Reading plays a number of roles in my professional and private lives. Sometimes I read fiction to transport myself out of the present. I read fiction at night to provide for that gap between the switched on working mind and the sleeping one. However, writing this blog means I make connections between the theories and explanations of social policy and the fiction I read to escape. This was most acute when reading Ruby.
The social policy academic side of me, would describe Ruby as a novel about racism, sexism, their intersection, child abuse, child sexual exploitation (CSE) and poverty. The social work educator might use it as an example to study the impact of grief, bereavement and trauma. Yet none of those terms would be found in Ruby. The vocabulary of the novel and my day job are very different, even if the content is shared. Continue reading →
Malala Yousafzai is a remarkable woman, with a spirit and voice that needs to be acknowledged and heard. What happens to this voice when it is mediated through the lens of a documentary maker? He Named Me Malala is a fascinating film, through which Malala’s charm and courage shines, but it is not perfect. It starts with the mythologised context of Malala’s naming. Her father chose her name which is from the Afghan folk heroine Malalai who rallied Pashtun fighters against the British in 1880. This provides a context of colonialism and conflict and a narrative of defiance. There was a powerful scene, narrated by her father (over animation) where on seeing the family tree populated entirely by men, he draws a line and adds her name. For me, this is what that act symbolised:
“Women’s history has a dual goal: to restore women to history and to restore our history to women.”(Kelly-Gadol, 1987: 15)
I have just finished reading this book for a second time, choosing to re-read it in tribute to the poet who died earlier this year. What strikes me about the process of re-reading, is how different this reading was from my first. The first reading had been a shock, a jolt. The key moment was the rape of a young girl; it was sickening, frightening, unknowable or at least unspeakable. However, it was clearly (even beautifully) articulated as a young girl’s experience. It was an amazing narrative trick that the adult voice of the writing was also the young, abused girl.
‘Was that the first time the accused touched you?’ The question stopped me. Mr Freeman had surely done something very wrong, but I was convinced that I had helped him to do it. I didn’t want to lie, but the lawyer wouldn’t let me think, so I used silence as a retreat.
‘Did the accused try to touch you before the time he, or rather you say he, raped you?’