Tuesday, 26 September 2017

T.H.U.G, a review

It's been a little while since I've last done a blog post, apologies for that! The shop has been hectic and so trying to find time can be a little tough. However, after reading this book I couldn't let it go untalked about. There has already been a bit of a buzz about this one in the wider book community but it's really amazing how much having even one staff member know/read about a book can change its rate of recommendation. So what is this book that I speak of?

T.H.U.G by Angie Thomas, refers to Tupac's description of the 'thug life' as 'The Hate U Give Little Infants F** Everyone' and indeed THUG gives (even more so) a personal face to the institutionalised struggles of class and race set against the Black Lives Matter Movement in the USA as Tupac's maxim is further unpacked.

From the author's website
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter navigates between the poverty-stricken neighborhood she has grown up in and the upper-crust suburban prep school she attends. Her life is up-ended when she is the sole witness to a police officer shooting her best friend, Khalil, who turns out to have been unarmed during the confrontation – but may or may not have been a drug dealer. As Starr finds herself even more torn between the two vastly different worlds she inhabits, she also has to contend with speaking her truth and, in the process, trying to stay alive herself."

 The writing is fast paced, in part due to the emotional and urgent nature of the story but it was a book that I ripped through in a single day! Clearly, it's a hard topic and one close to Thomas' heart which is apparent through her stylistic choices and elements of teen culture embedded in the pages. A key element of the story and one that resonated with me as a challenge was the way that characters, some peripheral and others central try to 'rationalise' Khalil's death by attributing it as a consequence of his life, when indeed it wasn't often his choice. This isn't to rob agency off people but to understand that if the system is stacked against you, the 'choices' you make aren't necessarily always fair or indicative of you personally. Sometimes in Australia we can seem far away from issues around the world but THUG brings a fictionalised account right to readers' doorstep and asks us to consider how different groups are treated in society. We don't have exactly the same Black Lives Matter movement here of course but neither can we ignore the disparity between Indigenous incarcerations and other social indicators. 

Thomas keeps the story relatively fictional until the final pages where she lists the names of others killed in police shootings around America and it hits hard that yes, like Starr and Khalil each had a story, life and family behind them. The book is by no means a 'cop bashing' tome with Starr's uncle being a respected detective himself but I feel that the emphasis of critique is on how individual attitudes of bystanders and those involved can truly shape the change and mobilisation of the movement and in time, the crisis. 

Young adult fiction is an excellent way to get young people interested and involved in social issues. It's relatable regardless of the society it's set in and the content isn't dry in the slightest! Come have a chat if you'd like to talk about this book more!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

NAIDOC Week Has Ended But..

NAIDOC Week has officially ended for 2017 but that doesn't mean that we stop reading, watching, celebrating and learning! Oh no! Indeed the opposite is true.

The 2018 National NAIDOC Host City has been announced as Sydney so if you're planning a trip you'll be right on time!

From the NAIDOC website:

"NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself. Find out more about the origins and history of NAIDOC Week."

If you'd like to learn more we have history books, kids picture books and biographies!
Or if you're looking for something a bit tastier then SBS has you covered. 

Come in a see what's here!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

I suppose it's a little late now - but then again it's never too late to pick up a classic (as I am duly learning), but the play 1984 that has just (literally just) closed in Melbourne was amazing and you should have seen it/I'm so glad that you saw it! It was, as the name suggests an adaptation of Orwell's dystopian classic. The production originated in the UK but arrived in Melbourne this year with an Australian cast. The gentleman who plays the un/lovable Winston, actually also held the titular role of Jasper Jones in the production of Jasper Jones last year. What a guy! 

I believe that this production was quite different to those put on previously (alas I can't say that I know first hand) as the directors included the appendix in the play. Not so obviously tacked on at the end of course but built into it neatly. Reading the program and the comments from the writer it of course makes sense - after all, the history is not 'truth' per se but part of the fictitious narrative Orwell so thoroughly crafted. If you can't tell I loved it and the book! It will be interesting then I suppose to see how the Handmaid's Tale will tackle the historical note in the TV series. 

I will confess that we only bought tickets the week before we went to see it so sadly missed out on the $30 for under 30s but never mind. This last buying also alerted me to the fact that I hadn't actually read 1984 before despite it being under my bed for about two years - and I work in a bookshop! So I went into frenzy mode of quick read it as I tried to beat the clock. In the end I got half way (and was holding the text in the theatre, ironically the Comedy Theatre) as we were walking into our seats. In hindsight, it was actually a good thing because it was familiar enough for me to appreciate the quotes from the book, understand the premise to minimise staging confusion and just avoid feeling like a total novice. But not knowing the second half (like, at all) I wasn't expecting the violence, fear or surprise which honestly made the whole message of the novel hit a lot harder. Which was terrifying but also really cool. Moral of the story read half of books only. Joking, I quickly read the rest after. I went with some friends and we had to have a massive debrief on the train home.

