Reading Challenge

Last November, I finished reading Phillip Pullman’s Book of Dust. Wow, I was swept up in the storms and flooding of Oxford and thrilled with reading about the early days of Lyra, 15 years after first picking up the Amber Spyglass. I was pleased, I had had a good run of books, before Book of Dust, I had read Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book, Here I am and re read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for the twelfth time.

I thought about the books that I wasn’t reading. The majority of the books I have read have always been written by white, men. Here I was, trying to throw myself into other worlds. Worlds as varied as the last few books I had read and yet I wasn’t challenging myself to read work written by other, not enough. So I decided to challenge myself  to only read books by anyone other than white men. Six months in, I am more excited about reading than I ever had been.  I have time travelled along the Indus, with Alice Albinia and trapped between the pages of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.  I have been haunted by the language of Nikita Gill’s Wild Embers. I have commuted with short stories and essays from Chinua Achebe, Betty Friedan and Dorothy Parker (Penguin Modern Classics, £1 a book). I uncovered the history of the women and their voices with Mary Beard and am currently lost in 1970’s America with Joan Didion in her collection The White Album. These are just some of my highlights.

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However, I have had to break the rules. Normally when it came to do with work. Storytelling and folklore theory have tripped me up and I have had to read books that where edited, collected or written by white men. Women are present in this scene, but seminal works belong to white men – clue in that adjective.

Generally this challenge has been really fulfilling and exciting and I currently have a shelf full of books that are still waiting to be read. I am always looking for recommendations, what do you suggest?

Love Letters – #4 Forgotten Storytellers

Dear Leonora Blanche Lang or Nora,

It is unsurprising that your name is obscure to most of the world. Your husband, Andrew Lang, rings bells loudly in proclamation of the great British collectors of folk tales in his Rainbow Fairy collection.

To be fair to Andrew, he did credit you Nora as writer and contributor along the way. In the preface to the last of the collection, The Lilac Fairy Book (1910) he writes:

‘The fairy books have been almost wholly the work of Mrs. Lang, who has translated and adapted them from the French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, and other languages.’

So he did try to honour you, Nora. He also credited 17 other female contributors to the Rainbow Fairy Collection. The world has not unfortunately remembered this. You name should sit along the Grimm Brothers, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Anderson, but this is sadly not the case.

It’s interesting that nearly all of the collectors of tales had women contributing to the final books but there names are often lost. I want to say, Nora, that life is now better and women’s voices are now represented equally across society, but this is not the case. It still happens where men are credited for the ideas and words of women. We have come along way since you were compiling the Rainbow Fairy collection, but the journey is ongoing with many twists and turns. Your work has gone on to inspire many fantastic works of fiction. Most notably, J. R. R. Tolkien:

“In English none probably rival either the popularity, or the inclusiveness, or the general merits of the twelve books of twelve colours which we owe to Andrew Lang and to his wife.”— J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘On Fairy Stories’

As someone who is filling their life with these kind of tales, I am grateful for the work that you did.

Love,

Felicity

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Book List for Really Little Kids 0-2

We consume books at a fast rate in our house and the titles below are well and truly tested on our two children. The eldest is an avid reader and has always liked sitting with book or youngest happy if there is nothing else to do, but would rather explore turning pages as suppose to looking at pictures. The books that made the list, had both of them gripped and are the ones that often get requested to be read that don’t make us Adults feel bored.

Me – Emma Dodd

This is a beautiful book and I love the simple designs and the simple words. Emma Dodd has an amazing ability to create  depth and feelings that communicate the love between parent and child. It’s the perfect gift for new parents who are feeling overwhelmed by the never ending demands of a small person

 Rosie’s Walk – Pat Hutchins

Words are few and tell a simple story, the pictures however tell something quite different. first published in 1968 and filled with yellow, oranges and browns, this book tells us that good illustration can make a book timeless

Each Peach Pear Plum – Janet & Alan Ahlberg

A simple story in verse that has lots go things to hunt for in the pictures. With all the different characters from famous fairy tales and nurses rhymes featured, this is a great book for triggering other stories and songs.

Oi Frog! -Kes Gray & Jim Field

This book is a great one for silly voices and having fun with language. As a voice teacher,it appeals in the same way that Fox in Socks does for older children.

The Lion Inside -Rachel Bright & Jim Field

My parents gave this book to out youngest for Christmas, I love the message behind bandits great for talking about being brave and scared.

Grrrrrr – Rob Biddulph

Really nice for expelling competition and playing fair. Also for underlining that success isn’t everything.

Oh No, George – Chris Haughton

George is a dog who keeps getting into trouble. A great read for consequences of action and perfect for you little one who loves throwing their food on the floor!

What the Ladybird Heard – Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks

This book has glitter, farm yard animals and a brilliant story! That ticks about every small child box, right?

So those are our favourites. What are yours?

 

Book List for Big Kids – Non Fiction

I love books. They are unbelievably comforting and adorn my house in little piles. I find them incredibly hard to part with. The wisdom and escapism that books contain is a beautiful thing. I love reading lists of books too. Which ones have I read? Which ones have I yet to read? What should I read next?

I thought I’d share some books that I found really useful and enjoyable to read.

Presence by Patsy Rodenberg

This book is like three years of actor training whittled down into book form and made accessible for non performers. Its a brilliant insight in how to be in the moment more and is full of practical exercises to ‘perform’ at your best in an incredibly sincere and authentic way.

Finding your Element – Ken Robinson

Robinson is an educational guru ad talks about how we all have something where we are in are element. Using stories of how different people discovered their element, Robinson shows how we can have our eureka moment ourselves

Games for Actors and Non-Actors – Augustus Boal

This is like an arsenal of different warms ups and games to try out that liberate all, performer or not. In three sections, Boal outlines his method of Theatre of the Opressed, provides a wealth of different exercises and discusses problems that can arise in Forum theatre. This book should in every drama practitioners library. Anyone looking for group cohesion and release of expression could benefit from giving this book a read.

Finding your Voice – Barbara Houseman

This practical and easy to use book talks about the mechanics that go into speaking and the how you can galvanise your body to have a strong, rich and healthy voice. This book provides the foundation for a lot of the exercises that I now include in my Voice practice

Show your Work – Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon is an artist that works with words. His book Steal Like an Artist is also an excellent read. Show Your Work, talks about how to network effectively and efficiently in the 21st century. He describes it as networking for people who don’t really like networking. This book really made me think about how to develop a good web presence and how to share my process with an online community.

Wreck this Journal -Keri Smith

Smith should probably be proclaimed at Art wizard for the wonderful journalling books that she has created. They are a brilliant series but I love Wreck This Journal the most as it reminds us not to be to precious about what we create and that failure yields unexpected results.

Shakespeare Words: A glossary and language companion – Ben and David Crystal

This book will be tucked under my arm and is very well thumbed when I’m working on any of the bards works. Its a brilliant dictionary of language from when you can’t tell you greek god reference from your elbow.

 

The Playful Parent – Julia Deering

 This behemoth of of a book is a plethora of ideas in playing with you kids. From Shampooing solutions to ideas for indoor play. Its a very practical tool kit and I think if parenting was to come with a manual, then this is the one I’d pick.

 

What Non-Fiction books would you put on your list? What should I read next?

 

Felicity Goodman is a Voice Teacher, Playologist and Story Teller based in Manchester. To find out more about her work, please visit www.felicitygoodman.co.uk