Reading life

What I Read in December

The War on Women – Sue Lloyd-Roberts

What the Cover Says: In 1973, Sue Lloyd-Roberts joined ITN as a news trainee and went on to be one of the UK’s first video-journalists to report from the bleak outposts of the Soviet Union. Travelling as a tourist, she also gained access to some of the world’s most impenetrable places like China, Tibet and Burma. During her 40-year-long career she witnessed the worst atrocities inflicted on women across the world. But in observing first-hand the war on the female race she also documented their incredible determination to fight back.  The War on Women brings to life the inconceivable and dangerous life Sue led. It tells the story of orphan Mary Merritt who, age sixteen, instead of being released from the care of nuns was interned by them in a Magdalen Laundry and forced to work twelve hours a day six days a week, without pay, for over a decade. She gives voice to Maimouna, the woman responsible for taking over her mother’s role as the village female circumciser in The Gambia and provides a platform for the 11-year-old Manemma, who was married off in Jaipur at the age of six. From the gender pay gap in Britain to forced marriage in Kashmir and from rape as a weapon of war to honour killings, Sue has examined humankind’s history and takes us on a journey to analyse the state of women’s lives today. Most importantly she acts as a mouthpiece for the brave ones; the ones who challenge wrongdoing; the ones who show courage no matter how afraid they are; the ones who are combatting violence across the globe; the ones who are fighting back.  Sue sadly died in 2015, shortly after writing this book, today she is widely recognised as one of the most acclaimed television journalists of her generation. This book is the small tribute to the full and incredible life she lived and through it these women’s voices are still being heard.

Why I Picked It Up: I think this was a recommendation – it had been sat in my Amazon basket for a while!

What I Thought:  I totally loved this book.  It’s beautifully written, not least the chapters by her daughter after Sue’s death.  This reminded me of Half the Sky: How to Change the World but I found this even more compelling.  The stories Sue tells are harrowing and personal accounts of the abuse that millions of women experience around the world.  This is one of those books that will make you angry, distraught, and compelled to action.

Women and Power: A Manifesto – Mary Beard

What the Cover Says: Britain’s best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from the classical world to the modern day, from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Hillary Clinton. Beard explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women, our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship with power, and how powerful women resist being packaged into a male template.  With personal reflections on her own experiences of the sexism and gendered aggression she has endured online, Mary asks: if women aren’t perceived to be within the structures of power, isn’t it power that we need to redefine?

Why I Picked It Up: I’ve always been a fan of Mary Beard, not least with the way she deals with the torrent of abuse she gets every time she speaks out, so I gladly bought this when Amazon suggested I buy it (I’m such a sucker for those algorithms!)

What I Thought: I found this absolutely fascinating.  The book is really short; it’s based on a couple of lectures Beard has given.  She looks at the Greco-Roman roots of the way women are excluded from power in our society and how their voices are silenced and shut down.  A book like this shows that we have choices about the way our society is structured and, by understanding the origins of our traditions, we are empowered to change them.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small payment for any products you purchase.

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