Knights and Princesses Day

Knights and Princesses fun dayHear ye, hear ye!

The Princess and the PonyThe populace of Central Library Peterborough invite one and all for an afternoon of medieval entertainment, to take place from 1-3pm on Saturday the 25th of March. There will be crown decorating for those of royal blood, and shield making for any knights in need of armour. Catapults will be created and tested! If you are of an active disposition we invite you to attempt the quest, or if of a more mellow nature try out some medieval crafts and board games.

Prizes will be granted for the best costumes so bring your sense of chivalry and your best royal and/or knightly outfit to win! All welcome. This is a free event.

Need help getting into character? Check out my list of favourite books about knights and princesses for kids and teens.

Cover of Sir Gawain the TrueCover of The Princess in BlackCover of Tuesdays at the CastleCover of The Winter Prince

All About (Nasty) Women — WORD Christchurch

This blog talks about two live-streamed talks from the Sydney All About Women event, but after looking at their website I’ve realised how many interesting talks are happening that aren’t live-streamed. For instance Life on Mars, about Carmel Johnston’s year living in the HI-SEAS Mars simulation on Hawai’i. (I just re-watched The Martian so it caught my eye.) Luckily All About Women is filmed and put on Youtube so those of us who missed out can still watch when they’re uploaded.

Geena Davis on Gender in Media

If you’re skeptical that media representation and the lack thereof can influence the way we view ourselves and others, Geena Davis and her institute on gender in media can provide a few facts that might change your mind. In 2012, the year of Cover of Brave: The essential guideBrave‘s Merida and The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, the participation of girls in archery competitions more than doubled. Which is great! What’s not so great is how rare that positive representation actually is. The gender disparity in film is just as bad now as it was 1946, and that’s not an exaggeration. I recently read Jessica Chastain’s essay on how amazing and rare it was to work on a set that has 20% women (The Zookeeper’s Wife, directed by Niki Caro). 20%! Sometimes she was the only woman on set at all. I sometimes forget, working in a field that is so woman-friendly, how isolated we can be in the workplace.

As depressing as those facts are I highly recommend having a look at Geena Davis’ website and the footage of her All About Women speech when it goes up. In person she is very, very funny and has inspired me to look even more closely at the media I consume. I recommend you do likewise, particularly animated children’s movies, which from the stats seem to have the worst record of gender disparity and negative stereotyping.

Backstage interview with Jessa Crispin

Crispin rejects the label of feminist because today’s feminism isn’t feminist enough. Too many people are calling themselves feminists, she says, by just co-opting the ideology others have created rather than inventing their own. To make real change we need just a few really hardcore radical women willing to tear down the system, we don’t need to convert everybody to the cause.

If feminism is universal, if it is something that all women and men can “get on board” with, then it is not for me. If feminism is nothing more than personal gain disguised as political progress, then it is not for me. If by declaring myself a feminist I must reassure you that I am not angry, that I pose no threat, then feminism is definitely not for me. I am angry. And I do pose a threat. — Jessa Crispin, Why I Am Not a Feminist

Cover of Why I am not a feministI found listening to Crispin frustrating because while I agreed with some of what she said (feminism needs to be more inclusive racially and economically) I disagree with how she thinks we should solve it. Slacktivism is a problem for many causes, not just feminism, so rather than sneering at the lip-service feminists as not being feminist enough, why not work to inspire more of them to take more active roles in achieving gender parity?

If you were there (or have read Crispin’s book, Why I Am Not a Feminist), I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Nasty Women

So many smart, articulate ladies on this panel. Some of the best quotes:

No one is looking after us, it’s only us. And if you don’t get active in democracy, you get Trump. — Van Badham

 

The moment we shut up we let them win. — Yassmin Abdel-Gamied

 

Cover of Shrill: Notes from a loud womanSimply presenting my body to the world and insisting that it has value is a political act. It freaks people out. — Lindy West

 

You have the strength of all the women with you, who came before you, and who will come after you. — Van Badham

 

We have to mobilise everyone. Tell our kids that activism and standing for office are part of our civic duties. —Lindy West

 

It’s when people mobilise around the issues that are actually more important than the vacuum of hate, that opinions can change and we’ve got to have hope in that message and our capacity to organise, to speak to people about what’s really important to them. It’s only a tiny percentage of people who are really defined by hatred and will vote hatred more than anything else. — Van Badham

 

The idea of changing the entire world is overwhelming, but the idea of having an impact on the few people who are around us is very very achievable. — Yassmin Abdel-Gamied

One (very small) way that I try to make a difference is to support marginalised authors by buying, reading and reviewing their books. It takes very little effort on my part and I get to read great books! Win-win. If you’re looking for new authors to read I recommend We Need Diverse Books as a great place to start.

