Reading Women Recommends Anthologies, AKA Literary Buffets
Reading Women Introduces This Month's Theme
For September’s theme, Kendra, Jaclyn, and special guest Dani Roulette recommend anthologies!
From the episode:
Kendra: How do you want to start the anthologies, besides the fact that we love them?
Jaclyn: I did laugh when I saw your notes in the description because I was like, yeah, that’s pretty much it, Kendra. So one of the reasons we really wanted to cover anthologies is—apart from our own, you know, voracious reading of these types of books—is that there’s so much scope to read widely within fiction and nonfiction when you’re looking at anthologies. And it’s just given us the opportunity to showcase a lot of different works that we’ve been reading across a lot of different themes and interests that we have. And we wanted to find a way to share them with you in a kind of cohesive episode.
Kendra: And I think especially when we’re trying to read books about people from different walks of life than ourselves, oftentimes people read one book set in a country by one author and say they understand an entire group of people or an entire country. And obviously, one book does not give you a full picture of these things. And so I think a better way to understand a group of people is to look at anthologies written by a wide range of contributors, and that will give you a better just basic knowledge and then also give you a resources to go do even more reading on that. And I find that very helpful, especially when I’m diving into a new topic or different things and then to follow up and find these contributors’ work online or somewhere else.
Jaclyn: Yeah, when you mention that, Kendra, I’m reminded of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk about the danger of one story or one narrative. I think that reading from an anthology is a really great way to introduce yourself to more than just one narrative when you’re reading a theme or from a regional group or from any other topic that an anthology is based on. I think it’s a really good way to introduce yourself to a theme in a really complete sense.
Kendra: So when we talk about anthologies, we’re using “anthologies” meaning a book that is by a bunch different contributors. And we typically use the word “collection” for like a short-story collection by a single author. That’s not necessarily how it’s used in the broader sense, but it does help us today differentiate between short-story collections by a single author versus something like today where we have an essay collection by a bunch of different authors. Those are the definitions that we’re going to use to help out because we have a lot of anthologies that we’re going to mention today, and we didn’t want to cause any confusion as we go through them.
Kendra: We want to mention, just very briefly, some past collections that we have loved and covered elsewhere because we didn’t want to repeat ourselves. There were so many that we wanted to talk about. One of the first ones is one that Sachi mentioned in particular. I interviewed one of the editors earlier this year, and that is A Map Is Only One Story: Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family, and the Meaning of Home, edited by Nicole Chung and Mensah Demary. Sachi also mentioned Whiter: Asian American Women on Skin Color and Colorism, edited by Nikki Khanna. She talked about that back in May.
Jaclyn: Yeah. One of the books that I mentioned last year, when we were looking at works from Australia and the surrounding archipelago, was Black Marks on the White Page. That’s in the anthology edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti. And within that same month, we also talked about Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, which is edited by Dr. Anita Heiss.
Kendra: And Sumaiyya talked about two books last year: It’s Not About the Burqa, edited by Miriam Khan, which is amazing and actually came out in the US, I think, this year. And her other pick was her honorable mention for the Reading Women Award last year. That’s Our Women on the Ground: Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, edited by Zahra Hankir. Of course, all of these episodes that we mention these books in will be linked in our show notes so you can go check those out. But we have lots and lots of picks. And in fact, our Patreon episode for September is even more anthology picks. So if you have been on the fence on joining our Patreon or not, definitely go check that out.
Jaclyn: Yeah, you won’t want to miss that episode. There’s lots of helpful resources we’ll be sharing in that one.
Kendra: All right. So now I guess it’s time to jump into our our main picks for this
Jaclyn: So my first pick that I wanted to share with you all today is Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today. This is an anthology edited by Allison Whittaker that came out earlier this year from the University of Queensland Press. Now this one is an anthology of fifty-three poems and five essays. And the poems are previously published works that have been collated for this collection. So they haven’t been written specifically. But my understanding is that the five essays were because they speak to the way that the works have been collated and how they sit in the broader context of Australian Indigenous writing.
