Posts by Writing Squad

Eloise Unerman reviews Dumplin' by Julie Murphy.

Posted Friday 30 August 2019 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

Dumplin book cover


Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is a young adult book about Willowdean Dickson, a self-proclaimed fat girl from Clover City, Texas. She’s always been at home in her own skin and her idea of having the ultimate bikini body is just putting a bikini on your body.

When new love leaves her doubting herself, she enters her local beauty pageant in an effort to take it back. The world of Dumplin’ is very important to me – both it and its sequel Puddin’ are sat on my shelves right now. I was hesitant to start reading at first. I had this fragile idea of who this girl should be and I was afraid that turning the page would ruin her. But I didn’t need to be.

I felt all the highs of Willowdean’s love life and all the lows of her relationship with her mum. But what struck me the most was something incredibly personal. She wasn’t the first plus size character I’d ever seen in a book or even the first well written one. But Murphy had perfectly pinpointed all the thoughts about being fat that I’d never spoken of, never read. And I think that’s what made Willowdean feel all the more real to me. She came along at a time when I was trying my best to have the same attitude towards my body as she did to her own. And, in an odd way, I was more than a little bit proud of her for accomplishing that.

Although Dumplin’ is a book about a girl in high school, I don’t think you need to be that age to enjoy her journey. I’d recommend this captivating book to anyone but especially those who have, at some point, felt uncomfortable in their own skin or had the sudden desire to enter a beauty pageant.

Inspired by Eloise's review? You can reserve Dumplin' from your library online for free. Or download the ebook or audiobook from your library or have a good ole Dumplin' party and watch the new film on Netflix! 

Eloise


This month's Writing Squad guest reviewer is Eloise Unerman. Eloise is based in South Yorkshire and writes poetry and short stories, plus she runs poetry workshops for adults and young people.

She was awarded the Cuckoo Young Writers Award 2017 in the Northern Writers Awards and was Young Poet in Residence at 2018’s Ledbury Poetry Festival.

She is currently Barnsley’s Poet Laureate. When not writing, you can find her learning ballet and modern dance, sketching or adding to her scarf collection.  You'll also find Eloise on Twitter @inkandamaranth


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Elizabeth Gibson reviews The Space Between Us

Posted Tuesday 21 May 2019 by Writing Squad

Space BetweenThe Space Between for me is proof that word-of-mouth recommendation can really work, and gives me hope that beautiful, unusual books from indie publishers can find a deserved audience. A year ago, I wasn’t seeing this book in shops. However, I took part in regular Twitter book chats, covering issues like mental health and queer representation, and every now and again someone would mention The Space Between as a hidden gem they really, really loved. I looked it up and the blurb spoke to me, so I took a punt and ordered it. It fast became one of my favourite books.

The is a cuddle or a picnic or a warm drink in book form. It is cosy and gentle and unpretentious. It is written in verse, which gives breathing space for the heart of the story and the emotions of the main character, Beth, to lead the way, without being crowded by endless description or melodrama. We follow just three characters: Beth, her mysterious new friend, Alice, and Alice’s dog, Mouse. The entire story takes place in Beth’s house and garden, and within the space of a year. There is a purity to it, without being cheesy.

The burgeoning love between the characters feels organic and real, while maintaining a lovely otherworldly quality, like a fairy-tale. Difficult issues are confronted without hesitation, but also without the novel feeling patronising, or as if it were attempting to tick boxes – everything in there feels like it should be there. There are also refreshingly frank depictions of different body types, and of female sexual desire and pleasure. I am now starting to see The Space Between pop up in bookshops, and I approve, but do check out libraries, too, and give this gorgeous book a go. It is different from anything else I’ve read.

Elizabeth GibsonReviewer Biography

Elizabeth Gibson is a Manchester-based writer and spoken-word performer. She has won a Northern Writer's Aware and been shortlisted for the Poetry Business' New Poetry Prize. Her writing touches on city life, nature, queerness, and physical and mental health. She tweets as @Grizonne and blogs at http://elizabethgibsonwriter.blogspot.co.uk. She will be appearing at Bad Language in Manchester on 29 May.

"It’s hard to describe the experience of reading The Devastation"

Posted Thursday 7 March 2019 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

Melissa Buzzeo – The Devastation (Nightboat, 2015)

In the latest in a series of books by members of the Writing Squad on what book most influenced them, Dominic Leonard writes about a book that does not end with the page...