WORD Christchurch – All About Women

All About Women Satellite 5 March 2017Yesterday a car pulled up next to me while we were sitting at the lights, and the gentleman inside (I use the term loosely) rolled down his window. ‘Cheer up!’ he called. ‘Come on! Smile for me!’

If this doesn’t happen to you on a regular basis then perhaps you won’t understand why my immediate response was one of stifled rage. Sure, it’s one of the more innocuous forms of putting women in their place, but it exists on the flipside of the coin marked Nasty Woman. And if you’re looking at the USA thinking That’s so much worse, at least our last prime minister was only grabbing ponytails, don’t be too complacent. Unfortunately kiwi misogynists are looking at global politics for more ideas of how to be horrible to women.

If this depresses you, I have good news! WORD Christchurch is live-streaming a collection of talks by smart, feminist women straight to Christchurch. Geena Davis will be talking about women in Hollywood and the film industry, Jessa Crispin will be discussing her new book (Why I Am Not a Feminist — A Feminist Manifesto), and Yassmin Adbel-Magied, Van Badham and Lindy West will be on the Nasty Women panel. I’m especially excited to listen to Lindy West, as she was one of my favourite staff writers at Jezebel.com a few years ago (and has since published a book, Shrill).

I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you there, but if you can’t make it (or you need something to read in the meantime), check out our staff’s favourite feminist titles here.

Cover of Shrill by Lindy WestCover of If You Knew Me You Would CareCover of Speaking Out by Tara MossCover of Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford

Science fiction (double feature)

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump for several months, but it’s starting to pick up again. Mostly I seem to be into Adventures in space! books at the moment (to be fair when am I not into Adventures in space! books?), possibly a result of the Star Wars renaissance. It’s a good time to be a science fiction fan.

Recent recommended reads:

cover of Ancillary JusticeThe Ancillary trilogy by Ann Leckie, beginning with Ancillary Justice – an approximation of the British Empire in space! AI ships with human bodies who love singing! Lots of tea! It can take a few chapters to get into but rewards persistence. Leckie is definitely one of my favourite new sci fi authors.

Cover of Behind the ThroneBehind the Throne by K. G. Wagers – Often described as: What if Princess Leia and Han Solo were the same person? Foul-mouthed gunrunner Hailimi Bristol is forced to return to her home planet to take up the crown after most of the royal family are assassinated. Chaos ensues. I doubt I’d be able to cope with Hailimi in person (so much shouting, calm down) but I enjoyed the first book. Possibly not enough to check out the second, After the Crown, but I know others enjoyed it.

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry PlanetThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Similar to Firefly in that it’s an ensemble cast in space who all love each other even when they hate each other, episodic plot, and occasional encounters with nasty aliens (lots of nice ones too). There’s a sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, which explores what happens when the ship’s AI gets a body and learns to be an engineer. I think I liked that one even more and it’s a standalone so feel free to pick it up without having read the first. Readers who prefer a fast paced plot should steer clear but if you’re into character-driven feel-good science fiction, this is the author for you.

Other science fiction I’m looking forward to reading:

  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. First of a trilogy. To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris is given the “help” of a dead, insane but tactically brilliant traitor general.
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Aliens prepare to invade. Humans are divided in their response to the threat. What happens next will surprise you!
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. Murder mystery in spaaaaaace!

Cover of Ninefox GambitCover of The Three-Body ProblemCover of Six Wakes

Sleuths and Spies day

sleuths and spies

Put on your gum shoes, trench coat and fedora and come along to our Sleuths and Spies fun day on Saturday the 29th of October at Central Library Peterborough!

Get your magnifying glass ready to crack our secret codes and puzzles, follow clues to solve a mystery, test your dexterity on the laser beam course and discover how crimes are solved at our forensics station. Science Alive! will also be there with “Science Snippets: Spies and Secret Messages” between 1.30 and 2.30pm, so come as your favourite spy or detective and follow the clues to 91 Peterborough Street.

But don’t worry: if you’ve misplaced your deerstalker hat then you can use our photobooth to create a disguise on the day!

In the meantime check out some of our favourite spy and mystery fiction for kids and teens:

Cover of Precious and the MonkeysCover of A Pocket full of MurderCover of Liar & SpyCover of A Spy in the House

Speaking Out: Tara Moss — WORD Christchurch

Tara Moss has worn many hats — model, crime writer, journalist, and now author of two non-fiction titles, The Fictional Woman and Speaking Out. Where The Fictional Woman is part-memoir, Speaking Out is designed as a handbook for woman and girls, full of practical tips on how to speak out and how to deal with the backlash if you do. There’s a whole section on surviving social media (don’t let the trolls get you down), which unfortunately gets more relevant every day.

