March has been a month full of inspiring literature. Unlike me, I’ve focused on non-fiction and that’s been a refreshing change to my habits and an injection of confidence.
That’s why I’ve chosen a selfie to headline this month’s reviews instead of something book related. March has been all about introspective and empowerment, and I wanted to reflect that.
Guanahaní, mi amor (1994)
by Marion Bethel
This little book found me in a book market in Havana, Cuba, back in 2016. The edition had the original poems in Spanish side by side their English translations. I’d been trying to get my then boyfriend to learn Spanish, so I got it in the hopes of sparking a will to learn (he did enrol in Spanish lessons a year later).
He never really picked up the book, and after we broke up I found it hiding in my shelf. So skinny it almost moulded into the bigger books siding it. I hardly ever read poetry. I’m not familiar with the format and sometimes I don’t feel as much as what people say I should feel. But this time was different.
Guanahaní, mi amor is a wonderful collection of poems about life in the Caribbean, the Caribbean identities (particularly in Barbados) and navigating existence in a colonial state. Like much of the literature that explores these themes, the poems are heart-wrenching and full of voice and song. Each verse brings you into the scene to the point that you can see, smell, feel and taste the memories of the author.
I would recommend this book to anyone getting more into poetry. In contrast to today’s movement, led by Rupi Kaur’s daring style, this collection is closer to traditional poetry and I found it easier to understand (even though I found Kaur’s books enlightening and I wish she published another one already).
Work like a Woman (2018)
by Mary Portas
This book has been staring at me for months., sitting on a table in my living room, in all of its bright orange glory. I first heard of Mary Portas when I visited Hay in November (many wonderful things came from Hay Winter Weekend).
During the Q&As, woman after woman stood up and told her story of applying Mary’s advice to their own businesses. They explained how her approach to people management had made their team happier and their enterprises thrive. All the while, Mary was sitting comfortably on the stage and pushing us to be better and giving words of encouragement. I got my book signed by her (this matters because I hate queues).
Then, I read it. I was left with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end. Work like a Woman is like having a mentor in your handbag at all times. It’s easy to read, and the advice insightful. In this manifesto, Mary tells the reader the story of her work life – going from an assistant at Harrod’s to a TV personality and owner of her own agency – and analyses her own career progress.
All the while, she explores the barriers she encountered, how she was able to overcome it, but also why they are a problem. Then, she tells us how to fix them using data. This is even more important because she helps us see that we can achieve individual success while working towards social change.
After I finished this book, I lent it to my boss. She’d seen me read it in the office and asked to borrow it. I can’t wait to talk to her about it.
Just do yourself a favour and read it.
First, we make the beast beautiful (2017)
by Sarah Wilson
A colleague recommended this book after discussing our respective struggles with anxiety. I’d had a particularly bad day, and simply being around other human beings was a mammoth task.
I bought the e-book edition almost reluctantly, but now I’m glad I read it. Although I’m not the biggest fan of her writing, Sarah Wilson’s unapologetic account of living with mental health issues is a breath of fresh air for anyone who can sympathise. I recognised my patterns of behaviour in many of the experiences Wilson described. I had flashbacks of how I had reacted in certain situations and understood why they had happened.
Now, although I’ve spoken about it to several friends, I’m cautious to recommend the book. Her approach to meditation and self-reflection is quite sound, however, Wilson’s focus on diet shouldn’t be followed without medical advice (in my humble opinion). The book at times feels like an ongoing ramble, and it lacks structure.
Overall, the messiness of it makes it beautiful. Several reviews have criticised it for its poor editing, yet I was able to appreciate the arch Wilson went through in the process of writing.
It is up to you if you want to read it. If mental health struggles are completely foreign to you, then perhaps give it a miss as you won’t be able to relate. If you do, this book will give you solace. Highlight the paragraphs that speak to you and send it to your loved ones. And DO. THE. WORK.