have been purposeful – like in sinister movies where the audience experiences intense fear and chills just from a shadowy scene with chilling music, I think this may have been Grant’s intention.

The book really did it for me. I know it’s a good book when I can’t physically tear my eyes away from the pages, and this was definitely one of those. And now I have to wait a million years (well, actually, 115 days, but who’s counting?) for the next one and it’s making me feel like there’s a teenage tantrum brewing in my belly. Pleeeeeease hurry up, Mr Grant.

You can buy the book here or alternatively, put on some shoes and walk into your local bookshop and purchase it from a real, live human being. Those human being things, especially the ones that sell books, are pretty awesome.

The second book is called The Tattooed Heart and will be published in August. You can preorder it here.

*The only “disappointment” was the overwhelming use of the word taciturn to describe the Messenger. I did have to look it up after the third time it popped up, and every time it was used thereafter it felt jarring, almost like noticing a massive spot on your friend’s face and then never being able to look away from it after that.

Why my daughters will never be “princesses”

General scribblings

Two words: Gender. Stereotyping.

What’s the deal? Seriously, why?

Why, in this world of endless opportunities and infinite experiences available at your fingertips, would you box your daughter in by calling her your Princess? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not normally one to judge and if someone else wants to do it then that’s fine – your kid, your rules. But in my house, with my children and with the epic future they have in front of them, Princess just doesn’t do it for us.

When someone calls their daughter a Princess, they are buying into a world of pink and glitter and Disneyfied shit-for-brains, where beauty is a more desirable attribute than kindness or compassion or humanity. A world where companies rely on parents separating the personalities of their sons and daughters so rigorously that to buy a pink glue stick for a boy would be utter sacrilege. A world where boys can only be branded as “tough guys” and the only past time a girl should enjoy is looking in the mirror applying lip gloss.


Totally Vom-worthy slogans

I have seen and heard such an inordinate amount of gender bullshit in the past few months. For instance, this beautifully sarcastic list of unnecessarily gendered products that gave me fist-curling, exasperated rage giggles. And then there’s a story a friend told me about a woman she’d overheard shouting at her daughter in a supermarket because she picked up a Mike the Knight magazine. Because apparently reading a “boy’s magazine” will magically turn her into a boy. Or perhaps she’ll morph into a raving, uncontrollable lesbian who would embarrass her mother and cause worldwide alarm at the unnaturalness of it all. I mean, what the …
And if that isn’t enough, you’ve got to battle through the swathes of gendered baby clothes, because babies give so many fucks about what they’re wearing, then there’s pink and blue pull-up nappies, potties, dummies, hair grips for babies that don’t .. even .. have … hair! When will these ridiculous companies and conglomerates realise that children are living, functioning, multi-faceted, amazing bundles of molecules that have so much potential for so many wondrous feats, and yet they are separated into these boxes and told from the age of zilch that unless they remain in these boxes they are not valid humans. That is not humanity. That is greed.

Because that’s what it is. Money. Companies can make one gender-neutral product that would work for both sexes (take a stick of glue, for example) or they can make one of each colour, market the shit out of it, give it some fancy packaging and lo and behold, mum of two buys a pink one for the girl and a blue one for the boy. It’s mind-bogglingly dumb in an anthropological sense, but a bloody genius idea for boosting profits and CEO bonuses. Clap clap. Bravo. Well done.

And the even more amazing thing is that parents buy into all of this. They call their daughters Princess and their sons Tough Guy and expect them to live up to this. There is nothing wrong with a child feeling comfortable with their gender, in fact it is a wonderful thing, but to push it so far, to shovel spoonfuls of gender bullshit down their little necks at such a young age when they are fresh and sponge-like, soaking in the world around them and forming their own thoughts, feelings and perceptions of the world, the only thing that this pink and blue Berlin Wall is doing is damaging our offspring and fencing them in.

You could say I’m a hypocrite, considering the amount of pink that is splatted around my house in the areas the children frequent the most, but rest assured, most of these have been gifts. I’m not going to get shitty about that kind of thing because it’s a loving, thoughtful thing for friends and family to bestow gifts upon my daughters, but the idea I object to is that everything must be pink. Who needs pink science equipment? Girls, of course! Because obviously the female brain cannot possibly function scientifically unless there is at least one pink object in view.

My six year old hasn’t been overly bombarded with pink and glitter, but now that she’s in school she has inevitably picked up from other, more “girly” girls, the idea that she is only a “proper” girl if she likes pink and barbies and plays the princess in their games of make-believe. A member of my family seemed shocked when I told her that I was buying some Lego for my daughter for Christmas, labelling it as a “boy’s” toy, a notion I found pretty ridiculous considering the amount of fun and enjoyment I got from playing with Lego when I was younger. Talking of Lego, what’s with the girly lego now? Why can’t girls be allowed to play with construction toys without being slapped in the face with pink all the time? Oh yes, sorry I forgot. Girls only function when they receive pinkness intravenously.

Seriously, what message are we sending to those children and young adults who feel they don’t fit into the socially acceptable male or female framework, where girls are expected to be dainty, softly spoken and with the life goal of settling down and starting a family? That’s not a terrible path to choose, but it’s not the only one. Girls are more than just a pretty face, more than just a uterus, more than just objects to be viewed, appreciated and admired. Boys aren’t just macho, muscular bread-winners who aren’t allowed access to their emotions without being labelled gay or pussy. What ballsed-up world are we living in when parents are so doggedly determined that their children fit into a pink or blue box that gender conversion therapies even exist? Why is it an issue if your child was born into the wrong body? Why is it an issue if your child is gay? If your child’s gender identity or sexuality is a problem, not only are you a terrible parent, you are a terrible human being. If you can’t look at your own child, this amazing creation that exists on this earth entirely because of you and you can’t see past this malleable, fluid thing that is gender (or sexuality) and love the human being behind it then you are denying them the loving, understanding and emotionally connected parent that they so deserve.

