Saturday, 29 October 2016

Native American November | Announcement + TBR!

November is Native American Heritage Month!

I've been fascinated by Native American history since I read Celia Rees's Witch Child when I was around fourteen, and the older I grew the more I realised just how much western, European societies completely screwed over indigenous people around the world.

The worst thing is indigenous people are still being treated poorly; in fact one of America's most popular holidays is celebrated because Native Americans helped starving colonials and the settlers then repayed them by slaughtering them. Ah, good times.

I know very, very little about Native American history but it's something I'm constantly eager to learn more about. I've been meaning to do a reading challenge like this for a while now and there's no time like the present!

If you'd like to join in then please feel free! If you would like to join in, I've created three 'rules' to encourage reading that doesn't encourage oppression, white-washing or victimisation. Naturally books that feature horrible moments in history are likely to be read during a reading challenge like this, but I'd like it to be a primarily positive and eye-opening experience.

1) Read a book written by a Native American author. Someone like Sherman Alexie or Thomas King, for example! Someone who's as white as milk but whose great great grandmother was Native American doesn't count.

2) Read a book with a Native American protagonist. Something like Celia Rees's Sorceress or Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

3) Read a book with Native American characters. These are books in which the protagonist may not be Native American, but there are characters in the book who are Native American and who also have agency. The Twilight books would fit into this category, as would Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves.

You don't have to do any of these challenges to take part, I don't want this to come across as some strict reading challenge if it is something you want to do, I can only suggest that, if you do want to take part, you read books that don't exoticise America's indigenous people or treat them as punching bags with no agency. Don't do what Joe Wright did when he cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily...

So what'll I be reading? Well there are a few books I own I've yet to get to, and now seems like the perfect time to gobble them up! I don't know if I'll get to all of them, though I hope I do, because I'm going to try and take part in a few other reading challenges this month too, but I'm certainly going to try.

I'd be a hypocrite if my TBR didn't match my own rules, so I've got a book for each. I've been meaning to read more Geraldine Brooks since I read and enjoyed Year of Wonders which, like Caleb's Crossing, is a fictionalised account of a true event. Caleb's Crossing is based on the first Native American student to graduate from Harvard in 1665; while the student himself isn't our protagonist he's still a very important character, and instead our protagonist is Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Puritan minister whose childhood friendship with Caleb, a local chieftain's son, ends up with her following him to college as his housekeeper. It's Bethia's father who sends Caleb to college, intending to prove that 'savages' can be 'civilised', and Bethia's forced to watch her friend receive the education her own sex deprives her of.

Joseph Boyden's The Orenda has three protagonists, two of whom are Native Americans. Or I suppose I should say Native Canadians, given that Canada is actually the setting of this novel, but I'm still going to count them as part of this challenge for no other reason than that it wasn't actually North America's indigenous population who decided Canada and the United States were separate countries so... Anyway, I've yet to read any Joseph Boyden but I've heard nothing but good things, particularly about this novel. It's quite chunky but I'm looking forward to diving into it!

I mentioned Thomas King above and unlike the other books on my TBR The Inconvenient Indian is a piece of non-fiction, and another book I've heard nothing but praise for. Thomas King is a Native American writer who, through this book, explores the history of North America's indigenous population, the way indingeous people are still treated now, and even how Native Americans are portrayed in the media. I think it's going to be a heart-breaking read, but an importand and informative one. If I can only get to one of these books this month, I hope it's this one.

I'll be back in a few days with some recommendations for anyone interested in joining me for this reading challenge, and if not I hope you look forward to any reviews or discussions I post throughout November!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | Witch, Please

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is a Halloween freebie, so I thought I'd share my favourite fictional witches with you!

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: We all know this girl was going to make my list. I love Luna and Ginny and Tonks and so many other HP ladies, too, but Hermione speaks to my inner nerd; she never plays dumb to impress anyone and she's a darn good witch.

Sabrina Spellman from Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003): I grew up in the '90s and always watched this show when I came home from school. I loved Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It's so much fun - and funny! - and I spent a lot of time wishing I had a cat like Salem. What I loved most about Sabrina was that, despite all the magic, her struggles were still the usual struggles teenagers find themselves facing, from homework to bullying to boyfriends.

Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy: Before Harry Potter, I read The Worst Witch. I can clearly remember being given some of the books for one of my birthdays from my Nana and, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I loved the TV series. Poor Mildred's rather hopeless, but you certainly can't fault the girl for trying! That's what I love about her; she makes a mistake, then she gets back up, dusts herself off, and tries again.

Winifred, Mary and Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus (1993): I know these three are the villains but they're SO MUCH FUN. I adore Hocus Pocus, I watched it so many times when I was a child, and Bette Midler's rendition of 'I Put a Spell On You' will always be my favourite.

Sally and Gillian Owens from Practical Magic (1998): I know Practical Magic is also a book, but I'm afraid I'm only familiar with the film. The first time I watched it I didn't like it that much, but then I watched it again and ended up loving it. It's not the best film in the world - it's a little cheesy and, ultimately, very '90s - but what I love most about it is that the love at the centre of it all is the love between these two sisters, and to me that's what witchcraft should be about. Witchcraft is covens and sisterhood, by blood or not, and this film understands that.

Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989): I know, another villain, but Ursula's just fabulous, and she's the only sea witch on the list! She has one of the best Disney villain songs in my opinion (though I think Be Prepared is my favourite) and, like the Sanderson sisters, she's so much fun. It's easy to like witches like them because we know they're going to be defeated, even though it's freaking terrifying that Ursula shrinks merpeople down when they can't pay up and then eats them. I considered putting Maleficent on this list purely because she's one of the few Disney villains who genuinely terrified me as a child, but while I think Sleeping Beauty is beautiful it's never been one of my favourite Disney movies; I'm a child of the '90s, so I love Ursula a little more.

Eglantine Price from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971): Bedknobs and Broomsticks is one of the most underrated Disney films in my opinion, and it's also one of my favourites. Like Practical Magic this was a book first but I'm afraid I'm only familiar with the film starring the fantastic Angela Lansbury. Eglantine is almost an adult Mildred Hubble - she's constantly turning people into rabbits when she means to turn them into toads - the big difference is she's being taught by a magician who doesn't believe in magic, so he gets something of a shock when he discovers that when she casts his spells, they work. Honestly what isn't there to love about a witch who fights Nazis?

Liza Hempstock from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman's one of my favourite authors and The Graveyard Book has to be my favourite book of his (with American Gods a very close second) because of its characters. I adore Bod, I adore Silas, I adore Miss Lupescu and I adore Liza Hempstock - in fact she's quite possibly my favourite character in the book. Bod is taught to fear the unmarked grave just outside the cemetery, buried in unconsecrated ground, but it turns out to be the unmarked grave of a teenage girl executed for being a witch. The fact that all she wants is a gravestone breaks my heart a little and I love her.

Mary Newbury from Witch Child by Celia Rees: I had to include Mary on this list because Witch Child is the book that really got me into witches, not only in fiction but also in terms of European and North American history. 

Meche from Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: One of my favourite heroines from one of my favourite books. If you want to read about witchcraft that's a little different then you need to read Signal to Noise, because not only is it set (refreshingly) in Mexico, as opposed to all the British and American witch stories out there, but Meche learns to cast magic with her vinyl records. I just adore her.

What did you talk about this week?