Buzzeo DavastationIt’s hard to describe the experience of reading The Devastation. It is a long (nearly 200 page) prose poem in several sections, tracing the end of a relationship through its reflections, difficulties, freedoms and relations, using the ongoing metaphorical dynamic of a slow, out-of-time sea-wreck. Refuse builds on the ocean floor as the fragments of what was once intimate connection is thrown down there, left to float away. The poem seems to disregard itself in the act of writing; it is a book, like Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieue, largely about the inability to write in the face of violence and pain.

I first read this book in the frantic weeks leading up to my undergraduate dissertation submission, and despite its intensity it became a remarkably calming presence in my life – I continued to read it through revision for my finals and into summer. Looking back through it now I can remember the experience of first falling into this book; it is difficult and disorienting, like being lost at sea. The lines often don’t line up in a way that makes immediate sense; M. NourbeSe Philip describes it as a ‘liquification of language that simultaneously drowns yet buoys us up.’ The accumulative effect is one of being utterly adrift from the moors of language:

‘Death to death water to chatter. The recovered chemicals the charter. / Catheter charter / Heart / Beat.’

The book gestures outwards, indicating that it does not begin nor end with the page. Buzzeo’s dynamic use of the line and of white space challenge the very parameters of a book, both literally and metaphorically. The second part of the poem, ‘An Object,’ is one page, on which the poet promises that if she could, she would break off a piece of The Devastation and give it to the reader: ‘Not like a text, like an object.’ I tore most of the page out, and keep it in the back of a notebook.

Dominic LeonardAbout Dominic Leonard

Dominic studied English in Oxford and is now studying for an MA in Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. His poems and reviews have appeared in Poetry London, Oxford Poetry, The Scores, amberflora, Zarf, and elsewhere. In 2018 he won the Eugene Lee Hamilton Sonnet Prize, was the runner-up for the Jane Martin Prize, and a finalist for the Hollingworth Prize.

Dominic’s pamphlet love, bring myself is published by Broken Sleep Books.


‘Even the night took sides.’- Review of Kingdom of Gravity by Nick Makoha

Posted Friday 1 February 2019 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

Kingdom of Gravity"In early November Jay rang me up for our semi regularly scheduled poetry recommendation calls. ‘You have to read Kingdom of Gravity!’ he urged me, ‘Let me just read you a few lines and you can make the call then.’ So, he flicked to a random poem and read the following lines,

‘When the hills were on fire,

There were no angels to guide us.

Only the equator was able to divide

The land equally. Even the night took sides.’

Even the night took sides?! EVEN THE NIGHT TOOK SIDES! That line convinced me to buy Nick Makoha’s debut poetry collection, which I have not been able to put down for three months. Kingdom of Gravity does more than make music from the ruins of Ugandan politics and history but speaks to a peoples unbound by simple borders. Makoha somehow becomes a mouthpiece for the dead, the forgotten, the survivors and those who find themselves in ‘a country where they do not know your name.’

It is almost cinematic in the way it manages to weave together narratives from such diverse perspectives evoking a world somewhere between nightmare and reality. Bordering lyric, prose and in some ways oral history, Makoha somehow creates a collection that could easily sit in an archive somewhere the way it deals with topics of authoritarianism, humanity and mortality in Ugandan politics. These are the testimonies of soldiers, priests, politicians, children and in some ways the very earth itself.

"These are the testimonies of soldiers, priests, politicians, children and in some ways the very earth itself"

As a product of the Ethiopian diaspora, Kingdom of Gravity send me crashing back down to the soil I was uprooted from with the force of its vivid imagery and emotive language. But it’s not even its technicality that is so impressive but its ability to capture those tense moments that can rarely be described in words. Kingdom of Gravity is the silence of memory, the one hushed by a generation of AK47s, those lost moments when languages fly around the room just out of reach. It’s that feeling I get when the wheels hit the tarmac at Bole airport. It’s the place we never got to call home.

"Kingdom of Gravity is the silence of memory, the one hushed by a generation of AK47s"

............................................................................................................................................

Fahad Al-AmoudiFahad al-Ahmoudi is a Spoken Word Poet studying History at Durham University. He has performed at venues across the UK and Ethiopia and is currently the captain of the Durham University Slam Team. He is also the lead writer and vocalist for a spoken word band called The Poetry Experiment.

https://www.facebook.com/thepoetryexperiment/

@freeformfahad and @thepoetryexperiment

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Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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