So why did a crime writer choose to write a nonfiction book that isn’t about death? Well, she says, here’s a powerpoint presentation I prepared earlier. There followed twenty minutes of increasingly depressing statistics about the lack of voice and representation of women in media and politics. Suffice it to say, we can do better. (Except Canada, phwoar: fifty/fifty representation in parliament! Be still my beating heart.)

Tara Moss at WORD Christchurch.
Tara Moss at WORD Christchurch.

When we are silent or unheard our ideals and perspectives, our needs, our pain, and our struggles remain unknown or unacknowledged; and often for this reason, unchanged. — Tara Moss

This just emphasises what I’ve been hearing from many of the other panels. If we don’t hear indigenous voices, if we don’t hear LGBT voices, then we’re not representing our society. As someone who’s been nosy all her life I’ve never quite understood why we haven’t figured this out yet. Listening’s not that hard, is it? We might learn something.

Tara Moss. Image supplied
Tara Moss. Image supplied

The reality is not that women talk more … but that we want and expect them to talk less. — Soraya Chemaly

Oh, right. That’s why. Even about issues that you’d expect women to have an equal say — birth control, parental leave, women’s rights — we’re still deferring to male opinion. And let’s not even talk about violence against women. No wait, let’s. Did you know a woman dies almost every week in Australia at the hands of a current or former partner? Did you know one out of five women experiences sexual violence, worldwide? That violence against women and girls remains unchanged despite a downward trend in all other crime?

Cover of Speaking OutThis can all seem incredibly depressing (it is), but at least things have changed since the 20th century. We can improve this situation; it’s not static, it’s not just the way things are.

The more we speak out, the less easy it will be to silence others … Toxic silence does a lot more damage than oversharing; silence has never solved anything. — Tara Moss

So here’s your homework: read Speaking Out. Speak out more, and listen to those who are already. Comment on this post. Tell your own story. Once we have an equal voice, everyone will be better off.

See more photos of Tara Moss and her fact-filled presentation on our Flickr.

WORD Christchurch

Sister Cities/First Nations – WORD Christchurch

We all consider ourselves good people, so it can be confronting to realise that we’re unwittingly contributing to oppression. For peace of mind it can seem easier to ignore the evidence rather than engage in change, thinking if we cover our eyes then it isn’t there, it’s all the past, it doesn’t affect me. Or we go to the other extreme, demand our education from those we meet rather than listen to those already speaking.

Ali Cobby Eckermann. Photo by Adrain Cook. Image supplied.
Ali Cobby Eckermann. Photo by Adrain Cook. Image supplied.

Ali Cobby Eckermann (Aboriginal Australian descended from the Yankunytjatjara language group) and Elissa Washuta (member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe) are two who are well worth listening to. First Eckermann read from her poem Black Deaths in Custody:

when I walk down this wing and peer

into this filthy room the door closes behind me

the feeling in my heart is changing

from a proud strength of duty to fear

all the stories I have ever heard

stand silent in the space beside me—

a coil of rope is being pushed

under the door of this cell

And Washuta read out her essay This Indian Does Not Owe You, which I recommend reading in full:

When you quiz me on genocide highlights — “Were those smallpox blankets real? I’ve always wondered about that” — to sate your hunger for facts, I do not owe you a free education of the kind that my university students pay for, and I am not so flattered by your interest in my people that I might unfurl a lecture on 500 years of colonization for your edification.

Elissa Washuta. Photo by Elizabeth Ogle. Image supplied.
Elissa Washuta. Photo by Elizabeth Ogle. Image supplied.

Nic Low asked about the role of anger in writing. Both have been through traumatic experiences – rape, disordered eating, the removal of a child – but are still gentle, kind people in person. Writing provides a safe space for anger. Eckermann brought up the idea of good anger and bad anger, and Washuta responded:

We have that bad anger and what do you do with it? A lot of us just destroy ourselves with drugs and alcohol, because that bad anger has just embedded itself, and then we’re told Oh that’s all in the past, that was hundreds of years ago, get over it. The reality is that in our communities we are experiencing ongoing colonisation every day, all the time. We are still a colonised people.

Eckermann agreed – they don’t want to hurt others, so they hurt themselves. She hopes writing can bring us closer to a collective understanding and healing. By acknowledging pain, maybe some can begin to heal.

Cover of Inside My MotherWho are you writing for?

