Category Archives: Politics

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape- Sohaila Abdulali

Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review


Sohaila Abdulali was raped in her late teens, and nobody really cared. It set her off on a path to reveal the truth behind rape, and its victims. This book is made up of the stories she was told and the things she found out.


Sohaila Abdulali was weeks from moving to America when she was raped in her home country of India. She was discouraged from reporting by the police, the very people who should have been protecting her. It wasn’t an unknown story, rape just wasn’t a topic discussed in India (despite a few exceptions, it still isn’t). A few years later Sohaila returned to India in the hop of exposing the rape culture in the country, but still nobody was willing to talk about it. She released an article, detailing her own experience, and returned to the US.

For thirty years she worked with rape survivors. Then came the publicised rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, and suddenly Sohaila’s story became international news, because she had been talking out against the culture that caused Jyoti’s rape.

This is when Sohaila started speaking out again. She had always wanted to change the world, and had been in her ‘small’ ways, but now she had a platform.

In ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape’ Sohaila talks about her own story, and about Jyoti’s, and other widely known rape cases (like Brook Turner), but mainly she talks about the rape of ‘everyday’ women. Rapes that might have been reported, or might not, might have been taken seriously, or might not.

One thing I got from the book was how she didn’t like seeing the raped woman as a victim. She didn’t like the idea that a rape should define who a woman is. Yes it might be life changing, but it is just one part of a life. She talks about how women who are raped as perceived as overly innocent victims, or women who were asking for it, there’s no in-between where she just a ‘normal’ woman, and that’s what the majority are.

She talks about different cultures and how they view rape, and the damage which can be done by this.

There are some really inspiring and interesting stories. I think it’s good to know them, and I do like the overall message.

However I found in reading the book it was a little bit all over the place. The stories didn’t seem to fit together all that well, and at times Sohaila would go from talking about one ‘victim’ straight to another or to herself. She told her own story, but then peppered other bits throughout in ways that only really sometimes fits with what she had been saying previously. I do wonder if maybe it was on purpose to show the variety of women, that it shouldn’t all fit together like a jigsaw, but it made it a little difficult as a reader to read as a whole book. Part of it may have been because I had an ARC copy, so maybe the end formatting made chapters more obvious, but I still feel that it would be better as chapters for each subject, or each ‘victim’.

It probably is worth reading, for the stories and for the outlook. I’m certainly not regretting reading it.


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Filed under Feminism, Memoir, non-fiction review, Politics

The War on Women- Sue Lloyd Roberts


Sue Lloyd Roberts spent her life filming in hostile areas, where women were mistreated. In this book she talks about how women are treated around the world and what is (or isn’t) being done to fight their corner.


This was the book for my feminist bookgroup in July, and I think I can safely say we found it pretty hopeless. I think it is an important and eye opening book to read, but it does make you despair a bit.

The full title of the book includes the line ‘The Women Who Fight Back’, and whilst these women did exist- and were very admirable for it- often their ‘fight’ actually made little real difference.

The most stark and memorable of these was the story of the female peacekeeper charged with routing out sex trafficking in war torn areas. When she found that a lot of her fellow American peacekeepers were using the services of these abused girls she tried to put things right- and was dismissed for the pleasure.

Some of these stories are ones you may know, the brutal rape of a woman on a bus in India, the frequent sexual and physical attacks during protests in Egypt, but you may not know the levels, and how things stand today.

There were also things I know were an issue, but not quite how close to home. I knew about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), but I guess I (maybe naively) presumed that even on girls in Britain it happened abroad.

I’m not going to rate this book, I think it’s important to read, but a rating is a bit too much about pleasure. I wouldn’t say it was pleasurable. In terms of readability it was good, graphic when it needed to be but without trying to drown you in emotion, and not too obviously political or ‘news-y’.

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Hardback (£16.99)

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Filed under Feminism, History, non-fiction review, Politics

How to be a Heroine (Or What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much)- Samantha Ellis

Synopsis (by me)

In ‘How To Be a Heroine’ Ellis revisits her bookish heroines from the past and evaluates whether they really deserved to be heroines, and why they were her heroines to begin with.


I mentioned in my review of Texts From Jane Eyre that this book has probably overtaken it in terms of book I am most likely to recommend. That’s probably true, although Texts from Jane Eyre may hold a wider appeal.

How to Be a Heroine is part memoir, part literary analysis, part feminist, part religious discussion. I didn’t expect all that. I expected a book simply about books.

