Convenience Store Woman: What is ‘Normal’?

When I had the chance to hear writer Sayaka Murata speak at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, I was very excited. I’d spotted the memorable, yellow cover of Convenience Store Woman,「コンビニ人間」at the Japan Centre and on the tube a few times and was really keen to read it.

Convenience Store Woman is a heartwarming look at identity, societal expectations and pressures on women. It shares the story of a woman called Keiko who works at a convenience store in Japan – or, as most people in Japan know them, the conbini (the Japanese title actually means ‘conbini human’). Unlike most convenience store employees though, she has been working there for 18 years – since she left University in 1998. Keiko has seen seven managers pass by and her career there has outlived all of them.

Continue readingConvenience Store Woman: What is ‘Normal’?”

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Kids Need to See Themselves in Books – #ReadtheOnePercent

In research funded by Arts Council England, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education published a report which showed that only 1% of children’s books feature protagonists who are BAME. This statistic really grabbed people’s attention on Twitter and became a national headline, but for those who were already familiar with this problem, the research did not come as a surprise.

Enter Knights Of, a publishing company founded by Aimée Felone and David Stevens. They have spent the past year championing change within children’s publishing, focusing on books which are diverse and inclusive. To celebrate their 1st birthday they set up a pop-up shop in Brixton, using the hashtag #ReadTheOnePercent on social media. It was a small space which they filled with books, books and more books. And what a shop it was. The white furniture and walls allowed the colourful book covers to pop. When I walked in, I didn’t know where to look first. Continue reading “Kids Need to See Themselves in Books – #ReadtheOnePercent”

Remembering Summer: London Matsuri

Before Winter finally settles, I’m keen to remember summer one last time. (At least the memories will keep me warm!) My strongest association with a Japanese summer is the matsuri festivals. On summer evenings, in the humidity of a thirty-degree-heat, communities gather, dressed in yukata, and enjoy the festival. It usually consists of a procession and a gathering in a local square. Crowds form around the taiko drums which are often on a stage in the centre of the square and they dance, encircling the taiko drummers. Young children who dance for the first time are taught by their parents and grandparents, who push them along gently if they forget to keep moving round. The dancing is entrancing. The beat of the taiko drums is something which still enraptures me and raises the hair on my arms with excitement.

Not to mention the food! The smokey yakitori with the most delicious sauce, the ice-cold, bright, blue kakigori which gives you brain-freeze, the warming takoyaki. I was having bubble tea at matsuri festivals way before it was hipster and cool. These memories of the sounds and smells of my childhood nourish me when I am feeling homesick. Continue reading “Remembering Summer: London Matsuri”

Women in Translation Month

It’s the end of Women in Translation Month and so to celebrate, this post is dedicated to three of my favourite texts by women authors which I’ve read in translation. The aim of the month-long celebration is to draw attention to the fact that women authors are not often translated into English.

I’ve chosen three classic novels and novellas written over 30-50 years ago but I believe that they are not read or talked about enough, which is why I’m highlighting them here. Each one deeply affected me and stands out in my memory. Nawal El Saadawi and Latifa Al-Zayyat’s novels were introduced to me during my Master’s module on Arabic literature (with primarily an Egyptian focus). I found Banana Yoshimoto when I was looking for Japanese authors to read as a teenager. Continue reading “Women in Translation Month”

August: Currently Reading/TBR

I’ve got a lot of things on my to-be-read list this month, and honestly I think that this pile of books is going to take me right through September as well because I’m busy this summer writing up my dissertation for my Master’s. Also, some of the books which I’ve chosen are going to take a while to finish as they’re heavy reads, both emotionally and physically (I’m looking at you, A Little Life)! Anyway, here’s what I’m reading at the moment and aiming to start reading soon…

Also, as a quick side-note – I’m loving the Gal-dem collaboration with The Guardian from last weekend:

Gal-dem Continue reading “August: Currently Reading/TBR”

British East Asian Theatre: “I’m not a graceful lotus flower.”

