Foyles Bookshop - Blogs
Close
Enter your search into one or more of the boxes below:
You can refine your search by selecting from any of the options below:
Search
Your Shopping Basket
AYOB
Signed Copies
Account Services

Blogs

Find Blog:

May 2022

1
0
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
23rd May 2022 - Maggie Shipstead

Read an extract from
Great Circle by
Maggie Shipstead

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

 

Having won the Dylan Thomas Prize for her debut novel Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead's third novel Great Circle is now available in paperback. Already garnering huge praise, with luminous, ambitious and epic being just some of the words used to describe it, this really is the kind of fiction to take readers on a true voyage. Especially for Foyles, Shipstead has selected one onf her favourite pieces from the novel and introduces it below. 

 


 

The bulk of my third novel, Great Circle, is about a pilot named Marian Graves, who disappears in 1950 while trying to fly around the world north-south, but her story is interwoven with that of a modern movie star named Hadley Baxter. Hadley has been cast to play Marian in a movie about her life, and it’s been suggested that she take flying lessons for research, despite the fact that her parents were killed in a small plane crash. In this scene, Hadley is nervously going up for the first time with an instructor from a small airport in Los Angeles, where I live. I loved writing Hadley’s sections. Her voice is sharp and intense and sometimes acerbic, and I could channel a specific vision of L.A. through her. Part of what draws Hadley to Marian, both as a role and as a mystery, is that Marian seemed to know exactly what she wanted in life, whereas Hadley longs for purpose and certainty. Here, Hadley can’t quite access Marian’s love of flight. I sympathize with her, as I found my one brief experience at the controls of an airplane to be unnerving. Even within a book that is preoccupied with the true marvel of flight, I wanted to acknowledge that not everyone is meant to fly. But I’ll leave open the question of whether Hadley might try again later
 

************

The instructor pilot had thick salt-and-pepper hair the texture of a badger’s and a fat gold wedding band and aviator sunglasses in his front shirt pocket for when the sun came up. He didn’t seem flustered by me. He walked around the plane, explaining what all the different parts did. The Cessna was chunky and earnest-looking, cream-colored with two brown stripes and a single propeller. The morning was overcast. The long strips of grass between the little airport’s runways were gray with dew.

          “So what happens on an introductory flight like this,” the pilot said, “is we’ll take off and get up over the marine layer and fly around a bit, and I’ll explain what I’m doing, and then you can have a turn at the controls. Sound good?”

          “Sure,” I said.

          I must not have sounded convincing because he said, “You nervous?”

          “A little.” I could tell he hadn’t bothered to google me, didn’t know about my parents. He thought my misgivings could be cajoled away.

          “Don’t be. I do this every day. I’ll talk you through every step, and you don’t have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with. Deal?”

          Ordinarily I would have found his teacher-coach vibe irritating, but now it reassured me. “Deal,” I said, and he beamed, close-lipped.

          The seats in the cockpit were bourbon-colored leather, cracked with use. The doors locked with levers that seemed too flimsy to keep out the sky, and the seat belts were floppy nylon straps that didn’t retract. We put on green plastic headsets, the cups bulbous like flies’ eyes, and the pilot’s voice came pinched and tinny through them over the noise of the engine as it warmed up. He was telling me about the instruments, pointing at the dashboard, but I wasn’t really listening because I had no plans to ever become a pilot. What caught my attention was the slight sideways jostle of the plane caused by the turning propeller. I knew the plane didn’t have a mind or feelings, wasn’t capable of eagerness, but it was an eager, ready feeling, like a racehorse in a starting gate or a boxer just before the bell, the movement of something constrained that knew it was about to be free.

          The pilot taxied out and throttled forward, peeled us up off the runway into pulsing gray cloud. The propeller droned; my armpits prickled. I held perfectly still, as though the plane were a frightened animal I didn’t want to startle. The pilot was talking, but I couldn’t focus on his words. When we surfaced into the sky, pulling the sun up with a flash, he said, “There she is!”

          A mat of plush gray lay over the ocean and the coast. Mountaintops poked up like islands. “That’s Catalina,” the pilot said, pointing. So some were actually islands. 

          He made the plane go slowly up and down, turned it to the right and then to the left, explaining about balanced turns, about how you didn’t just steer with your hands but also controlled the rudder with your feet. Eventually he asked if I wanted to try. “Put your hands on the yoke,” he said. “Don’t turn, just try to fly straight and level.”