Jaclyn: So the poems speak across a range of different mediums . . . when I say they’ve been published previously, some have been written works. Some have been in the form of oral storytelling, storytelling embedded in language itself. Music, slam poetry, protest poetry. And this is just to give you an idea that there’s so much in this collection. It’s jam-packed with really creative ways of telling poetry. If you want to listen to some of the contributors reading their collections themselves, I know that there have been events at both the Melbourne and Edinburgh writing festivals recently. But there’s also a recording available on YouTube from the Wheeler Centre. It’s almost an hour-long session of many of the contributors reading their own works, performing them. And it’s just brilliantly produced. So we’ll pop a link in the show notes if you want to listen to that. I think it’s really special to be able to hear the contributors actually reading their works.
Jaclyn: So the collection falls into five different kinds of firepower. And as I mentioned, there are five essays written by Indigenous public intellectuals who have shared their responses to these works within the collection as a way to frame what made it into the collection. One of the things that Allison Whittaker, the editor, mentions in her introduction is that it’s really only a sample of what could have been included, and it’s—to use her words—necessarily incomplete. And one of the other—just to quote her again because I think she just articulates it so well—she says it’s “taking a hand and grazing it over the tip of a fire to blister it up in the shape of the big sovereign resistance happening right now.” I just thought that was a really interesting way to articulate what this collection is doing. So much of what she talks about in her introduction really situates what her vision was when she was pulling these pieces together and putting the collection together and how conversational it was, in a sense, that all the pieces spoke to each other and that these essays would do that in a more direct way, perhaps.
Jaclyn: I feel like it’s hard to kind of discuss too much the specifics of any one poem as a way to represent the collection. But one of the things that I thought would be worth discussing briefly was to touch on one of the points that one of the essayists make. Evelyn Araluen, in her essay “Too Little, Too Much,” which appears as one of the first in the collection, she states, “These poems demonstrate that there’s fun to be had in satirising the transplanted cadence of Anglo-Saxon verse through fragmentation and irony, straining and interrogating the positionality of settler-colonial poeticism. None of these poems leave English, or the structures it has projected over our Country, unscathed.” What I found really interesting, particularly about these comments, was the way that it really encourages a de-colonial approach to reading the collection and going in with an open mind and not trying to classify or put any kind of expectations or parameters on the poetry that you’re reading, particularly if you’re looking at that from a colonial perspective.
Jaclyn: I think there’s so much in the way that this collection is put together with these essays interspersed throughout the poetry that makes it a really accessible and conversational collection. Particularly if you’re looking to read more Australian authors, this is a great way to discover some new writers to check out. All of these poets that have contributed have their works appearing somewhere else—in other anthologies or as standalone works of art that they have themselves. So that is Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today, edited by Allison Whittaker and out from the University of Queensland Press.
Kendra, what’s the first book that you wanted to talk about today?
Kendra: The first book I’m going to talk about today is What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, edited by Michele Filgate. I saw this book at the front table at my local indie bookstore, M. Judson, for a long time before I eventually found it at a used book sale somewhere. And so I picked it up, and it was sitting on my shelf for months. And finally I just decided that now was the time. I’m so glad I did because one of the reasons I picked it up in the first place was because of its all-star roster of contributors, including Alexander Chee, Kiese Laymon, Leslie Jamison, Carmen Maria Machado, and Brandon Taylor. Just a few of them. They’re all amazing prose stylists. And, you know, a lot of time, I’m reading an anthology to learn more about someone’s perspective or way of life. Or I want to know more about their experience as a person. And I’m not really as much combing through the prose and underlining things as far as just, oh, that’s a beautiful sentence. That’s not really the purpose of the anthology. But this one in particular, the prose is amazing. It is gorgeous. And I’m just sitting there, listening to the audiobook, just mesmerized by the writing of all of these just stellar essayists here.
They each talk about their experience with their mother. And I feel like every person is formed in some way by their mother. Your relationship with your mother is something that we all can relate to. It’s a very complicated, very emotional part of your life experience. And each of these authors shares about that. Some of them have great relationships with their mother, and some of them don’t. Some of them are still talking to their mother, and some of them don’t. And I thought that each of them brought something new to the table in discussing their relationship with their mother and how that played out over the course of their life or in their life up until this point. And it was so good. I listened to it in one evening.
Jaclyn: It’s a brilliant collection on audio too.
