Saturday 30 September 2017

Supporting Marriage Equality in Melbourne

Australia is in the midst of a divisive, completely unnecessary and non-binding postal vote on whether we should adopt Marriage Equality. (You may guess from that opening that I voted Yes. Yes I did) When I was in Melbourne recently for Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 it was in the lead-up to the ballot being mailed out. 

I was rather astonished, and very pleased, at all the widespread support in Melbourne for the Yes vote. Marriage Equality doesn't need to be divisive. The Yes vote can bring together church and state (well, city). 

The church where my
great-great-great grandparents
were married in the 1840s

The City of Melbourne supports Marriage Equality night and day. 

and in the gloaming

Lots of businesses were supporting the Yes vote. 

The people, the community support Equality and the Yes vote. 

In amongst this rainbow of support I only saw the occasional dissenting No. 

Please vote Yes Australia. 

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly memenow hosted by WestMetroMommy

Friday 29 September 2017

41 Diverse Must Have YA Titles for Every Library

This list of 41 (actually, although the list was named for 42) books (which seems to have disappeared off the SLJ website just now) was chosen by the editors of School Library Journal as an adjunct to their Top 100 Must-Have YA Books which wasn't quite diverse enough on it's own. And there are always more great books out there to consider, and to read. 

Does My Head Look Big in This? - Randa Abdel-Fatah

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights - Ann Bausum
Tyrell - Coe Booth
Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices -  Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdalde (editors)
The Reader - Traci Chee
Ball Don’t Lie - Matt de la Peña
Forged by Fire - Sharon M. Draper
If You Could Be Mine - Sara Farizan
The Great American Whatever - Tim Federle
The Skin I’m In - Sharon G. Flake
Conviction - Kelly Loy Gilbert
Bronx Masquerade - Nikki Grimes
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice - Phillip Hoose
Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World - Kelly Jensen (editor)
Like No Other - Una LaMarche
Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan
March Trilogy - John Lewis & Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)
Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx - Sonia Manzano
Burn, Baby, Burn - Meg Medina

When Dimple Met Rishi - Sandhya Menon
A Step from Heaven - An Na
Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection - Hope Nicholson (editor)

Prophecy series - Ellen Oh
Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor
Shadow shaper - Daniel José Older
Out of Darkness - Ashley Hope Pérez
Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound - Andrea Davis Pinkney
If I Was Your Girl - Meredith Russo
X: A Novel - Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights - Steve Sheinkin
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team - Steve Sheinkin
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story - Caren Stelson
Nimona - Noelle Stevenson
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream - Tanya Lee Stone
Marcelo in the Real World - Francisco X. Stork

This One Summer - Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas (see my review)
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune  - Pamela S. Turner, Gareth Hinds (illustrator)
Piecing Me Together - Renée Watson
Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon
The Sun Is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon


Well that's embarrassing. And I'm actively interested in this area. Thank goodness I read The Hate U Give in the last few weeks...

I have meant to read quite a number of these books. The Hate U Give of course which is possibly the YA book of 2017. Certainly Does My Head Look Big in This? It's Australian. I've seen Randa Abdel-Fatah speak, she's impressive. I recently acquired a copy and have it in the house. I also have Boy Meets Boy in the house, as well as several other David Levithan titles, I've also seen him speak, he's impressive, and funny and I want to read him. I've seen This One Summer on so many lists now, I'm intrigued. 

But there are even more books, and authors that I've never even heard of in this list. I've got more than just one lifetimes reading ahead of me...

Monday 25 September 2017

Monsieur Chocolat

Tonight I went along to see my local Film Society showing of Monsieur Chocolat. I had never heard of it, and didn't know a thing about it, just that clearly it was a French film, and I remember Omar Sy from The Untouchables (which I remember fondly and should watch again). I wasn't too sure about the poster, and was nearly put off going, but am happy that I made the effort particularly after a friend who saw it yesterday encouraged me to go. I'm definitely glad I made the effort to get up off the couch. 

Monsieur Chocolat (Chocolat in France) tells the real life story of Chocolat who was the first Afro-Cuban star in France. Beautifully set in fin de siècle France (and Paris, aaah) it is a fascinating look at that time with glimpses of the Lumière Brothers at their work and the brand new Eiffel Tower. Chocolat (at that time working as a charicaturish cannibal Kananga in a rather impoverished provincial circus when he pairs up with Georges Foottit (played by James Thiérrée, Charlie Chaplin's grandson, Georges was in reality George Foottit, an English clown). It seems that the plot takes some liberties with the truth (if Wikipaedia is to be believed, and as always truth is stranger than fiction).

