Queer, A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele | 1 Minute Reviews

Here’s the thing: I’m queer in a number of ways. I’ve known I was attracted to multiple genders for a long time, but good old childhood shaming and being called “Lizzie the Lesbo” was enough for me to squash that side of me until I reached adulthood and eventually felt safe enough to think about it. I’ve known I was not a girl and not a boy either for my whole life, existing in the in-between and struggling with intermittent social and physical dysphoria. It was only in my late twenties that I started to find the words for this, having finally met other genderqueer, trans and nonbinary people.

Part of my own coming out was through learning about queer politics, and in turn theory. But I’m going to be really honest with you here — I did not understand a lot of it. When I say understand, I don’t mean politically align with. I mean the language was so often complex, so very different from the English I speak or have heard throughout my life, that I would be thrown off entirely.

There’s been discussions around this on Twitter, quite rightly pointing out that academic language can be alienating for people, particularly working class people who haven’t studied humanities. The amount of times I’ve had to google words like “hegemony” and “praxis” in order to understand a sentence are innumerable.

The same thing has happened to me with feminist theory. I have tried quite a few times to read works by Nancy Fraser, or sections of Judith Butler’s writing, or even try and access philosophy through a beginner’s course, and I never managed to get very far. Until today.


A few weeks ago, myself and Alice were walking through Soho, talking about the DIVA book conference she’d recently been to and how revelatory it was that an event devoted to queer female literature was not protested any more. We got onto the topic of Section 8, the problems of a discourse centring around “always knowing” about your own queer identity, and a few other connected topics. She mentioned Queer, A Graphic History to me, and I decided there in the rain in Soho that we would march to the bookshop and I’d buy it.

I’m really pleased to say that having read Queer, A Graphic History I actually think I have a handle on theory! Barker takes the reader through the evolution of queer theory and the main contributors, right up to the present day and the futures directions of study that are developing. Thanks to Scheele’s wonderful illustrations, concepts are broken down simply, faces given to mysterious names and summarised quotes attributed to those faces.


As I suspected, I knew a lot of these fundamentals of queer theory — intersectionality, gender perfomativity, the black feminists who correctly challenged much of the original white thinkers — but I didn’t have the faces, the names, the language behind the concepts. Never again will I shrink when I hear someone attribute a concept to Lacan or Foucault, because I now have a loose understanding of their positions and a Scheele portrait to put their name to.

Barker has also provided a resources section at the back with accessible further reading on sexuality and gender, and queer theory, which is incredibly useful as so often I pick up a book and fall into the inaccessible language pit.

Queer, A Graphic History is an informative, affirming, hopeful and essential read for anyone who wants to know more about queer theory, politics and activism. However, irrespective of your own identity, Queer is also a great introduction to examining binaries and biases in our daily lives and media. This is a thoughtful and powerful book to spend an afternoon reading and a lifetime acting upon.

Interested? Get it here: Hive (UK) / Book Depository (Int)

What to read next:

Dr MEG-JOHN BARKER is a writer, therapist, and activist-academic specialising in sex, gender and relationships. Meg-John is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a UKCP accredited psychotherapist, and has over a decade of experience researching and publishing on these topics including the popular book Rewriting the Rules. @megjohnbarker

JULIA SCHEELE is an illustrator, graphic facilitator and comic book artist. She runs One Beat Zines, a feminist zine collective and distributor. @juliascheele

My Favourite Anthologies & Publishers to Watch| Reading Round Up

I love a well-curated anthology. There is nothing better than diving into a book that feels like a lucky dip of voices, many of whom you’ve never read before. I also love the flexibility you get with an anthology; only got 10 minutes, no problem! You can read a few poems, maybe even a whole short story or an essay in that time. They are the perfect commuter companion and excellent options for busy times like Christmas, when you want to grab some quiet time before you’re called away again.

I leapt at the chance to create a series of anthologies at our micropublisher 3 of Cups Press. Our first, On Anxiety, launches in January and you can preorder it still through our website shop. There are more coming in later 2018 too – keep a particular eye out for February book fans!

But until then, here are some of my favourites to keep you going!

Also, a quick note, in writing this, I realised this quickly became a love letter for all the independent presses that I know and love, who you should throw some of your book money at in the coming year. These guys do fantastic work and I want them to stick around!