Kendra: Yes. Yes. Like, you can really tell how well something is actually written by if it reads well out loud. If I hadn’t already read a lot of these authors’ books, I would be picking them all up. I’ve read about half of these authors’ individual works because they each have books that they’ve written on their own. And so I think this is a great way to introduce yourself to great writers on a sentence level. And it just makes my inner writer just so happy, even when a lot of these essays are very emotionally difficult. So content warning: if you have a difficult relationship with a parent or in particular your mother, you might not want to read this right now. But I found it just so, so good.
Jaclyn: I love your comment about how when you’re reading an anthology, it’s such a great inroad into other writing by the contributors because, I mean, that’s the same thing I found with Fire Front. There were so many authors that I knew in there. But then there was also this list that I started creating of like people that I needed to go and check more out from because it just opens you up to works that you may just not have come across on your own.
Kendra: Yeah. We all know I’m a huge research person. I just find joy in researching things. And when I was in grad school, they would teach you that when you found a book that worked well for your paper, you would go back and look at the sources they cited and go read those. And so that’s a similar process here, where if you find a writer whose piece you really enjoy, you’re going to go look them up. I remember that’s how I found Silas House. I was reading an anthology, and I found his story. It was my favorite story of the whole collection. And I found out he had all of these books. And so I think that’s a great thing about anthologies is just they are like a buffet. And if you like more of one thing, you can go back and get more. It’s great. So.
Jaclyn: I like the food comparison.
Kendra: We’re always here for food comparisons. I’m shocked a food anthology is not on this list today, actually, but feel free to message us for food anthology recommendations because we have several.
Jaclyn: We’ll definitely have them in the bonus episode, don’t worry.
Kendra: So that is What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence, edited by Michele Filgate. And Jaclyn, you have our first discussion pick.
Jaclyn: Yes, I am very excited. Our first discussion pick this month is Growing Up African in Australia. This is edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, and it is out from Black Inc. This one you can access internationally, not just in Australia. But this is an anthology that came about from a Twitter discussion that the author and the co-curators had. They’d noticed a link between apartheid South Africa and the genocide and dispossession and dehumanization of First Nations people in Australia because of the way that apartheid legislation was modeled on comparable legislation in Queensland.
Jaclyn: So next episode, we’re going to be talking about one of the essays specifically. But one of the things that Kendra and I thought it might be helpful to talk about before going into it, just to contextualize the discussion and the collection for readers outside of Australia, is a distinction that Maxine Beneba Clarke actually makes in the introduction to the collection and sort of centers the discussion around. So she opens up her introduction with this quote; she says, “Any discussion of blackness in an Australian context must be set against the history of this truth: we, too, are settlers here.” So she’s drawing a distinction between Black Indigenous people compared to the Black community that is the African-diaspora community in Australia. So that was something we just thought was worth noting. And that’s something, again, that Maxine Beneba Clarke centers very much in her discussion. So her distinction there and her discussion about the contributors and their perspective still very much being from a settler perspective within Australia is really important because I think it’s something that is very expressly drawn upon by most of the contributors in the anthology.
Jaclyn: But this is an incredibly diverse collection. There are a lot of different countries represented within the African diaspora in terms of where people have come from on their journey to Australia. And again, like a lot of the other “Growing Up in Australia” series, there’s a whole range of different contributors: from people in the music industry and writers and teachers and activists. And so it’s giving a very robust discussion around this . . . what does it mean to grow up African in Australia? This sort of central question that the anthology is really drawing on. So that, again, is Growing Up African in Australia, edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, and it is out from Black Inc.
And Kendra, you have our second pick for the month.
Kendra: Yes. So our second discussion pick is About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times, edited by Peter Catapano and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. Now, this essay collection, I feel like is going to be impossible to talk about in our discussion episode without talking about Disability Visibility by Alice Wong. So that book is sort of a unofficial third discussion pick because I think it’s really important to have a conversation about disability representation in anthologies and how they are presented and edited and just a little for some of the decisions that were made in About Us that we need to talk about. But today, we’re just going to introduce the collection and get into all of that next time.
This is a collection of essays that were actually written for a series, and they appeared in The New York Times. And while Peter Catapano does not have a disability, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson does. And so they worked together to request people to write for this. And so we have . . . Alice Wong herself has a piece in here. And you have Rivers Solomon, who is a non-binary Afrofuturist author. They have diabetes. You have a wide range of disability representation throughout the different sections that they have put together.