          I put my hands on the yoke. I felt overwhelmed by precariousness.

          “Good,” said the pilot. “Now, Hadley, if you want, you can gently pull back, and the plane will go up.”

          At first I pulled so tentatively I wasn’t pulling at all, and nothing happened. I pulled harder. The windshield angled incrementally toward the sky, and I felt the earth falling away behind me, sucking me down.

          I snatched my hands away. “I don’t want to do it,” I said.

          “Okay,” the pilot said, calmly taking over, clearly no stranger to freak-outs. “Okay, but you did just fine. You asked the plane to go up, and it went up.”

          I said, “I don’t like the feeling.”

          He shook his head. “Best feeling in the world,” he said.

 



Maggie Shipstead's debut novel Seating Arrangements was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and L A Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, The Best American Short Stories and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a two- time National Magazine Award finalist for fiction. Her latest novel Great Circle has been seven years in the writing and is due to be published around the world. Maggie Shipstead grew up in California and lives in Los Angeles, California.

 

The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura
21st May 2022

Your new obssession -
The Woman in
the Purple Skirt

by Natsuko Imamura

The Woman in the Purple Skirt

 

Published to high praise from Paula Hawkins, Sayaka Murata and Oyinkan Braithwaite, The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura is a beguiling and unsettling tale of increasing obsession, and is now available in paperback. The woman in the yellow cardigan becomes infatuated with the woman in the purple skirt, who she first sees buying her daily pastry, and goes to great lengths to discover more about her. Subtler than a thriller, but equally as punchy, this elegant novel is sure to capture readers with it's delicate yet voyeuristic narrative, and here you can an exclusive extract from the beginning of the novel

 



There's a person living not too far from me known as the Woman in the Purple Skirt. She only ever wears a purple-colored skirt—which is why she has this name.

          At first I thought the Woman in the Purple Skirt must be a young girl. This is probably because she is small and delicate looking, and because she has long hair that hangs down loosely over her shoulders. From a distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking she was about thirteen. But look carefully, from up close, and you see she’s not young—far from it. She has age spots on her cheeks, and that shoulder length black hair is not glossy—it’s quite dry and stiff. About once a week, the Woman in the Purple Skirt goes to a bakery in the local shopping district and buys herself a little custard-filled cream bun. I always pretend to be taking my time deciding which pastries to buy, but in reality I’m getting a good look at her. And as I watch, I think to myself: She reminds me of somebody. But who?

          There’s even a bench, a special bench in the local park, that’s known as the Woman in the Purple Skirt’s Exclusively Reserved Seat. It’s one of three benches on the park’s south side—the farthest from the entrance.

          On certain days, I’ve seen the Woman in the Purple Skirt purchase her cream bun from the bakery, walk through the shopping district, and head straight for the park. The time is just past three in the afternoon. The evergreen oaks that border the south side of the park provide shade for the Exclusively Reserved Seat. The Woman in the Purple Skirt sits down in the middle of the bench and proceeds to eat her cream bun, holding one hand cupped underneath it, in case any of the custard filling spills onto her lap. After gazing for a second or two at the top of the bun, which is decorated with sliced almonds, she pops that too into her mouth, and proceeds to chew her last mouthful particularly slowly and lingeringly.

          As I watch her, I think to myself:

          I know: the Woman in the Purple Skirt bears a resemblance to my sister! Of course, I’m aware that she is not actually my sister. Their faces are totally different.

          But my sister was also one of those people who take their time with that last mouthful. Normally mild mannered, and happy to let me, the younger of the two of us, prevail in any of our sibling squabbles, my sister was a complete obsessive when it came to food. Her favorite was purin—the caramel custard cups available at every supermarket and convenience store. After eating it, she would often stare for ten, even twenty minutes at the caramel sauce, just dipping the little plastic spoon into it. I remember once, unable to bear it, swiping the cup out of her hands. “Give it to me, if you’re not going to eat it!” The fight that ensued—stuff pulled to the floor, furniture tipped over . . . I still have scars on my upper arms from her scratches, and I’m sure she still has the teeth marks I left on her thumb. It’s been twenty years since my parents divorced and the family broke apart. I wonder where my sister is now, and what she’s doing. Here I am thinking she still loves purin, but who knows, things change, and she too has probably changed.

          If the Woman in the Purple Skirt bears a resemblance to my sister, then maybe that means she is like me . . . ? No? But it’s not as if we have nothing in common. For now, let’s just say she’s the Woman in the Purple Skirt, and I’m the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. 

          Unfortunately, no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That’s the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.

          When the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan goes out walking in the shopping district, nobody pays the slightest bit of attention. But when the Woman in the Purple Skirt goes out, it’s impossible not to pay attention. Nobody could ignore her.

          Say if she were to appear at the other end of the arcade. Everybody would immediately react—in one of four broad ways. Some people would pretend they hadn’t seen her, and carry on as before. Others would quickly move aside, to give her room to pass. Some would pump their fists, and look happy and hopeful. Others would do the opposite, and look fearful and downcast. (It’s one of the rules that two sightings in a single day means good luck, while three means bad luck.)

 



Natsuko Imamura

Natsuko Imamura was born in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980. Her fiction has won various prestigious Japanese literary prizes, including the Noma Literary New Face Prize, the Mishima Yukio Prize, and the Akutagawa Prize. She lives in Osaka with her husband and daughter.

Lucy North is a British translator of Japanese fiction and non-fiction. Her translations include Toddler Hunting and Other Stories, as yet the sole book of fiction in English by Taeko Kono, and Record of a Night Too Brief, a collection of stories by Hiromi Kawakami. Her fiction translations have appeared in Granta, Words Without Borders, and The Southern Review and in several anthologies, including The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories and The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature. She lives in Hastings, East Sussex.

 

The Country of Others by Leila Slimani
19th May 2022

Read an extract from
The Country of Others
by Leila Slimani

The Country of Others

 

Two nations at war. Two cultures in conflict.
One couple caught in the crossfire. One woman torn apart.

 

The Country of Others is the new paperback from Leila Slimani, bestselling author of Lullaby and Adele, and is the first volume of a dazzling new trilogy telling the saga of one French family between 1946 and 2016. Powerful and perceptive, this is one of the most compelling and evocative novels you will read this year, and here you can exclusively read the opening chapter

 



 

The first time Mathilde visited the farm, she thought: It’s too remote. The isolation made her anxious. He didn’t have a car back then, in 1947, so they crossed the fifteen miles from Meknes on an old cart, driven by a Gypsy. Amine paid no attention to the discomfort of the wooden bench, nor to the dust that made his wife cough. He had eyes only for the landscape. He was eager to reach the estate that his father had left him.

          In 1935, after years spent working as a translator in the colonial army, Kadour Belhaj had purchased these hectares of stony ground. He’d told his son how he hoped to turn it into a flourishing farm that would feed generations of Belhaj children. Amine remembered his father’s gaze, his unwavering voice as he described his plans for the farm. Acres of vines, he’d explained, and whole hectares given over to cereals. They would build a house on the sunniest part of the hill, surrounded by fruit trees. The driveway would be lined with almond trees. Kadour was proud that this land would one day belong to his son. ‘Our land!’ He uttered these words not in the way of nationalists or colonists – in the name of moral principles or an ideal – but simply as a landowner who was happy to own land. Old Belhaj wanted to be buried here, he wanted his children to be buried here; he wanted this land to nurture him and to be his last resting place. But he died in 1939, while his son was training with the Spahi Regiment, proudly wearing the burnous and the sirwal. Before leaving for the front, Amine – the eldest son, and now the head of the family – rented the land to a Frenchman born in Algeria.

          When Mathilde asked what he had died of, this father-in-law she’d never met, Amine touched his belly and silently nodded. Later, Mathilde found out what had happened. After returning from Verdun, Kadour Belhaj suffered with chronic stomach pains that no Moroccan healer or European doctor was able to allay. So this man, who boasted of his love of reason, his education, his talent for foreign languages, dragged himself, weighed down by shame and despair, to a basement occupied by a chouafa. The sorceress tried to convince him that he was bewitched, that some powerful enemy was responsible for his suffering. She handed him a sheet of paper folded in four, containing some saffron-yellow powder. That evening he drank the remedy, diluted in water, and he died a few hours later in terrible pain. The family didn’t like to talk about it. They were ashamed of the father’s naivety and of the circumstances of his death, for the venerable officer had emptied his bowels on the patio of the house, his white djellaba soaked with shit.

          This day in April 1947, Amine smiled at Mathilde and told the driver to speed up. The Gypsy rubbed his dirty bare feet together and whipped the mule even harder. Mathilde flinched. The man’s violence towards the animal revolted her. He clicked his tongue – ‘Ra!’ – and brought the lash down on the mule’s skeletal rump. It was spring and Mathilde was two months pregnant. The fields were covered in marigolds, mallows and starflowers. A cool breeze shook the sunflowers. On both sides of the road they saw the houses of French colonists, who had been here for twenty or thirty years and whose plantations stretched gently down to the horizon. Most of them had come from Algeria and the authorities had granted them the best and biggest plots of land. Reaching out with one hand while using the other as a visor to shield his eyes from the midday sun, Amine contemplated the vast expanse. Then he pointed to a line of cypresses that encircled the estate of Roger Mariani, who’d made his fortune as a winemaker and pig farmer. From the road they couldn’t see the house, or even the acres of vines, but Mathilde had no difficulty imagining the wealth of this farmer, a wealth that filled her with hope for her own future. The serenely beautiful landscape reminded her of an engraving hung above the piano at her music teacher’s house in Mulhouse. She remembered this man telling her: ‘It’s in Tuscany, mademoiselle. Perhaps one day you will go to Italy.’

          The mule came to a halt and started eating the grass that grew by the side of the road. The animal had no intention of climbing the slope that faced them, strewn with large white stones. The driver stood up in a fury and began showering the mule with insults and lashes. Mathilde felt tears well behind her eyelids. Trying to hold them back, she pressed herself against her husband, who was irritated by her sensitivity.

          ‘What’s the matter with you?’ Amine said.

          ‘Tell him to stop hitting that poor mule.’

          Mathilde put her hand on the Gypsy’s shoulder and looked at him, like a child seeking to appease an angry parent. But the driver grew even more violent. He spat on the ground, raised his arm and said: ‘You want a good whipping too?’

          The mood changed and so did the landscape. They came to the top of a shabby-looking hill. No flowers here, no cypresses, only a few stunted olive trees surviving amid the rocks and stones. The hill appeared hostile to life. We’re not in Tuscany any more, thought Mathilde. This was more like the Wild West. They got off the cart and walked to a small, charmless little building with a corrugated-iron roof. It wasn’t a house, just a series of small, dark, damp rooms. There was only one window, located high up to prevent vermin getting in, and it let through the barest hint of daylight. On the walls, Mathilde noticed large greenish stains caused by the recent rains. The former tenant had lived alone; his wife had gone back to live in Nîmes after losing a child, and he’d never bothered making the house more attractive. It was not a family home. Despite the warmth of the air, Mathilde felt chilled. When Amine told her his plans she was filled with anxiety.

 



Leila Slimani

Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France's most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, which she won for Lullaby. A journalist and frequent commentator on women's and human rights, she is French president Emmanuel Macron's personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture. Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

Author Photo © Catherine Helie

 

Diary of a Film by Niven Govinden
16th May 2022 - Niven Govinden

Immersive and beguiling -
 Diary of a Film
by Niven Govinden
 

Diary of a Film


If you've been missing the simple joys of wandering around a European city, lost in the narrow streets and local atmosphere, then allow Niven Govinden's new novel Diary of a Film to take you away for a little while. This is a meditative novel about cinema, flâneurs, and queer love, which begins as an auteur arrives at a prestigious European festival to premiere his latest film, and falls under the spell of the city's secrets, both historic and personal. Here Govinden introduces his novel, and generously shares some of the books which inspired and intrigued him during the creative process of writing his new work.

 


 

"Diary of a Film", my sixth novel, is a love letter to cinema but also to books, lost art, and the dreaming that comes from walking around European cities. I always think of novels in terms of generosity: as well as giving the reader one particular vision, it should also direct you to further points of interest. How many odysseys have begun after reading a much-loved novel? For me, countless journeys. In this spirit, here's a reading list comprising novels, essays, biography, interviews, travelogue, photographic plates and recipes, intended to keep you enveloped in the world of "Diary of a Film" as well as leading you to the mist that surrounded me as I wrote it. Happy travels. 