Okay, let’s go.

change.PNGA Change is Gonna Come is the wonderful young adult anthology that features only BAME authors, created by the team at Stripes publishing. The book features twelve authors, contributing ten short fiction pieces and two poems. Change represents the future of publishing – voices that have been historically untapped, stories yet to be told. It is an absolutely divine book of exceptionally high quality, and not one of the stories felt like a duffer. I’ve actually read the anthology twice – once back in August when I was in the middle of Kickstarter hell, and just this last month so that I could refresh my mind. In particular, Aisha Bushby’s piece made me sob on my dog and Tanya Byrne’s Hackney Moon is just the most wonderful queer love story that I have ever read. I want more from all these authors immediately. Stripes and Little Tiger Press also produced the wonderful collection I’ll Be Home For Christmas last year, and in my opinion are a publisher to watch.

Sliding over to non fiction, my first recommendation is The Good Immigrant is an awardimmigrant.PNG winning collection of essays from BAME people living in Britain, collated and edited by the wonderful Nikesh Shukla. This is an extremely timely collection about what it means to be an immigrant or a person of colour in the UK today. The collection includes 21 voices in essays covering their wide ranging experiences and perspectives. It is so difficult to say anything about The Good Immigrant that hasn’t already been said by many, many people. Believe the hype; this book is fantastic and essential reading for anyone living in the UK. From Nikesh Shukla and his wonderful agent Julia Kingsford, we now have The Good Journal, a quarterly literary magazine featuring BAME authors and artists, and The Good Literary Agency, launching in 2018.

Did you know The Good Immigrant was published through Unbound, an independent publishing crowdfunding platform. They produce the most magical books and you must go check them out. I particularly recommend you check out Cut From the Same Cloth and A Country to Call Home, which are both still in the funding process. Check them out!

9780995623828It would be remiss of me to discuss anthologies without looking at Nasty Women, another stunning and award winning anthology released this year. What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century? What does it mean to stand up against misogyny, racism and classism alongside sexism? Independent Scottish Publishers 404 Ink seek to answer this question in this excellent collection of essays and interviews from a number of brilliant women. Originally released as a Kickstarter that was 369% funded, the Nasty Women collection is now widely available, as is their first edition of the 404 Ink Literary Magazine, Error. The collection covers a wide range of topics – the feminist leanings of foraging, accountability in the punk scene, classism within the arts, the difficulty of living multiple racial identities, the struggle of loving Courtney Love. I feel that this collection would stand up well in a feminist starter pack of sorts, as we continue to gather around the rallying moniker of Nasty Women. Buy a copy for the young and old women in your life; there is something for everyone here, and while you’re at it, check out the other books and magazines produced by 404 Ink.

For both Nasty Women and The Good Immigrant, every single essay made me pause for thought and I enjoyed reading a single article then setting the book aside, allowing them to settle in my mind. While this meant it took me longer to read these books, it allowed me the extra time to connect to the voices and their experiences.

I’d like to add a quick recommendation for How Much the Heart Can Hold as well, a fiction anthology developed by Sceptre around the seven types of love, which they added a further story to by Phoebe Roy (also featured in Change) when the paperback was published. I enjoyed this immensely earlier this year, and have been in the process of seeking out works from the authors featured in the book. A great one to dip in and out of too.

In the meantime, I have a lot on my shelves that I’ve been dipping in and out of recently and so haven’t had time to review properly, but I wanted to mention them now:

  • Know Your Place edited by Nathan Connolly and published by Dead Ink Books. this book is essays about being working class, in the style of The Good Immigrant.
  • The Things I Would Tell You edited by Sabrina Mafouz and published by Saqi Books: an anthology of essays from British Mulsim Women.
  • 2084: A Science Fiction Anthology edited by George Sandison and published by Unsung Press is an anthology of science fiction short stories all about what the year 2084 could look like.

That’s all for now, I think. Tell me, what are your favourite anthologies? Which projects are you most looking forward to next?

Trans by Juliet Jacques | 1 Minute Reviews

If you’re looking for a great primer on what life is like as a trans woman, you can’t do wrong by choosing Trans by Juliet Jacques. However, as you’ll see, the book is more than its title’s subject matter.


Trans is the culmination of Jacques’ series written for the Guardian, about her transition from living as a man to living her truth as a woman. Beginning with the aftermath of her sexual reassignment surgery, and swiftly jumping back to her teenage years, Jacques writes with a brutal honesty about the issues facing trans women intermixed with her own experience of understanding her gender, and who she is.

Jacques also touches on the difficulties of being openly trans – both in the media and in private, facing off against people on all ends of the political spectrum who deny her existence and restrict her safety.

