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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | 1 Minute Reviews

Dear Ijeawele started life as a series of letters to a friend of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, after she was asked for advice on how to raise their new baby girl as a feminist.

When a couple of years ago a friend of mine from childhood, who’d grown into a brilliant, strong, kind woman, asked me to tell her how to raise her baby girl a feminist, my first thought was that I did not know.

It felt like too huge a task.

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Adichie writes with wit and gentleness but with a commanding voice that draws attention, as with her fiction novels. While this book is only small, it covers a wide range of topics including instilling a love of reading, toy choice, conversations about sexuality, competition and changing oneself in order to promote your child’s feminist learnings.

This small book packs a punch, and is an essential for any feminist starter kit, along with Adichie’s previous feminist essay We Should All Be Feminists (and there is certainly a relevant overlap in content between the two). These two books are great primers for any person interested in finding out more about feminism and why we need it, leading readers into more adventurous in depth works by writers such as Audre Lorde, Angela C Davies and bell hooks.

I think it would also make a great present to any new mothers, as was its original use.

Interested? Get it here.

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Thank you kindly to the team at 4th Estate and Harper Collins for sharing this important book with me.

Nasty Women by 404 Ink | 1 Minute Reviews

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?

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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’m pleased to say that this essay collection holds up against my recent favourite, The Good Immigrant. Every single essay made me pause for thought and I enjoyed reading it an article at a time, allowing them to settle in my mind. Genuinely, this took me a little while to read because I wanted the extra time to connect to the voices and their experiences. I was sent a proof copy for review which didn’t include the articles from Kaite Welsh and Anna Cosgrove, which I’m sure are also brilliant. I was very impressed with the calibre and range of writing available.

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.

I’m really excited to see what else 404 Ink have in store for us, and I’m going to order their first issue right now.

Interested? Get it here.

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Thank you kindly to 404 Ink for sharing a review copy with me.