Chocolat finds great fame and wealth, but struggles with the downsides of his fame- the women, the gambling debts, the racism. The racial themes and the discrimination are particularly relevant for the cinema goers of today. There are powerful echoes to the current stories that fill our newsfeeds- a world where kneeling during an anthem is such a divisive controversy and unarmed black Americans are frequently shot by police. (Not that Australia is without racism it just seems to be done bigger and better in America, and we're having our own struggles with marriage equality). Whilst we must view it with our modern eyes it does seem that Chocolat did fight against racial stereotyping and the even more overt racism of his time. 

Monsieur Chocolat is well worth a look. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  

Monday 18 September 2017

The Park Bench

I saw a few people talking about The Park Bench on booktube recently (although now I can't remember who) and was suitably intrigued. I was very happy to find The Park Bench on my first bookshop visit in Melbourne recently. 

Chabouté sounded like a French name which added to the appeal, and indeed it is. Christophe Chabouté is a French author and artist who seems to have had at least three of his books published in English this year. Not that The Park Bench requires all that much in the way of translation. An essentially wordless graphic novel (or rather more excitingly a Bande Dessinée, and it's my first Bande Dessinée), there is very little English- some graffiti, a few newspaper headlines. 

It would be fascinating to find and compare the original French version Un peu de bois et d'acier (oh dear, I actually think the English title is better). Actually there is no translator credited and the words appear in the actual images so perhaps Chabouté himself needed to redraw the particular drawings that contained words. It would be fascinating to know, but I suspect he did. I do wonder what the sad old Barbara Cartland reading lady reads in the French version.

The Park Bench uses an ordinary looking park bench in an unnamed  park to share the lives of the many people who use the park- those who quickly walk past on their way to work, those who have the time to sit and read or sit and share a patisserie, those who skateboard over the bench, the dog who likes to raise a leg on it. There is a homeless man who wants to sleep on the bench and a gendarme who chases him away each night, and as someone who has inadvertently transgressed the rules in a French park it is very true that justice is swift. I love that the park maintenance man is never seen without a cigarette dangling from his lips. 

The French use their parks in many different ways, Parisians leave their apartments and enjoy the extra space, the beauty and atmosphere in the parks as an extension of their home (see my glorious Sunday afternoon in the Luxembourg Gardens). I remembered all of this and more as I read The Park Bench. It's a beautiful celebration of community and life in all its forms, and a contemplation on the passage of time and progress. In a beautiful example of art imitating life The Park Bench was given away on some park benches in London. 

Completely drawn in black and white The Park Bench is a very eye catching book. While I was reading I was aware that while it was a super quick read, it must have taken Chabouté quite a time to create the book. There's a French film (and a concert)! This guy has made an animated film of the book it seems, and taken liberties by adding red. 

I'm very pleased to have discovered Chabouté and will be avidly searching out more of his books, in English and in French. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  

Friday 8 September 2017


There are many month long healthy activities now. Movember. Dry July. Sugar Free September. Obviously I can't grow a Mo (well not yet anyway), but I contribute money each year. This year a friend did Dry July- I don't drink enough as a rule, I actually need to make an effort and drink more I think.

This September I'm doing Steptember. I've done a similar spring work based step challenge a few years ago, but it didn't have the catchy Steptember name. This year I'm doing it again.

I was thinking about combining it with Sugar Free September again, but I'm starting my September off in Melbourne, where I could hardly claim my activities as Sugar Free. So I think maybe I won't, but I don't know. (Spoiler, I didn't)

In Steptember the challenge is to walk 10, 000 steps every day from September 4 to October 1. I got a Garmin vivosmart HR a few months ago, and I've been using it daily but my daily average has been languishing more around the 9, 000 range, so I do need to step it up a bit (oh I've amused myself now) to get to the 10, 000 average. 

Five days in and I've made my target every day. It's taken some doing- I've had to walk laps of the building after work, walk laps of the street in the cold while waiting to pick up takeaway for dinner, walk in the cold with a cold. I stalk the aisles of Bunnings and my local supermarkets more than I need to. Sometimes I even get to take the dogs out. Still, I haven't dropped the ball yet and it all raises money for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 - The Books

Whenever readers go away the first thing we always do is pick our holiday TBR. We do this long before thinking about what clothes or other sundry items we might need to pack. Even if we're going to a readers festival, where we absolutely know that we will buy more books, we pack books to take with us. 

And so I did. 

