“It’s Okay For You To Be Angry”: A Review of Clementine Ford’s ‘Fight Like A Girl’

“Dear girls, I wish that I had written the rules.”

– Clementine Ford

 

Fight Like A Girl is a manifesto like no other. Having seen this book becoming a staple read on my twitter feed and amongst readers whose taste I completely trust, I could not resist picking up this book. As most of you will know, I am a sucker for Feminist Literature.

Fight Like A Girl, written by online sensation and fearless feminist writer Clementine Ford, is the book that has been missing from my bookshelves for far too long. It is more than just a critique of gender inequality, it is a battle cry for women to rediscover their anger about these inequalities, and to re-evaluate why feminism has been considered such a threat to the status quo.

Being new to Clementine Ford and her work, reading this book was like finding a new friend to talk about feminism with. Her voice is incredibly authentic and real – there she is, right there standing there telling you about what makes her angry and why it is okay to be angry about it. She is unapologetically upfront and blunt about the issues in this book, which themselves are incredibly varied – sexual violence, rape culture, eating disorders, mental health issues, female friendships, male rights activists, and ignorant commentary. But all these issues have one thing at their core – women are unnecessarily copping all the pain and suffering for them.

It was so refreshing to have all these issues placed in the immediate context of Australian society. Most other contemporary feminist literature has held its focus elsewhere – primarily in the US and the UK. Whilst the majority of issues being discussed in the books I have read move across borders, the direct references to events and Australian cultural expectations and behaviours make this book so much more relevant to the reader. It is impossible not to see how these issues affect us, especially when Ford spells it out so clearly for us in our own backyard.

I love Clementine Ford in much the same way as I do Caitlin Moran – they are unapologetic feminists with something to say, and they are going to make sure you understand. The terminology is easy to understand, the references are relevant and familiar and you can’t help but want to be their friend and tell people about how awesome they are. Also, they swear a lot and don’t care what you have to say about it – my favourite kind of feminist.

Unlike some of Caitlin Moran’s earlier work though, Clementine Ford makes sure to give a content warning at the beginning of her book, in case some of the issues being discussed are harmful triggers for women reading this book. Beyond that, she is sure to include all women-identifying people in her definition of women and girls – something that I have not seen written into an easily accessible feminist text in such a clear way. Ford makes it very clear that her cis-gendered white middle class privilege will impact what she says, and is deliberate in her inclusion of all groups of female identifying women of all backgrounds, classes, creeds and colours. I am so glad to see that she treats this discussion with a sense of obviousness – why wouldn’t she include these women? They are women, and they are dealing with the same, if not more problems than she is.

More than anything, the familiarity of Ford’s voice and her experiences is incredible. Not once did I ever feel like I was a stranger to what she was talking about. I have wanted a book like this that was written by an Australian feminist for a long time, and I am so grateful that Clementine Ford wrote it. Honestly, this book should be required reading – and I don’t say that lightly. If everyone read this book, and felt the way I feel after reading it, I can only imagine what a difference it could make.

fight like a girl cover.jpg

 

Fight Like A Girl (RRP $29.99) is available in all good book stores now or directly from the publisher, Allen & Unwin, hereAs always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from, and support their local independent book stores.

Thank you once again to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy of Clementine Ford’s Fight Like A Girl. Whilst I was sent the book for reviewing purposes, I was not in any way paid or financially obligated to write this review.

 

 

© Hayley New 2016

The Four Legendary Kingdoms: A Review of Matthew Reilly’s Latest Adventure

I have been Matthew Reilly novels since I was probably way too young to be reading Matthew Reilly novels. Of all his work, Reilly’s Jack West Jr series is by far my favourite, which means that the EXCRUCIATING wait between the last in the series, The Five Greatest Warriors, and the newest instalment, The Four Legendary Kingdoms, has felt incredibly long.

But, trust me, it was worth it.

The Four Legendary Kingdoms is a brilliant novel, and one that differentiates itself from the rest of the series. There is an acknowledgement of the time that has passed between books, and the regularity of life between books is given a sanctity. Lily is at college, Zoe is conducting research trips, Jack has adopted a poodle (I know right?!) – they have been granted a few years of relative peace after a series of incredible adventures.

That is, until Jack wakes up in a dark room, his head shaven and a Minotaur charging at him.

And so begins a strange tournament of the strongest and strangest humans on the planet – one that is rooted in pre-history and may decide the future of the planet itself. Just your average day for Jack West Jr…

The Four Legendary Kingdoms does something different from the other books in the Jack West Jr series, largely by keeping the main action all in one place, and any surrounding events circulating around that place. There is something discomforting about having Jack stuck in one place, not knowing what is going on, especially when you consider that Jack is usually travelling all over the world with a very specific knowledge of what he is looking for. That discomfort mixed with the immediacy of the action creates a constant state of suspense for a reader, one that only adds to the wonder of this book.

Then there is the incredible plot twist – one that I will not spoil here because it would be a terrible thing to do to prospective readers. For all those people who are familiar with Reilly’s work, let me just say, you will love the twist, as much as it will shock you. When my Mum read the book, she rushed into my room with the look of a total fangirl wanting to gush about that moment when the twist is revealed and to make my Mum act like that is the mark of an incredible plot twist. I applaud Matthew Reilly, and thank him for that moment.