Initially I thought I was writing for myself, or for my community, but now I think I’m writing for the future. Poetry is supposed to change and inform lives… I mean statistically we know that one in four women is raped in their lifetime, but we have to share our stories so it’s not just statistics, it’s life lived. – Eckermann

I wanted to see people like me on the page – I didn’t know any other native people at college, I was diagnosed bipolar, raped, had an eating disorder, and to me they all seemed interconnected but I couldn’t find anything that reflected my own experience. So my books are a gift to other college students. I knew there had to be other people like me, and there are. – Washuta

How do you feel about your country?

I’d like to remove the culture of denial in Australia.  It’s been really rewarding going to other countries that know their histories, who aren’t afraid of their history. — Eckermann

There’s this cheerful narrative about the brave pioneers who crossed the continent to create something out of the “pristine untouched wilderness” when really people were doing all sorts of maintenance work. The pioneers just didn’t understand how the land was being used, or couldn’t see it. But it’s always “It’s really nice that the Indians helped the settlers make something out of this super boring place.” — Washuta

The session ended with a plea for greater friendship and connection in the face of the tsunami of racism that seems to be washing over the world.

So listen to others. Be kind. And go read their books.

WORD Christchurch

The Right to be Cold – WORD Christchurch

As a fellow introvert I find Sheila Watt-Cloutier incredible, going from interpreter/nurse at the Ungava Hospital to International Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, among other things. Here’s someone who won’t need Tara Moss’s book Speaking Out as she has already been speaking out for decades via various platforms, successfully raising awareness of Inuit and global issues (and as she points out, the two are interlinked). Hers is a voice we need to hear more of.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Image supplied.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Image supplied.

So who are the Inuit?

The Inuit people are spread over four countries — Greenland, Canada, Alaska (US), and Siberian Russia. They total 165,000 all at the top of the world, most very far away from each other (not helped by the current airline routes). The same language is spoken with different dialects, the same food is eaten, the same legends, the same hunting practices, the same songs. The same people.

The motivation behind The Right to be Cold

Watt-Cloutier spent her first ten years in the Arctic in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, which is located in Northern Quebec (Canada). She grew up in a very close knit family, raised by her mother and grandmother, travelling by dog-sled, and maintaining a close connection to the local environment and community. After leaving for school age ten and returning almost a decade later, the stark changes wrought in those few years propelled her onto a more political platform.

I felt a sense of responsibility to write the book from a personal narrative, through the experiences of those graphic changes, because I can still remember those more traditional times. It wasn’t generations ago, it was in my lifetime, things have changed very rapidly. I wrote it from a place of trying to connect all these pieces of how we had come from such a powerful, independent culture, strong and valuable, to the addiction, violence and abuse problems we deal with today. I wanted to put into context these wounds, to piece together what has happened in our family systems, societies, and communities.

The disappearance of the dog teams

It wasn’t until I was an adult starting to work in politics that stories began to come out. It was such a shameful time, the wounds were so deep that the men in our communities didn’t talk about that era. There was a time in history when the authorities of the day decided (supposedly for health and safety reasons) to remove the dogs. Thousands were shot and killed, families would come in from outpost camps to barter only to have their dogs shot and therefore their transport removed… It was a great trauma.

How did this affect the Inuit communities?

The dog slaughters and the demolition of the sealing industry changed the way hunters could provide for their families. They began to turn to rifles, ammunition, and motorised boats rather than traditional hunting practices, but the loss of the cultural tradition of hunting plus the degradation of the ice through climate change have caused a lot of damage to their sense of worthiness, integrity, identity.

Traditionally Inuit hunters are calm, reflective, inclusive, wise people. While Western impressions of hunters are often as aggressive men with rifles, hunting in the Arctic leaves no room for anger; any foolish decisions place yourself and your family in jeopardy in such a harsh environment. By losing that identity as proficient provider the hunters have begun to act out, passing their hurt on to women and children through violence. To circumvent that cycle of abuse Watt-Cloutier feels it is important to reclaim and understand their history. By reconnecting with their culture and past hopefully some will regain a sense of place in the community.

Cover of The Right to be ColdIf I could just help one person alleviate part of the burden that they carry, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do.

I haven’t really delved into the more environmental part of the talk because there was a lot of information packed into that one-hour session, but I highly recommending reading her book The Right to be Cold to learn more about how we can make this a better planet for everyone, not just the polar bears.