Alongside this, Trans is also a great story of growing up in the UK and trying to carve out a piece of the world for yourself under austerity. She writes openly about the difficulties of working within the NHS and of being a writer, an artist, in such a difficult economic climate. Her fears and triumphs will resonate with many young people today.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:


The Great Soul of Siberia by Sooyong Park | 1 Minute Reviews

As a child, I used to watch a lot of nature documentaries, particularly one called The Realm of the Russian Bear, which also featured beautiful Siberian tigers. I was obsessed with their grace and beauty, and their power.

The Great Soul of Siberia filled me with the glee I felt as a child, seeing those striped elegant creatures glide through the snow.


Sooyung Park has been studying and following tigers in the Ussuri region of Russia for over 20 years. Not only is this book an ode to the great cats he built his life around, but it is a biography of the region, its people and their culture.

His prose is gentle, respectful, elegant, and had me in tears a number of times, wishing with him that these beautiful animals can survive a seemingly impending extinction. There are some real heart-in-the-mouth moments when you realise how flimsy Park’s hides are, especially when the tigers start to notice.

Honestly, this is a beautiful piece of nature writing that encompasses Russian politics and the art of film making.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Harper Collins & William Collins for sharing this copy with me.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot | 1 Minute Reviews

I am truly overwhelmed by The Outrun. I read it in hardback last year, and I still think of it. I pick the stunning book off my shelf and flick through, submerging myself in Liptrot’s prose and observations.


Part rediscovery-of-self memoir, part salute to nature and her Orcadian upbringing, completely engrossing.

The Outrun follows Amy through London and alcoholism, chasing wild highs and life’s edges, to her return to the islands of the North, to discover new ways of life for herself. Here she re-discovers the thrills and love of nature, both on her family’s land (including the outrun which the book is named for) and the other islands around her.

Liptrot writes with raw words, often beautiful and harsh in turns.  Honestly this book is wonderful, blunt and honest, delicate and hopeful.

Last year, The Outrun scooped up the Wainwright Prize for non fiction and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize. It’s recognition is completely founded. If you haven’t read this book yet, make it a priority. It is unforgettable.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham | 1 Minute Reviews

I wrote the bones of this review back in 2016 when I was sent a pre-publication copy by the lovely people at Ebury Press. This was, importantly, also before I received my diagnosis of autism.


Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a brutal, beautiful book that subverts the memoir genre through inclusion of third person accounts of events involving him. The timeline flicks around, with the Summer of 1975, the Summer of his kestrel, playing a centralised role. Alongside that are his end-of-chapter discussions with his therapist in September 2003, shortly after considering suicide, where he discusses his issues with people – and why he loves animals more than other humans – and his own struggles to navigate a world not built for him.

It’s utterly stunning and I am in awe.

While many nature memoirs tiptoe into the brutalism of nature, Packham strides forward into it – nibbling tadpoles, trying to rescue a drowning fox, stripping meat from bones. It is harsh, just as nature is.

While reading I saw so much of my childhood in his own; a lonely-alone child who dives headfirst into the natural world, where he understands animals while being baffled by humans? Yep, pretty close to the bone here. Mid-reading, I discovered that Packham is autistic, receiving his diagnosis as an adult 2005 which he is only opening up about now, in part due to the release of Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.

So much of what happened to him mirrors my own life, making this a book very close to my heart. I feel that the other lonely nature loving autistic children will find much to love here, especially if, like me, they grew up watching Chris on The Really Wild Show.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thanks to Ebury Books for sending me a review copy.

Want to read more books about autistic people? Check out my recommendations on The Essential Autie Book List.

Do What You Want edited by Ruby Tandoh & Leah Pritchard | 1 Minute Reviews

I’m absolutely in love with the array of essay books that are being released now; The Good Immigrant, Nasty Women, and Know Your Place, which is still being crowdfunded, are three that spring to mind.


What started out as a project to raise some money for charities such as Mind and Beat has become a brilliant zine, a handbook for this generation to navigate mental health problems.

I’ve long admired Ruby Tandoh’s writing, both her long pieces and her threads of tweets, and so I was immediately drawn to this collection. Tandoh and Pritchard have brought together such a great collection of writers and artists, and so this zine absolutely hums with honesty, talent and vulnerability.

If you want an idea of the calibre of writing available in this zine, the team have made two essays available online: Into the Depths by Martha Rose Saunders, about autism, desire and passing; and On the Realities of Life as a Black Woman with Borderline Personality Disorder by Christine Pungong, one of the most affecting essays in the collection.

Also featured are recipes, checklist guides to loving yourself and practical advice about seeking help for your mental health problems.

The zine has been re-released for a second printing in August this year; you can preorder it here. If you want to get your hands on a physical copy earlier however, hit up their stockists listed on the website to see if they have some left. Ebook editions are also available.

What to read next: