BookSpace: Stroke; Vicky Romeo + Joolz; Let Me Tell You This; Emerald; When They Call You a Terrorist

Ben Wray

Chiara Bullen’s February edition of BookSpace reviews some of the latest Scottish literary productions

SPRING is in the air, the days are getting longer, and with the sense of new beginnings comes the desire for plenty of new books (at least for me, anyway). This month sees the publishing world come out of a January slumber; it’s the perfect time to try something new and read out of your comfort zone, which I hope you’ll find in the selection below.

Stroke: 5% chance of survival, Ricky Monahan-Brown

Non-fiction memoir| Sandstone Press | £7.99 | Buy Here 

The day after losing his job, hard-nosed financial lawyer Ricky suffers a catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke, and begins the struggle to return to love, fatherhood, and Scotland. He’s cajoled, bullied, supported and loved back to health by Beth, his then girlfriend, now his wife. Witty and utterly lacking in self pity, this is a young man’s return from the brink.

The first few pages of Stroke will have you observing every little movement your body makes. After all, it’s not often you read the onset symptoms of a stroke in such a humanising and understandable way. Immediately you’re thrown into the sense that this really could happen to anyone, and you may find yourself clutching the pages of the first few chapters in terror. Monahan-Brown will take you by the hand before hurling you through the roller-coaster ride that is his journey to recovery and beyond, demonstrating the power of love, friendship and kindness when a crisis turns your world upside down. Witty and eye-opening, it’s delightful to see a memoir focusing on such a heavy subject (that’s in need of renewed, heightened awareness) in a light-hearted, accessible way.

Vicky Romeo plus Joolz, Ely Percy

Fiction|Knight Errant Press|£.8.99 | Buy Here

This cheeky debut novel by Ely Percy is the first of a trilogy of queer works set in the heart of Glasgow – the largest city in Scotland, its most diverse and hella gay. It  observes Glasgow from an unapologetically pink-tinged angle. If you have a soft spot for the dramatic, f/f romance, local storytelling and appreciate a good chuckle – this is the book for you. Vicky Romeo plus Joolz owns its history with a relish that spills over into an exuberantly camp parody.

A self-proclaimed ‘cheeky’ rom-com mapping the queer scene of early ‘00s Glasgow, Vicky Romeo plus Joolz is a wonderful wee book. Cheeky is one way to describe the swaggering protagonist Vicky and the mishaps she gets herself into. An essential read highlighting the journey to self-acceptance, it doesn’t shy away from difficult topics (such as the protagonist’s internalised bi-phobia).  To say it redefines the rom-com would be an understatement — books like this remind you how heteronormative that narrative usually is, and it’s refreshing to be given something different. Percy’s tongue-in-cheek and whimsical writing will have you grinning from beginning to end. I find myself eagerly awaiting the next two instalments in Percy’s trilogy. 

Let Me Tell You This, Nadine Aisha Jassat

Poetry|404Ink|£8.99| Buy Here

The electrifying debut collection from a powerful new voice in UK poetry. Let Me Tell You This is a vital exploration of racism, gender-based violence, and the sustaining, restorative bonds between women, told with searing precision and intelligent lyricism. Nadine takes you on a journey exploring heritage, connection, and speaking out. 

Shortlisted for the prestigious Edwin Morgan Poetry Award in 2018, Let Me Tell You This is a poignant yet spirited insight into one woman’s journey through life. Split into three movements, Jassat explores themes surrounding family, love, growing up as a mix-raced woman and experiencing racism in Britain — making it particularly timely in this post-Brexit hellscape. The best poetry is the kind that makes you want to do something, act and change things for the better. Jassat’s words make you realise that simply acknowledging inequalities surrounding race and gender is not enough; nothing will change unless we make it so. Everyone needs to read this.

Emerald, edited by Lauren Nickodemus and Ellen Desmond

Literary Magazine|Monstrous Regiment|£10| Buy Here

Monstrous Regiment Magazine is our feminist literary magazine featuring fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual arts led by Scotland-based creatives. Emerald explores everything from IVF and post-apocalyptic worlds, to haunted forests and gardens of memory, to experiences in a mental hospital and the hype of big news. 

Emerald is the second colour-themed literary gem from Edinburgh-based indie publisher Monstrous Regiment. With every piece inside lovingly inspired by greenish emerald hues, the book is a refreshing take on the literary magazine genre, with photography, one-shot comics, illustrations and dynamic graphics scattered throughout. Featuring works from Kirsty Logan, Angie Spoto and Becca Inglis, there’s guaranteed to be at least one short story, poem, piece of artwork or essay that will resonate with you. If you’re looking for something different, this eclectic collection is well worth your time. 

When They Call You a Terrorist, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

Non-Fiction| Canongate| £9.99 | Buy here 

Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, three women – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors – came together to form an active response to the systemic racism causing the deaths of so many African-Americans. They simply said: Black Lives Matter; and for that, they were labelled terrorists.

A powerful reminder of the prevailing racism in the US, this memoir from Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrice Khan-Cullors and journalist Asha Bandele demonstrates the brutality of law enforcement, faltering economic and social conditions and the strength and resilience needed to grow up as Black in the USA. Tackling topics such as sexuality, class and mental health, this intersectional account gives a real sense of the horrors Khan-Cullors and her family endured. The second half of the book explores her activism in the form of the Black Lives Matter movement, illustrating how it was desperately needed and the struggles the movement is up against. Essential reading for everyone, and more so if you (like me) are white. Khan-Cullors has a lot to teach in these pages, and we urgently need to listen and learn from her experiences.

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