WORD Christchurch

 

Giving Them Hell: Political Cartoons — WORD Christchurch

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I’ve always been interested in cartoons and comics. As a child I devoured Asterix and Calvin and Hobbes; as a teenager I flipped to the political cartoons, studying Garrick Tremain’s effortless shading; and today I consume pretty much any comics I get my hands on, online and off. I even (briefly) considered political cartooning as a career, before being dampened by the “death of printed media!” doom and gloom and the fact that all the political cartoonists I was aware of seemed to be older men. (No offence, Peter Bromhead.)

So with that in mind I was super excited to attend a session which featured not only Toby Morris (of Pencilsword fame) but also that rare unicorn, female cartoonist Sharon Murdoch! Interior designer and long-lived editorial cartoonist Peter Bromhead rounded off the panel, all facilitated by Toby Manhire.

Sharon Murdoch. Image supplied
Sharon Murdoch. Image supplied

What’s your ambition in creating cartoons?

To do a drawing which the editor will accept. I look for the paradox which an event is all about; news is a sort of dung heap of information, and all I’m really interested in are the top two layers. I then sit around worrywarting it until I can do something which represents some kind of funny paradox. —Bromhead

Sometimes it’s an act of solidarity, of protest, to show I’ve witnessed something. Witnessing can be very powerful; if enough people say they’ve seen something, that’s a motivator for change. —Murdoch

Cartooning is a kind of preaching, agree or disagree?

I try not to, but it’s something I have been accused of. I do try to say something with my comics, otherwise what’s the point? Nowadays I’m not so interested in ripping someone to threads, I’m more interested in engaging with issues, talking about topics. Comics can be a medium for engagement and change. I don’t feel duty-bound to be funny. —Morris

Toby Manhire, Toby Morris, Sharon Murdoch and Peter Bromhead at WORD Christchurch.
Toby Manhire, Toby Morris, Sharon Murdoch and Peter Bromhead at WORD Christchurch.

What Prime Minister do you most enjoy drawing?

Muldoon was easy. Just take a pear shape, add a straight line for the mouth, close one eye, add a bit of hair on top and there you go. —Bromhead

John Key is really challenging to draw, he has such an everyman face. I think Tom Scott comes closest: “He has a face that looks like a knife stabbed through a scrotum.” —Sharon Murdoch

Just emphasise the white tide mark of his hair dye that goes up and down. Any man who dyes his hair is not to be trusted. —Bromhead

All three agreed that too much emphasis on technical proficiency can be stifling — it’s more important to capture the idea, the energy of the person. Plus being too accurate can run the risk of attracting politicians into buying the originals, Bromhead’s worst nightmare.

The death of printed media…?

I don’t think cartoons are as important as they were in the 50s and 60s because we are so bombarded by visual images that cartoons don’t seem to have the same impact anymore. I don’t think people are reading newspapers, the political clout has waned. —Bromhead

I think cartoons are perfectly placed to succeed — with such short attention spans if you can communicate an idea in a picture that’s a lot more effective. —Morris

I think the static image is still potent, will still survive the demise— sorry, I mean “the changing media landscape”. I mean, look at the burkini cartoon by Anne Telnaes. So simple but very effective. —Murdoch

Personally I’m hopeful that political cartoons will continue to call out the baffling, upsetting and funny antics of our elected representatives.

Find their books in our catalogue:

WORD Christchurch

Last Word Whisky and Poetry — WORD Christchurch

Hats off to whoever decided to combine whisky with poetry, what a fantastic idea! Judging by the crowded seats of the Last Word I wasn’t the only one to think so. Perfect for a brisk winter afternoon.

WORD at the Last Word.

Sarah Jane Barnett kicked off the session by reading from a longer poem about coping with the devastation of your childhood home, something I’m sure many can relate to here in Christchurch:

She points to questions she has highlighted in bold yellow. “You need to answer these too.” She smiles. Her hand rests lightly. “Should I read them out?” she asks, as if lightness is a face she often wears. I say, I have good English, I’m a translator. But she reads to me, pointing and smiling.

David Howard read some opaque poetry:

If you want love to stay, shut up our house, covering the furniture with dirty sheets. When the moon was full, he could see it in the pond. Still, if he pulled the shutters there would be no colour, just the memory that is language. Bad language.

Steven Toussaint explored the influence of Dante:

Voluptuous, the resultant species, yes, but not itself the base whereby all voices balance. If the subjects meet before the finial seat is crossed, the gaze is lost in the ardour of all others.

And then luckily we returned to poetry I could understand with the moving, sometimes alarming words of Emma Neale:

Emma Neale performing at the Last Word.
Emma Neale performing at the Last Word.

and it’s the moment walking past
an unlit downtown doorway
when footsteps start their time-bomb tick
behind her:

stay calm, she thinks,
no sudden moves.

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