A mere five books. I'm getting better though. Last year I took six. And this year it was all MWF themed reads, books for authors I hoped to see. I managed to read 2.5 of them, and had 4 signed.

This year I decided to share my book buying love around Melbourne. I was also on a bit of a quest to visit some new bookshops. My recent fondness for certain corners of book tube has obviously had quite an effect on my book buying habits. 

My first visit was to Hill of Content, obviously not a new destination for me. I bought two books, but one is a present, and still a surprise so not included here. 

Next it was The Paperback Bookshop, a small gem near Hill of Content. For some inexplicable reason I'd never managed to darken the door. This time I did and came aware with a positively restrained three books. 

Then my first visit to the Readings Festival Bookshop was similarly restrained, just two books added to my smallish stack. I had been planning to by The Hate U Give as part of my MWF purchases, and so it was this day. I wasn't expecting to buy Dark Roots, but I have a burgeoning interest in short story (especially Australian short story) and remembered that this was very well thought of. 

One day I popped into Bourke St Book Grocer, a discount chain where books are $10 or less (or 6 for $50, but look how good I was- I stopped at 3!)

Soon after the downfall really started. I stumbled down the stairs of City Basement Books on Flinders St, a great second hand bookstore. I found some long sought after books for my 1001 quest. 

Then the next day I went back to get another six books that I had rather sensibly checked if I already owned. 

At this stage I knew that I needed an intervention. So I mailed 4 kilos of books home knowing that I still had some festival buying to go. I'd planned to buy the top three of these books, but the bottom two were a little surprise. There are of course more festival books that I will buy over time, I just won't be able to get them signed.

All was then going extremely well (I think over 24 hours had passed without me buying any books whatsoever!) and then I had two hours to wait at Central Station in Sydney. I tried going to White Rabbit Gallery in nearby Chippendale, but it was a Monday, and so they were shut. Nothing for it then and I was off like the proverbial white rabbit down the hole to Basement Books. And oh my- I did some damage...

And wouldn't you know it? I got home and two books had arrived while I was away!

Now if you'll excuse me I've got some reading to do. 

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 #MWF2017

I've long been a fan of Melbourne Writers Festival. I attended my first MWF back in 2007, but my second wasn't until 2012. Happily since then I've been able to attend most of these annual delights of bookdom.

It's a bookish city when the taxi boots have book ads!

Melbourne is definitely my favourite Australian big city festival (well of the two that I've been to so far). It's so accessible. Mostly all held around Fed Square, the transport is easy (even if you don't get to stay across the road like I do...), it's so compact, you can easily do back to back sessions.

Joyce Carol Oates Keynote

Plus you're in Melbourne. Lots of opportunities for yum cha, cafes, dinner. Eat Melbourne 2017 is in the pipeline, in the meantime we can revisit 2016. And the art galleries are fab too, I caught a few amazing exhibitions this year. More to come on that. And I caught the start of Melbourne Fashion Week which was much more fun than expected. 

This year I saw an astonishing range of Australian and International writers. 

Alice Pung (twice)
Amie Kaufman
Angie Thomas
Anni Hine Moana
AS Patrić
Bruce Pascoe
Charles G Gross
Danielle Binks
Ellie Marney
Hannah Kent
Jennifer Ackerman
Jennifer Down
Jenny Valentish (twice)
Joyce Carol Oates (twice)
Kyo Maclear (twice)
Laurie Penny
Maxine Beneba Clarke (twice)
Megan Abbott
Melanie Cheng
Melissa Keil
Omar Musa
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Reni Eddo-Lodge
Rutger Bregman
Ryan O'Neill
Sarah Schmidt
Shaun Tan
Tracey Chevalier
Zana Fraillon
Zoë Morrison

Sadly, of course I missed many writers that I would have loved to have seen, including

Brian Castro
Jane Caro
Julia Baird
John Safran
Tim Flannery
Tony Birch
Tracey Spicer

But you just can't be everywhere at once. 

Angie Thomas YA Keynote

I am particularly keen to read many (most) of the authors that I saw. Some of them were completely unknown to me before. I was particularly blown away by Angie Thomas' YA Keynote Address. I do hope to do a blog about her session soon(ish), and a number of others, but I tend to be bad at that. I've already started reading The Hate U Give. I also particular keen to read Kyo Maclear, Melissa Keil and Hannah Kent. 

I love festival stacks of books

even more than regular bookshops

so pretty, so much potential. 
The Top 20 MWF Bestsellers at the Readings Festival Bookshop. Writers festivals always give me hope that maybe the world isn't really going to hell in a hand basket, lots of clever, involved people are buying and reading those books.