One of my favourite things about Matthew Reilly’s novels is the amount of research that goes into constructing them – and this book was no exception. The incredible work that goes into weaving history, mythology and politics together to create the circumstances of each novel is always astonishing, and I am always amazed by how everything comes together, even the most far flung details. To do such research and turn it seamlessly into such an intelligent and original novel is astounding, and as a writer myself, I can only aspire to do such justice in my work.

It is hard to talk any more about The Four Legendary Kingdoms without giving away plot spoilers for this book, or previous books in the series, so I will finish here by saying that no matter your taste in books, this is a series for you. I would not normally read books like this, but it Reilly’s Jack West Jr series has quickly become one of my favourite reads – and I don’t doubt it will become one of yours as well.

 

The Four Legendary Kingdoms is now available from Pan Macmillan Australia or in all good bookstores. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from and support their local independent bookstores.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of Matthew Reilly’s The Four Legendary Kingdoms. Whilst I was sent the book for reviewing purposes, I was not in any way paid or financially obligated to write this review.

© Hayley New 2016

On Hamilton, Politics and Pence

 “[Hamilton] is such a nice escape from all the craziness in our world right now. It’s about two famous New York politicians locked in a dirty, ugly, mud-slinging political campaign – escapism.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda on Saturday Night Live

“Vice President-elect Pence we welcome you and truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton, an American Musical. We really do. We sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our parents or defend us and uphold our unalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us. We truly thank you for sharing in this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colours, creeds and orientations and we truly hope that you heard our message sir, because you all represent all of us.”

 – Brandon Victor Dixon at the Richard Rogers Theatre

 

Hamilton is by definition a show about politics. The whole second act is an account of the creation of the American political system. The first act is just as political, singing out about the power of revolution and fighting for the unheard voices. The recently released remixes of Hamilton tracks as part of the highly anticipated Hamilton Mixtape are even more intensely political – just listen to ‘Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)’.

When Mike Pence walked into the Richard Rogers Theatre on Friday night, he knew what he was walking into. The plot of Hamilton is no secret – not only is it pulled from history books, but it has become such a pop-culture phenomenon that even those not schooled in US History know what it is about, and what it has come to stand for. Hamilton is not just about telling the story of an immigrant, or a group of revolutionaries, or even the women who are normally silenced in these stories – it is the very place where these people stand on stage, and sit across from their counterparts in the audience. The cast of Hamilton has always included an incredibly diverse group of people, representing the US to the best of its ability, and this has been one of the most discussed and celebrated aspects of the show’s work. Mike Pence did not go in blindly.

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain it must have caused for the company of Hamilton to perform for Mike Pence that night. Mr Pence, much like Mr Trump has been very open about his proposed policies, and many of those policies are directed at the very people and communities that Hamilton seeks to represent each night. Beyond that, it must have been hard to be an audience member in that room with Mr Pence. New York has been a hot spot for protests against President-Elect Trump and Vice President-Elect Pence since the results of the election were announced. But the actions of the Hamilton company were not just those of protest – they were a show of acceptance, acceptance of the upcoming Trump-Pence administration, and acceptance of the power these people will now hold. More than that, they were an act of faith – faith in their nation’s democracy, and faith in the man standing surrounded by security on his way out of their theatre that he would stop, if only for a moment, to hear them.

The theatre has always been a space for people to ask for people to listen to them. It has become a tradition for cast members to step forward once the show has finished to ask patrons to donate money to a particular cause, or to inform them about large social and cultural issues that they can make a difference in. The theatre has always been a safe space for actors to use their platform to give a voice to the people who aren’t always heard.

Hamilton has participated in this tradition before. And this is no different.

Mr Trump, who took to Twitter to voice his anger, said that “the theatre must always be a safe and special place”, and I fail to see how that was not the case here. When Brandon Victor Dixon stood forward, speech in hand, he was standing there for all the voices who have been crying out in all their different ways since the election. With the greatest respect for the position he had, and for the position the man he was addressing has now gained, he thanked him for listening, for choosing this show, choosing to hear them, and for choosing to stay for a few moments to hear the people he spoke for. Dixon used his position to stand up for the voices needed to be heard – loud, clearly and without hate speech and violence. As Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the show, tweeted later “Proud of @HamiltonMusical. Proud of @BrandonVDixon, for leading with love. And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theatre.” And honestly, if that does not show the power of the theatre as a safe and special place for everyone, I don’t know what does.

I am not a fan of Mike Pence or his proposed policies, but for a second let’s put that aside. I am not here to talk about my political views, I am here to defend the place of theatre and I want to take a moment to talk about this event specifically. Despite being booed on his way in, Mr Pence did go to Hamilton, and he watched it. Theatre is a space for learning, for education, and a place to test your own personal views. Given that, Mr Pence’s very presence in that space shows, for me at least, a glimpse of hope. He went to perhaps the most political show running on Broadway and listened to every word of it. More than that, when the show ended and the cast stayed to address him directly, he stopped. He didn’t demand an apology. He didn’t walk away. Despite the audience’s booing (which the cast made sure to discourage) he stayed and listened.

And that act of staying and listening gives me hope for the next four years.

So please, Mr Pence, keep on listening.

 

© Hayley New 2016