One of my pet hates is when books/plays written by BAME writers are perceived or labelled as culturally ‘niche’. Why do people say that? It’s a way of othering and distancing works by writers of colour for being ‘different’. It’s alienating for BAME writers and readers/audience members when it’s difficult for minority writers to get a platform and challenge the status quo in the first place. I think that it’s necessary to deconstruct this idea that we are ‘niche’, and with that in mind, here are two products of the British East Asian theatrical community which I have really enjoyed reading recently. Foreign Goods really got me thinking: why is this the first British East Asian collection of theatrical writing? Because it’s SO good. I hope that there’s another! Continue reading “British East Asian Theatre: “I’m not a graceful lotus flower.””

Mid-year Round-up: Favourite Encounters So Far

It’s definitely heating up for summer right now (I AM MELTING as I write this) and I’m so excited to spend my time in the sun crossing titles off my summer reading list. Before that, though, here’s a quick round-up of some of the books which I’ve really enjoyed reading in 2018 so far. Continue reading “Mid-year Round-up: Favourite Encounters So Far”

Featured on Halu Halo

Apologies for the radio silence – uni life has been chaotically consuming recently, but I’m glad to be back! I was recently interviewed by Halu Halo, an awesome project on Instagram which aims to act as a platform for mixed race people’s experiences and voices to be heard. Check out my feature below and then give them a follow! (Credits: @halu_halo and @thenomadiclondoner) Continue reading “Featured on Halu Halo”

Reasons to be Graeae on a Sunny Day in May

I first encountered the theatre company Graeae when they came to talk to the KCL Cultural Institute last Autumn, so I was extremely excited to receive this beautiful copy in the post, very kindly sent to me by Oberon Books. We’ve had gorgeously warm weather recently, and I have loved soaking up the Graeae rays in the sunshine.

Graeae is a force for change in world-class theatre, boldly placing D/deaf and disabled actors centre stage and challenging preconceptions.

(Source)

Reasons to be Graeae is a collection of stories which track the history of the company (established in 1980) as well as offering insight into what makes them tick. It’s a tribute to the fact that their passion for diversity, access, and representation has been hugely influential to the theatre industry. The company’s unusual name has a memorable story behind it – pronounced ‘grey-eye’, it is from the Ancient Greek myth of the three sisters who shared one eye and one tooth between them. As a result, they are extra entrepreneurial and clever. They’re said to have inspired Shakespeare’s three witches of Macbeth, so it has theatrical roots, too!

I’ve always been interested in dramaturgy and I knew that I was going to really enjoy Reasons to be Graeae because I had already heard about how cool they are as a company, but I was not prepared for how moved I would be by this fascinating and dense collection of stories. Warning: this is not dry, boringly academic dramaturgy. This is stuff that will make you feel teary on the tube and laugh in the library. It was a real joy to read. Continue readingReasons to be Graeae on a Sunny Day in May”

I Wish I Had Seen Wendy Kweh Play Calpurnia When I Was a Kid

I was a member of the ‘mob’ audience of Nicholas Hytner’s stunning production of Julius Caesar (2018) at the Bridge Theatre, and aside from being completely blown away by the production itself and the incredible level of talent from Ben Whishaw, Michelle Farly, and the whole cast, there was one person whom I found so personally inspiring.

When Wendy Kweh graced the stage in all her elegance, I paused for breath. In that space, seeing an incredibly talented actor of Asian ethnicity onstage as a distraught Calpurnia, a realisation hit me like a wave: in all my years of growing up and going to the theatre, as far as I can recall, I had never seen an Asian actor in a professional Shakespeare play in the UK before. Moreover, I had not even realised this fact until I saw Kweh onstage, standing in front of me. I had subconsciously accepted that it did not happen – even to the extent that I had not consciously thought about it at all. Continue reading “I Wish I Had Seen Wendy Kweh Play Calpurnia When I Was a Kid”