What we’re reading: Cho Nam-Joo, Steph Cha & Carmen Maria Machado
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.
Bronte Coates is reading Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (translated by Jamie Chang) (available late February)
I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of this novel from South Korean writer Cho Nam-Joo. The story of an ‘ordinary woman’ and the casually persistent sexism that she faces throughout her life, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 sparked an incredible response in Korea where it’s been hailed as a groundbreaking feminist novel. The English language translation is due to arrive at Australian bookshops in a matter of weeks, and I highly recommend readers seek it out. This is a slim, elegant and slightly strange novel that incorporates elements of autobiography and documentary. It’s a quiet story – Kim Jiyoung’s life is not especially remarkable or dramatic – but in between the scenes of everyday domesticity lie moments that will surprise and unsettle you in their directness. Cho’s bare-bones portrayal of patriarchy is not fiery or vindictive but rather, sad and uncomfortable.
Kim Gruschow is recommending three books this week
I’ve had a good run recently and read a couple of books that I have absolutely adored. The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis is the best thing I’ve read about finding hope in these bleak times. The art is exquisite, it’s incredibly moving, and definitely her most accomplished book yet. Over the weekend I devoured In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. It’s an extraordinarily skilful and innovative memoir that reports on abuse in queer relationships through a shifting array of lenses from places like folk and film. I was totally blown away by this book and there were many pages I found myself stopping to reread several times. I’ve also really enjoyed browsing through my copy of An Encyclopedia of Political Record Labels by Josh MacPhee, It’s a smartly presented and fascinating visual catalogue of labels that have formed part of radical culture. It goes deep, there’s a lot of super interesting detail in this book and I love looking at all the different logos.
Dani Solomon is reading Go with the Flow by Karen Schneemann & Lily Williams
Every time I see the words period, blood, pads, cramps or tampon in books for young people I feel like cheering! So of course I am absolutely adoring this story of four girls who set out to demystify periods at their high school. Sick of the school’s period product vending machines always being empty, the girls request to have it refilled. When this request is ignored by their male principal – who had no problem funding new uniforms for the football team – they deciding enough is enough.
When I was in school periods were always sort of whispered about. The one talk we had at school was very scientific and entirely unhelpful: I didn’t want to know why it was happening but rather, WHAT DO I DO? One time, I got my period while on a school trip and I remember tearfully asking a teacher for help. She walked me into the public toilets and loudly asked if anyone had any pads. Immediately, every woman in the room offered some up and with kind, funny words they shared their own similar experiences. This made it impossible for me to continue feeling embarrassed and ashamed. The kind and funny girls in Go with the Flow brought me straight back to that memory.
How marvellous for kids these days that they don’t need an emergency situation and a roomful of ladies to feel the same way! How fantastic that kids who are getting their periods for the first time will have access to such a great graphic novel such as this – a story that will help them to speak openly about periods and all that come with them. Go with the Flow is a charming, informative, interesting and diverse story abut friendship, periods and injustice. Highly recommended for ages 9 and up.