Boxes shouldn’t even exist. We as human beings are made up of so much more than gender that to hem ourselves and our children in is just that: hemming ourselves in. And that really, really sucks.

Some books I love … #14

Book reviews

I’m just going to brush over the fact I haven’t reviewed a book for four months. Hey, what can I say? I’ve been a busy girl!

Anywho, I was casually strolling through work last week when I was smacked in the face by the beauty that is this:

I'll Give You The Sun

I wasn’t expecting much more than a happy teen romance (because that’s what the insanely yellow cover told me …) but boy, was I wrong.

Rest assured, it was happy and sunny in many places, but there was also a buttload of heartache, hogwash and hunky English boys (yay!) thrown in that made for a twisty, winding, swirly narrative that kept me hooked all the way through.

Nelson tells the story of Noah and Jude: boy/girl twins who are both arty and whom have very different relationships with their parents. Noah is the more promising art genius, so much so that his mum pretty much ignores Jude’s work. This causes Jude’s relationship with her mum to fray at the edges, and pushes her towards the spirit of her dead grandmother, who has left her what is essentially a bible of superstitions that Jude takes wholly to heart.

The novel is told in long chapters, each chapter seen through the eyes of either twin at different ages, and explored at different points in their teen years, flitting back and forth between ages thirteen/fourteen and sixteen. I loved the smoothness of the transitions between the chapters and the intricacy of plot is superb, the pacing phenomenal. Every scene in each chapter is bursting with life and unravels the story in wondrous ways – sometimes with a gentle twist, other times with a massive punch to the heart.

I found it refreshing to read a novel in which one of the main characters is gay, as opposed to just a secondary character, and I feel that Nelson’s handling of what was a fairly difficult issue (for Noah) was sensitive and pretty raw in parts. Overall I really enjoyed building a picture of the characters, all of whom were really vivid, especially Guillermo Garcia, Oscar the sexy, charismatic English guy and Brian, the hat wearing, meteorite-collecting love interest of Noah. Characterisation was a huge success in this book and I offer all my thanks to Jandy Nelson for introducing these fictional people to my brain.

However much I loved it, I did guess quite early on what the big twist was, which didn’t exactly spoil it (I was more like “hah! I was right!”) but left me with a kind of deflated feeling. But I don’t think this was down to the writing, just that I’ve experienced the same thing in my own life and so I read more into the clues than others might have. I also found some of the more arty parts a little on the cheesy, pretentious side but I think that’s because I’m totally un-pretentious in my art tastes and in my own art style.

Saying that, the fact that the twins were artists spoke to me on a deeper level, I felt like I was in some kind of club with the protagonists of the book, and that’s a pretty cool feeling to have, and probably what Nelson, or any other author, strives for. Knowing a lot of the artists referenced made me feel like an art god and a lot of the emotions that the twins were going through when they were creating their masterpieces – not feeling good enough, not being arty or conceptual enough and not putting enough of one’s self into their artwork.

I think what I most loved about the book, aside from lively, lifelike characters and the awesome artiness of it, was the lucid, believable relationships between characters and the impressive story arcs that lifted, dropped and wrung out the relationships right until the very last page.

This is a truly epic story, and a much-deserved winner of the 2015 Printz Award. Jandy Nelson’s debut novel was the widely-acclaimed The Sky Is Everywhere, which I will be adding to my humongous to-read pile.

To learn more about Jandy, go visit her website.

Day Eight

Location Drawing

Pretty sad to be saying goodbye to this project. I have enjoyed it so much more than I imagined I would, and even when it was bitterly cold and blowing a gale I was still learning so much. I haven’t done a huge amount today as I had to pop back to uni to sort out my digital stuff, and I spent an hour drawing a couple of ducks and then making an illustrated thank you letter for the staff.


Illustrated thank you letter for the staff. Cos they were awesome.




And I also did a bit more on the library drawing, although sadly didn’t finish it 😦




So I guess that’s that! Cue running around like a lunatic trying to get everything ready for deadline on Monday.

Day Six (and Seven)

Location Drawing

Ok, so I forgot to update yesterday, but considering I was in yet another tutorial in the morning and then had lots of work to catch up on for next week’s double deadlines, I only had about an hour at Saltram in the afternoon. So here are yesterday’s drawings:


More cafe doodles, this time with my charcoal pencil. And I saw a real life actual pirate!! With one of those triple pointed hats!


One of the requirements was for a completely tonal drawing … no outlines. So I drew a chair.


I started drawing the welcome centre with my lovely fine liner but then had to go and pick the rugrats up.




Day Seven

Today went much better. It’s the first full day I’ve had to draw since last Friday, so I took full advantage and tried to get some proper stuff done.


Cafe doodles.


More cafe doodles. Different media


The cafe counter.


cafecafe2 Welcome centre, cafe and outside seating area. Dip pen and indian ink. Will be making these into an animation … somehow.


Vertical 1:8 inch fineliner drawing of the Chapel Tea Room.


Five drawings, 2cm x 2cm. Fineliner, also depicting the Chapel Tea Room


Last but not least, half-finished library room. Really pleased with this so far, and it got lots of compliments from the volunteers. Yay!

I’m looking forward to my last day tomorrow, but I really wish we’d had at least another week. I feel like I just haven’t had enough time to fully explore the place and show it in all its loveliness.