What we’re reading: Cece Bell, Marilyn Waring and Bill Bryson
Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films we’re watching, the television shows we’re hooked on or the music we’re loving.
Lian Hingee is reading The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Many years ago I spent a Gap Year working at a boarding school just outside of London. After I returned I discovered Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island, which I snickered through with delighted familiarity. Bryson has a magnificent way of getting to the heart of things and stripping them of their pretensions, but he does it in such an affectionate way that the sting is removed.
20 years and 12 books after the publication of this wonderful book, Bryson has returned to the UK with The Road to Little Dribbling – which begins with him taking his British citizenship test. Little Dribbling’s Bryson is different than Small Island’s Bryon – older, wiser, and a good deal grumpier – and the Britain in which he’s travelling has changed too. Increasingly, the charming and quaint is falling into disrepair or becoming victim to the march of ‘progress’, with village squares cemented over and stately homes bulldozed to make way for apartment towers. Nevertheless, throughout his travels (along the ‘Bryson Line’ as he dubs it), Bryon seeks out the little pockets of ‘pleasing Britannic things’ and presents them with the same somewhat delighted bewilderment that I so enjoyed in the first book.
Bronte Coates is reading El Deafo by Cece Bell
A loosely autobiographical account of Cece Bell’s childhood and living with deafness, El Deafo is one of my favourite books of the year (even though it was published in 2014). I read it a few months ago, but I’ve been thinking about it again recently as it’s a brilliant book for inspiring empathy. It’s pitched for children of ages 9 and up, but even as an adult, I found it an incredibly illuminating read.
Bell cleverly used a superhero metaphor to explain what it felt like to have a powerful and awkward hearing aid as a child; the aid gives her special abilities, but also isolates her from her classmates. The story is funny, touching and utterly believable. Bell perfectly depicts childhood and early adolescence feelings with a bittersweet poignancy.
Chris Gordon is reflecting on the politics of feminism and power
I’ve only recently watched Transparent. I know I’m late to this extraordinary show, but I’ve certainly made up for lost time as just binged straight through. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do. This show is an interesting, hilarious look at gender politics, and the craziness of modern-days quests for happiness; I’ve been profoundly moved at times. It’s also made me ponder on the ways that spirituality impact our definitions of happiness.
This weekend I’m fortunate enough to be attending the Victorian Women’ Trust Breakthrough conference at the Melbourne Town Hall where debate and discussion will centre on the politics of feminism and power. I’ll be chatting with Marilyn Waring about these very topics so I’ve been looking through her writings. Waring’s work (as well as shows like Transparent) confirm that we have a long road ahead to achieve freedom and equity. Waring cites Nina Simone as having the best definition of freedom: having no fear. Let’s work for that.