It was interesting to see what Ellis got from her re-reads, and what her younger self had got from her initial reads. Sometimes she couldn’t see any heroism in the characters she had once wanted to emulate, sometimes she saw that the real heroines in the books were not the ones you would expect. Of course it all came together. Even if she couldn’t see someone as a heroine now they had helped shape her.

Ellis’ storytelling was what really drew me in. I really got a sense of what life was like for her, maybe because I saw some similarities with myself (whilst also having tons of differences).  I often wanted to read the books she had described when she wrote about reading them for the first time. Sometimes her more recent images made me change my mind, which was a shame in a way, but then maybe that means I’m not in the right stage of life or frame of mind to appreciate the books as she did first time. At other times her changes of mind made me want to read things more, or just the same, but maybe for different reasons.

I thoroughly recommend it, especially for female book readers (although there is no reason a man couldn’t enjoy it).


Buy it from amazon:

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e-book (£7.99)

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Filed under Biography, Feminism, Memoir, non-fiction review, Politics, Reading/reviews

How to Be Woman- Caitlin Moran

Image from Amazon

Synopsis (from Amazon)

1913: Suffragette throws herself under the King’s horse

 1970: Feminists storm Miss World

 Now: Caitlin Moran rewrites The Female Eunach from a bar stool and demands to know why pants are getting smaller

There’s never been a better time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…

Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should you get Botox? Do men secretly hate us? What should you call your vagina? Why does your bra hurt? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?

Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin Moran answers these questions and more in How To Be A Woman – following her from her terrible 13th birthday (‘I am 13 stone, have no friends, and boys throw gravel at me when they see me’) through adolescence, the workplace, strip-clubs, love, fat, abortion, Topshop, motherhood and beyond.


Those who follow my Twitter feed will know that I had a bit of a girl crush on Caitlin Moran during this book. Honestly I just would love to be her friend! It’s almost difficult to see this as a feminist book simply because you feel more like you are reading something designed to entertain. I was pretty much constantly giggling and the tone of her writing is just so natural you feel as if you are having a conversation with her rather than reading something she has written. Indeed in some parts she even writes out what she imagines the reader might be thinking and answers it. You can just imagine her sitting there talking to herself as she writes. Yet it is a feminist book. It talks about what you may call ‘little’ feminist issues- high heels, waxing, and the occasional bigger issue, but it makes it much easier to relate to things you encounter on a day to day basis, and are so easy to accept that they don’t even seem to be issues. But she’s right, who decided heels are a good idea? They’re stupid, they just kill your feet! Why is it attractive to have no hair?

Honestly you have to read this.



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Filed under Biography, Comedy, non-fiction review, Politics

I Fought the Law- Dan Kieran

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Originally intended to be a simple Christmas humour book, “I Fought The Law” ended up becoming something rather different. The premise was simple enough. Dan was going to spend a year trying to break as many stupid old laws as he could find, for your amusement. You see there are loads of ridiculous laws on the statute book…It is still illegal to beat a carpet in the Metropolitan Police District, to take possession of a beached whale or to get within a hundred yards of the Queen without wearing socks. The list goes on and on. But in the process of researching these silly old laws Dan found a glut of stupid legislation that was equally ridiculous, but these laws had one thing in common – they’d all been passed by our current Government. And when he met a man who has a criminal record for eating a cake that had ‘Freedom of Speech’ written on it in icing in Parliament Square the idea of breaking the Adulteration of Tea Act of 1776 started to seem a little frivolous.Lifting up this legal concrete slab in the garden of England, however, caused all sorts of creepy crawlies to emerge that began to cast doubt on the health of the nation, so Dan’s adventure began to change tack. His journey ended up taking him all across the country where he found some unlikely heroes fighting back. Meet: Dorothy, who spent days living on the roof of a bus station in Derby; a group of pensioners, who were forced to let off stink bombs in a court of law; the man who dresses like Chaplin’s tramp and keeps getting arrested outside Downing Street; and, one woman who got an ASBO for being naked in her own home – and a Tourette’s sufferer who was given an ASBO for swearing. So, whether it’s fighting to protect our environment, our freedom, or the right to live in an unconventional way, “I Fought the Law” is an unashamedly patriotic call to arms to all those for whom enough is enough.


This was not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting a bit of a funny book (something like the stuff Dave Gorman writes) but maybe with a serious message behind it. Bits of it yes were funny but I found more of it on the serious side, and at times even a little depressing, kind of fatalist. It was easy to read for a book that turned out pretty serious but did read a bit like a rant a lot of the time, and was very repetative, Would I recommend it? Well it’s interesting enough, and it did make me think of things- maybe things that people should think about, so I guess I would say it’s not a bad choice.


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Filed under Comedy, non-fiction review, Politics