 

Gilbert Adair - "The Dreamers" (Faber)

James Baldwin - "Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone" (Penguin)

Giorgio Bassani - "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" (Penguin)

Robert Bresson - "Notes on the Cinematograph" (NYRB Classics)

Ray Carney ed. - "Cassavetes on Cassavetes" (Faber) 

Teju Cole - "Blind Spot" (Faber)

Anna Del Conte - "Gastronomy of Italy" (Pavilion)

Lauren Elkin - "Flaneuse" (Vintage)

Philip French - "I Found It At The Movies: Reflections of a Cinephile" (Carcanet)

Luigi Ghirri - "Complete Essays" (Mack)

David Llewellyn - "A Simple Scale" (Poetry Wales Press)

William Maxwell - "The Folded Leaf" (Vintage)

Jan Morris - "Venice" (Faber)

Rachel Roddy - "Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome" (Hodder)

Domenico Starnone - "Ties" (Europa)

Jean Stein - "West of Eden" (Cape)

Frederic Strauss ed. - "Almodovar on Almodovar" (Faber)

Wim Wenders - "Instant Stories" (Thames & Hudson)

 



Niven Govinden

 

Niven Govinden is the author of five previous novels, most recently This Brutal House, which was longlisted for the Jhalak Prize and shortlisted for the Polari and Gordon Burn Prizes.

 

The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye
9th May 2022

Vital, clear and
powerfully humane -
The Transgender Issue
by Shon Faye

The Transgender Issue


There's no two ways about it; The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye is a landmark work that should be read far and wide, which signals the beginning of a new, healthier conversation about trans life. Available now in paperback, and with praise from the likes of Sarah Schulman, Juno Dawson, Owen Jones and Mark O'Connell, Faye's writing is deeply researched and experience-based, whilst also sparklingly precise, inspiring and and truly forward-thinking.

Especially for Foyles, Faye has chosen an extract from her book to share on our blog, and has also written an introduction giving insight into her motivation for writing this powerful, very necessary book. 
 


 

After a new wave of visibility in popular culture in the mid 2010s it seemed that society was beginning to move towards a new acceptance of trans people after decades of engaging in public displays of ridicule and cruelty. More and more trans people, like me, seemed to be open about their identities and the media in Britain and beyond gave those of us who work in journalism more space and platforms to shed light on issues facing trans people. However, this was to be short lived. As the campaigner Christine Burns has pointed out, trans people committed the ultimate crime for any minority group: being more visible. As a result, right wing and conservative forces from the US and the Murdoch media became intent on generating a backlash against the political progress trans people had made and began manufacturing a campaign of hostility and moral panic towards and about transgender lives. 


As a writer who occasionally wrote positively about trans people and their lives, I suddenly found my attempts to report on the discrimination and hostility the most vulnerable trans people face across their lives -  from school to healthcare, from the workplace to the care home – drowned out by a committed campaign of disinformation which treated us as inherently suspect, secretly powerful, proponents of a harmful “ideology” which was creating all sorts of problems for people who are not trans: particularly women and children. Occasionally, I would be commissioned to write corrective pieces but the obsession with ‘balance’ and the lack of informed cisgender people and other trans people in the media or politics meant the power imbalance was simply too great.


This is why I wrote ‘The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice’. I wanted to start a new, different conversation that centres the actual lived experiences of trans people and in doing so I found that, despite welcome progress in social acceptance, trans people remain marginalised in many areas of life. Trans experiences are diverse – but certain trends emerge and in the book as I lay them out what emerges is not a powerful, dangerous, lobby, as a lot of commentators seem to think, but rather one of the most vulnerable and misunderstood communities in the UK, and around the world. Too often British trans people continue to experience significant discrimination, harassment, and social exclusion: 1 in 4 trans people have been homeless, for example.  It is my hope that readers will find the stories in the book help them to understand this community better and will generally help to create more empathy in public discussions of trans lives. In the following adapted extract from the book’s introduction, I explain how the book sets out to do this.


EXTRACT
 

The liberation of trans people would improve the lives of everyone in our society. I say ‘liberation’ because I believe that the humbler goals of ‘trans rights’ or ‘trans equality’ are insufficient. Trans people should not aspire to be equals in a world that remains both capitalist and patriarchal and which exploits and degrades those who live in it. Rather, we ought to seek justice –  for ourselves and others alike. 