Additional to the excitement and enjoyment of watching the play it [NERD ALERT] made me rerealise how important media is in learning and understanding why the world is like it is, and more so why words are more than just communication but instead represent entire systems and ways of living - taking Newspeak as an example. It also made me miss when I used to study literature in school when you would pore over a single text for a term just debating every theme and symbol. Even if you made stuff up half the time, it didn't matter because it just proved that there were so many layers of meaning in the text. Even now when I'm studying media, it's interesting to consider different media as important, not necessarily the content itself but why it's significant as a representation and reflection of the time that it was created in. 

Basically, the point of this mini epiphany is that I am now dedicated to starting a book club where we will first tackle 20th century classics because I have read too little! I did read Animal Farm the other day too and it did not disappoint. But I digress, apparently Ulysses is too hardcore for a book club but it'd be a little bit awesome if we worked on it a few chapters at a time. Being in a book club also forces you to be accountable for actually reading the book! 

I love that lots of our classics are my dad's from the 70s with yellowing pages but I want to start building my own collection too! 

So far I an keeping a keen eye out for the Annotated Edition of 1984 published by Modern Classics - I love those editions, and the play script of the 1984 play. I can't wait!

Here is a super link to the production's education resource if you'd like to find out more about the play itself. Spoilers though. 

What classic have you missed but promised yourself you'd read (for the past five years...)?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Why Worry About Doomsday when you have Bloomsday?

Forgive me if I'm jumping the gun a little bit but I think that it's an appropriate time to get excited about Bloomsday 2017! For those of you who are not sure what I'm talking about - is this about flowers and gardening? - Bloomsday is a day long celebration of James Joyce's master masterpiece Ulysses. Originating in Dublin (as only natural) the celebration has since spread to other parts of the world. Dress ups, recitations everything you could possibly have that's Leopold Bloom related. Side note, what is the relevance of the Producers film/musical also having a protagonist called Leo Bloom? And I have also seen ads for a flower company called Bialystock and Bloom. But I digress. 

Bloomsday has been celebrated since 1994 by a very dedicated group of lasses and lads. You can find out more about them by clicking the photo. 


Oh! It would probably help if you knew the actual dates of Blomsday for this year so it is happening from the 14-18 of June. Definitely check out the website for more specific information but highlights this year include a play called Getting Up James Joyce's Nose which sounds delightful really, and it's on at the Spiegletent so you know it'll be good. 

So what is Ulysses about? 
Well as the ever helpful Goodreads tells us, 'Ulysses, one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, has had a profound influence on modern fiction. In a series of episodes covering the course of a single day, 16 June 1904, the novel traces the movements of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through the streets of Dublin. Each episode has its own literary style, and the epic journey of Odysseus is only one of many correlations that add layers of meaning to the text. Ulysses has been the subject of controversy since copies of the first English edition were burned by the New York Post Office Authorities.' That doesn't sound terribly gripping I know but the style was revolutionary and any book that was burned upon publication merits some sort of second look right? PS. Is this a good time to mention that I haven't read it yet? (There are so many books, especially in a bookshop that it's hard to keep track. Today I inadvertently sold a book that I kind of wanted to a customer.) 

If you'd like to read more about reading Ulysses you can do so with theses:

The Guardian: Is James Joyce's Ulysses the hardest novel to finish?
The Economist: James Joyce's "Ulysses"Why you should read this book
Sparknotes (because who doesn't love it?): Ulysses
The New York Review of Books: It's Still a Scandal

And if you're looking for the 1967 film then you can read a review here

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Does your mother remind you about Mothers Day?

Mothers Day is coming up! And we have conveniently moved all of those pesky (no we love them) down a shelf!

It's not just mothers who can be celebrated on Mothers day - close friends, aunties, grandmothers, the list goes on!


Saturday, 15 April 2017

This is Real This is Me

When you peruse the biography section it is only natural that  you come across a wide variety of stories, lives and experiences. Some are about hardships and overcoming challenges, some are muses on life and others about a life full or half lived. I'll be honest with you when I say that the first thing I do when I pick up a biography is to flip to the middle, glossy white coloured section that has all of the photographs or pictures of the said life. I find that it's a good summary about what you'll sort of find in the book. Maybe I'm just a lazy reader! Or maybe a pictorial learner.. 

Anyway we have two somewhat juxtaposing titles to share today. 

Dear Quentin, Letters of A Governor General
Apparently she wrote 50 letters a week...

You can read more about the book here

My Life as Eva, The Struggle is Real   
Sharing the inside thoughts of Eva Gutowski, Youtuber!