One of the things I feel like I do need to note here is that in the introduction, they do talk about how they did not include non-verbal disabled people in the collection. And I know there’s some logistical things with that. But at the same time, I do feel like that’s something that is missing and that should be pointed out is that there should have been some sort of representation of that. That’s a huge swath of the community that’s not included in this. When they do have a wide representation in a lot of other areas, they do miss this. But I did enjoy reading this collection and hearing about people’s experiences and the way that they have moved through the world.
Kendra: The key thing that we’re going to be talking about next time is that this collection, I feel like, is definitely still kind of explaining what it’s like to nondisabled people what it’s like to be disabled, as opposed to just being a collection by disabled authors celebrating who they are without interpreting things through a able-bodied gaze. And so that is the big thing we’re going to be discussing next time. And I think it is something important that we need to talk about in the disability community. And I do think the contributors have been doing such a great work, and this does introduce you to a lot of their disability activism and gives you a way to move forward with that. But that’s why we wanted to talk about it with Disability Visibility because, again, it’s an important conversation. And Alice Wong’s collection was amazing on all fronts. And so, yeah, I’m very excited to have this discussion, but nervous at the same time, you know.
Jaclyn: Yeah, I think they’re so interesting to read sort of simultaneously or, you know, back to back and look at them as in conversation with each other in that way.
Kendra: So that it is About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of The New York Times, edited by Peter Catapano and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.
All right. So now it’s time for our guest spot. And I am very, very excited to introduce Dani of @thunderbirdwomanreads. She has been doing such great work over on Instagram and now more recently on YouTube. And I really enjoyed seeing her recommendations. Some of you might remember that last year when we did a theme on Indigenous writers that we talked about how Dani had recommended Birdie and how we really loved the work that she was doing. And so now she’s on as our guest for this month’s theme of anthologies. And she has two great picks for us.
Dani: My English name is Danielle Roulette. And my Ojibwe name is Zoongizi Niimi Waabishki Binesikwe, which means “strong standing dancing white thunderbird woman.” I come from Lake Manitoba First Nation in Manitoba. It’s also known as Dog Creek First Nation. I am part of the book community on YouTube and Instagram. Both of my handles for those are @thunderbirdwomanreads. I also have a blog on WordPress. And that’s binesikwe.wordpress.com.
Dani: So the first book I’ve chosen is called This Place: 150 Years Retold. It’s a graphic novel anthology with ten stories. There are eleven Indigenous contributors, two co-contributed. And so there are ten artists who illustrated each of the segments. This anthology covers important historical events in Indigenous history. Each story features an important Indigenous individual, anywhere from Indigenous community leaders who fought for their people, Indigenous activists, Indigenous veterans, to an Indigenous child named Teddy Bellingham, who was actually murdered in foster care. So something I loved about these stories is that they really give a voice to a lot of important individuals who maybe haven’t had that platform widely before. This features gorgeous illustrations. They are absolutely breathtaking. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge graphic novel fan, but reading this, I officially think I’m converted because it absolutely took my breath away, and it was such a unique reading experience.
The stories deal with the Sixties Scoop, the ban on Indigenous ceremonies, which actually didn’t end in Canada until 1951. So it was actually illegal to participate in any traditional Indigenous ceremony. There’s also a story about a famous Indigenous veteran and the injustices he faced afterwards. We also learn about how the foster care system continues to jeopardize Indigenous children today. These graphic novels, although they’re very beautiful, we really witnessed the depravity of colonization, but we also witness the resilience of Indigenous people. And before each installment, the writer gives a brief summary of the inspiration for their contribution. And below that, there’s a factual timeline that’s given that relates to what each story is about. So not only is the reader being informed of the significance of the story, but they’re being educated on important Canadian events that sadly not a lot of people are informed on.
And this book is incredibly special to me because, for myself, it was a way of seeing Indigenous stories and history brought to life in a new way. As I said, I wasn’t a huge graphic novel fan. So reading this, it sounds dramatic, but it was like a rebirth of my reading experience. And I think the more books that center Indigenous lives and Indigenous people who really fought against colonialism and oppression, the better. Because collections like this are so empowering and so important and so educational. They really just showcase the strength and resilience of so many Indigenous tribes. And it really says, you know, we’ve been here. We still are here. And we will always be here.