Trans people have endured over a century of injustice. We have been discriminated against, pathologized and victimized. Our full emancipation will only be achieved if we can imagine a society that is completely transformed from the one in which we live. This book is primarily concerned with explaining how society, as it is currently arranged, often makes trans people’s lives unnecessarily difficult. Yet, in posing solutions to these problems, it does not limit itself to thinking solely about trans people, but also encompasses anyone who is routinely disempowered and dispossessed. 

Full autonomy over our bodies, free and universal healthcare, affordable housing for all, power in the hands of those who work rather than those privileged few who extract profit from our vastly inequitable system, sexual freedom (including freedom from sexual violence) and the end to the mass incarceration of human beings are all crucial ingredients in the construction of a society in which trans people are no longer abused, mistreated or subjected to violence. Such systemic changes would also particularly benefit everyone else forced to the margins of society, both in the UK and across the world. 

The demand for true trans liberation echoes and overlaps with the demands of workers, socialists, feminists, anti-¬racists and queer people. They are radical demands, in that they go to the root of what our society is and what it could be. For this reason, the existence of trans people is a source of constant anxiety for many who are either invested in the status quo or fearful about what would replace it. 

In order to neutralize the potential threat to social norms posed by trans people’s existence, the establishment has always sought to confine and curtail their freedom. In twenty-¬first- century Britain, this has been achieved in large part by belittling our political needs and turning them into a culture war ‘issue’. Typically, trans people are lumped together as ‘the transgender issue’, dismissing and erasing the complexity of trans lives, reducing them to a set of stereotypes on which various social anxieties can be brought to bear. By and large, the transgender issue is seen as a ‘toxic debate’, a ‘difficult topic’ chewed over (usually by people who are not trans themselves) on television shows, in newspaper opinion pieces and in university philosophy departments. Actual trans people are rarely to be seen. This book intentionally and deliberately reappropriates the phrase ‘transgender issue’, in order to outline the reality of the issues facing trans people today, rather than as they are imagined by people who do not face them.


Today, representational equality and true redistributive politics elude trans people, even as more and more trans people are coming out than ever before. Trans people have now become one of a number of targets in right-wing media, alongside, for instance, Muslims, immigrants generally, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, Black Lives Matter, the fat acceptance movement, and feminists challenging state violence against women. All these groups and more have been reduced to issues in a toxic and polarized public rivalry between value systems.  The past few years have seen discussions around trans people become not only poisonous but, crucially, banal. The ‘topic’ of trans has now been limited to a handful of repetitive talking points: whether nonbinary people exist and whether gender neutral pronouns are reasonable; whether trans children living with dysphoria should be allowed to start their transition; whether trans women will dominate women’s events in the Olympics; and the endless debate over toilets and changing rooms.

This book will not regurgitate these talking points yet again. I believe that forcing trans people to involve themselves in these closed-loop debates ad infinitum is itself a tactic of those who wish to oppress us. Such debates are time-consuming, exhausting distractions from what we should really be focusing on: the material ways in which we are oppressed. The author Toni Morrison once spoke about how precisely this tactic is employed by white people against people of colour: ‘The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction,’ she told students at Portland State University in 1975. ‘It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being  . . . None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.’ In much the same way, the public discourse over trans people’s experience is distorted and derailed. 

With this book, I want to change the trajectory, to move beyond this discussion of trans people as framed by those who want to stoke a so-called culture war, and to start a new, healthier, conversation about trans people in the UK and beyond. Something that this book is not: a memoir. You don’t have to know the intimate details of my private life to support me. Don’t worry about the ‘why’; act on the ‘what’. What does being a trans person in a transphobic society produce? At the moment, too often, it is still violence, prejudice and discrimination.

Throughout this book, cis (non-trans) readers will recognize inequalities often endured by trans people that they personally, or other minority groups they are familiar with, are also experiencing. This is a good thing: the framing of trans people as ‘the transgender issue’ has the effect of cutting us off from solidarity and making us the ‘other’. A new conversation, then, must necessarily start to undo this estrangement and consider what we share and where we overlap with other minorities or marginalized groups. It is only through solidarity, compassion and radical reimagining that we can build a more just and joyful world for all of us.
 



