Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of a wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. The column covers fiction and non-fiction with reviews by Alicja (The Sisters) and Katie (Hood Feminism).
The Sisters by Liv Little in Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold by Daisy Johnson et al.
Published by Virago, October 2020
Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold is a collection of short stories curated by Professor Carolyne Larrington and written by many diverse voices. Interestingly, most of the stories in the collection have been previously available as a podcast and, as a result, they all have a certain lyrical quality to them – they are written for spoken word, for you to listen and get lost in the story.
For this issue, I’m focusing on Liv Little’s short story, The Sisters. Liv Little is the founding Editor-in-Chief of gal-dem magazine, sharing perspectives of women and non-binary people of colour. Her short story, The Sisters, in Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold, is a retelling of the tale of two brothers quarrelling about the love of a woman somewhen in the reign of Charles II. Like many of other authors of this collection, Liv Little is given only a tiny glimpse, a short description of the original story to create something entirely new. The reader can see the original story at the end of the book, which allows us to see how the author’s used their creativity to explore folklore tales.
The Sisters follows twins, Grace and Maya as they are reunited when their mother falls more ill and is put in the Hospice. For Grace, it is a moment of facing her family for the first time in years. In this short story, Liv Little explores the family dynamic and tension resulting from prolonged estrangement and Grace and Maya’s mother’s disapproval of Grace’s sexual orientation and relationship with Chloe. But, the dynamic between the sisters is equally complicated and throughout the short story, the drift between all women only deepens further. Like many other short stories in Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold, The Sisters is darker than many retellings and remains painfully timely – exploring the issues relevant in the contemporary world.
If you enjoy a retelling and would like to explore some less known folklore stories from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I would definitely recommend reading The Sisters and other stories featured in Hag.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women White Feminists Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Published by Bloomsbury, February 2020
Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism has been yet another eye-opening read for me in 2020. I have read a fair few books about feminism, but nothing about selective feminism and this is what Kendall explores.
With chapters on gun violence, poverty, fetishisation and how to become an ally, Hood Feminism acts as an intervention for white feminists on how to better consider the lives of Black and minority ethnic women.
This book is centered on one simple truth: if your support towards women is cherry-picked by ethnicity, status or wealth, then you are not a feminist.
“Black women weren’t doing feminism right because it didn’t look the way she *a white woman* wanted.”
Kendall’s work here is the best kind of uncomfortable; the kind that wakes you up to the many faces of womanhood, particularly in Black and minority ethnic communities. Hood Feminism is an educational tool to teach both men and women that saying “I’m a feminist” is not enough.
Kendall encourages people to dig deeper and ask yourself why you define yourself as a feminist and how you can become a better one. She is exposing us to a truth that we are almost all ignorant to, that a lot of feminist work is focused on the white woman and her struggles rather than the healthcare, childcare, or financial worries of the Black and ethnic minority women in our society.
Feminism is women helping women, but above that, it’s understanding that white women need to support Black women with education, hunger, poverty, murder, disappearances, pregnancy, abortion, housing, and marginalisation. The chapters in this book are so organised and succinct, it is easy to learn exactly what we need to.
This is such a necessary book for everyone, men and women alike. Kendall has laid down the groundwork and now, instead of witnessing Black women do the work, white women need to start evaluating their concept of feminism.