Because of the educational aspect, I’d really recommend this to anyone who is interested in Indigenous history. And moreover, I really think that anybody who lives on Native land should read this. I also think that this would be an excellent resource for teachers and students, and I really hope to hear that this is being used more in classrooms. As well, I think comic book fans would really appreciate the artistic flair of this anthology when it’s joined with the impactful writing. This Place: 150 Years Retold is really just a phenomenal collection. And I really hope more people get to read it. I wish that I had read it when it was first published in 2019 because I feel I have lost out on a year of recommending it to people. It’s a book I’m going to be recommending for the rest of my life.
Dani: The second book I’ve chosen today is Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water. This was compiled and edited by Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, who is an Anishinaabe writer and professor, as well as by Warren Cariou, who is a Metis writer and professor. Manitowapow is the original name for the province of Manitoba. And in Cree, it means sacred water or straight of the Great Spirit. This anthology focuses on Indigenous writing by Indigenous people across tribes in Manitoba. So regionally and provincially, it’s very specific. But the writing forms themselves vary. There is nonfiction, historical writing from important Manitoban figures like Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Chief Peguis, which can all date back to the 1800s. There are political letters from Indigenous chiefs in the midst of their battles, trying to defend our land from colonization. There are stories, teachings, and recollections from Indigenous elders from various Manitoban reservations, as well as insights from Indigenous prisoners at Manitoba Stony Mountain Prison. There are poems and stories from modern Indigenous writers like Tomson Highway, Katharina Fermat, Niigaan Sinclair. And two of these writers actually contributed stories to the graphic novel anthology I mentioned prior. There’s even a Banach recipe. So we really are getting a large scope of important perspectives and knowledge, right down to opinions and first-hand lived experiences with the residential school system, the 1960s Scoop, intergenerational trauma, and so many more issues that have affected and continue to affect Indigenous people in Manitoba today.
Manitowapow was incredibly special to me because it gave so many Indigenous people and stories a platform to be heard. This collection, to me, really showed the beginning of colonization in Manitoba and what life was like in the beginning and in the midst of that, as well as modern-day thoughts on the effects of colonialism and just how everything from the past, even as early as the 1700s, continues to affect Indigenous people today. It also really displayed how everything about this province is steeped in Indigenous history and will be that way forever. And this collection was a strong testament to that.
I recommend this book to, again, scholars and teachers. I think it would be another great academic collection. There is a thematic index alphabetically organized by topic in the back of the book. So you can see which excerpts talked about residential schools, racism, interconnectedness, identity, treaties, stereotypes, traditional stories. And that’s just naming a few. So even for myself, just casually reading this, it was just such a great resource. And I think in the future, I can really see myself going back and reviewing certain topics. I’d also really recommend this to anyone just wanting to learn more about Manitoba and the Indigenous pride that has always been here. I think a lot of times Indigenous people are thought of as a monolith, and that’s just simply not true. Even by just reading this collection, you can really get a sense of how much Manitoban tribes vary. And although there’s a common thread of lived experience, each tribe really just is its own culture. And I think that’s really beautiful. It’s probably one of the best and most varied collections I’ve read in a long time. And I think going forward, it’s going to be very important to me. And I think it would be very important to a lot of people, whether or not they come from Manitoba. So Manitowapow, as I’ve said, is going to be such a great tool for me in the future.
And I think both of these anthologies will just be utilized by so many people for so many years to come. Alicia Elliott wrote the foreword for This Place. And Elliott says that Indigenous people are living in a post-apocalyptic world because once colonialism settled here, everything changed. And I think that’s true. And I think there’s a reason that Indigenous writing often deals with colonialism because it’s forever changed the way we live our lives, unfortunately. And I think there’s a unity between these collections, and that’s one of Indigenous resilience and Indigenous resistance. Colonialism really tried to erase us as it was sinking its teeth into the land. And these stories are all proof that they failed and that they will never be successful. Collections like both of these, I think, are just so important to keep Indigenous stories alive.