Shon Faye


Shon Faye was born in Bristol, and is now based in London. After training as a lawyer, she left the law to pursue writing and campaigning, working in the charity sector with Amnesty International and Stonewall. She was an editor-at-large at Dazed, and her writing has been published by the Guardian, the Independent and Vice, among others. Faye recently launched an acclaimed podcast series, Call Me Mother, interviewing trailblazing LGBTQ elders. The Transgender Issue is her first book.
 

Author Photo © Paul Samuel White

 

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
5th May 2022

Recommended reading
from Deesha Philyaw,
author of The Secret
Lives of Church Ladies


The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw


The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw is a sparkling short story collection which explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. With Candice Carty-Williams, Caleb Azumah Nelson and Bolu Babalola all huge fans, this is the kind of debut collection which is sure to appeal to Foyles customers, and especially for Foyles, Philyaw has selected her five favourite books published within the last year, a great, varied collection, each of which she introduces below.

 



The Prophets

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.


A love story, a revelation, a reckoning, and a rebellion all in one, The Prophets will forever upend and subvert comfortable notions of “the slavery novel.” On the Halifax plantation in 1830s Mississippi, we meet Isaiah and Samuel, two young enslaved men who dare to love each other in their private time alone in the barn where they keep the animals. But Amos, a suspicious fellow enslaved man who wields Christianity like a weapon, threatens to destroy the sanctuary Isaiah and Samuel have found within each other. Jones is a dazzling writer and lyrical truth-teller. His debut novel is ancestor-breathed, unapologetically Black and brilliant. The comparisons to Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston that his writing has garnered are well earned. 

 

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl by Joya Goffney


This smart, sex-positive YA novel is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Monique, a Christian preacher’s teenage daughter, discovers she has vaginismus, a medical problem that makes it impossible for her to have sexual intercourse. She and her boyfriend have been secretly trying to have sex for two years, despite the expectation that they will wait until marriage. As Monique struggles to heal, she discovers many truths about her family and about herself. Goffney is a terrific storyteller. With a lot of humor and heart, she raises awareness of vaginismus and challenges outdated, misogynistic views about sex.

 

Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory, and Family

Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory, and Family by Madhushree Ghosh

Ghosh’s beautiful memoir is a thoughtful meditation on family, marriage, migration, immigration, and South Asian foodways. Through a series of engrossing essays, she traverses her childhood in India, including her family’s move from Calcutta to a Bengali neighborhood in Delhi, and her move to the U.S. Cooking keeps Ghosh connected to her roots. She’s also a scientist and an activist, so her personal story is woven together with the many complexities of food, race, economics, and culture. The result is a narrative that is deeply intimate and global, personal and political, powerful and tender. And yes, this book will make you hungry. Savor it!
 

Post-Traumatic

Post-Traumatic by Chantal Johnson

What a wild, wonderful ride this book is! Vivian is a young Black Latinx lawyer devoted to her work as a patient advocate at a psychiatrist hospital. But her own mental health hangs on by a thread, the result of unaddressed childhood trauma. Vivian survives her inner terrors and dating disasters with a little help from her friend Jane, some self-medication (weed), and a wicked sense of humor. But Vivian can’t avoid the past forever. Johnson’s prose ignites the page as she draws us into the quiet chaos of Vivian’s mind. Post-Traumatic is a stunning achievement and a truly unforgettable debut.
 

Shoutin' in the Fire: An American Epistle

Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle by Danté Stewart

Stewart writes about the thorniest topics with so much candor, vulnerability, and love. His memoir is as poetic as it is political. A young Black man from South Carolina, he writes of coming of age in a “time of terror,” of deconstructing his experiences with Christian evangelicalism and the white supremacy at the foundation of it. Ultimately, Stewart’s story is one of faith restored, but along the way, he confronts not only the church, but the U.S.’s bloodied and broken promises around justice and freedom. This book is essential reading for anyone seeking to better understand the fraught intersection of race and religion.

 



Deesha Philyaw


Deesha Philyaw is an American author, columnist and public speaker. Her debut, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 Pen.Faulkner Award, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize for First Fiction and was shortlisted for the National Book Award. It is currently being adapted for television by HBO Max. Deesha is also a Kimbilo Fiction Fellow and will be the 2022-2025 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.

Author Photo © Vanessa German

 

 

© W&G Foyle Ltd