The HCwBB Team’s #StellaSpark Picks

The HCwBB Team’s #StellaSpark Picks

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The Hot Chicks with Big Brains team is incredibly excited about the 2017 nonfiction Stella Prize Long-list Announcement. So excited, in fact, that Big Boss Bri Lee will be live tweeting from the Stella Sparks Party in Sydney on the evening of the 7th of February. Follow her tweets here and check out the team’s #StellaSpark choices below.

Bri Lee – Founding Editor

@brieloiselee

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My #StellaSpark is The Mayne Inheritance by Rosamond Siemon.

I got such a kick out of reading this book last month. I’ve always struggled with a kind of geographic imposter syndrome – the idea that you can’t do grand things in Brisbane. That Brisbane is just a “big country town” and so young and “oh, nothing big happens here”. It’s been an uphill battle to be inspired rather than disheartened by trips to major literary cities like Melbourne or New York. Something clicked (or should I say, sparked!) in me when I read this book. I realised that every place has a history, and that wherever there are humans there are stories worth telling. I hadn’t realised that the university I went to for six years, UQ, was built on the land of the Mayne family. So much murder and “madness” and entrepreneurialism and betrayal. Long story short: this book made me realise that big things happen everywhere, in every city, including mine.

As well as all that, Rosamond kicks ass at research. This book is the perfect mix of fact and filling-the-gaps. When storytelling she’s clear about what the records actually show, and by contrast what we can just presume. It gives the book great authority but doesn’t inhibit the enjoyment of the narrative or the suspension of disbelief.

I don’t think it ever intended to be a broad history of the area, but I was frustrated by the lack of discussion about the Indigenous Australian experience during the time the narrative covered. I think only one passing reference is made to “Kanakas” but the indentured workers’ arrangements for the Irish immigrants was explained in great detail. It did expound the experiences and (mis)treatment of homosexuality throughout the 20th century though, and Rosamond’s treatment of the women of the Mayne family is nicely feminist.

Anna Apuli – Art Director/Assistant Manager

@its_crapuli

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I’m a smart girl. How did I become anorexic? by Lucinda Kent

My #StellaSpark is Lucinda Kent’s article I’m a smart girl. How did I become anorexic?

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what struck me about the piece, but I still get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach each time I read it. It could be the way Lucy talks about her struggle so that readers understand how easily someone can go from eating healthy to hardly eating. How she makes clear that no amount of logic or smarts is enough to fight off an impending eating disorder; because like any invisible disease, somewhere in the distance a cry of “Just– ”, can be heard among those eager to put in their two cents about how to cope with an illness they clearly have never had. Lucy adds to the narrative of disordered eating by exploring the influence of social media and technology, but what I find the most striking is her exploration of the subtle, yet prominent social conditioning that thin is best, regardless of any aversive health effects.

I myself have seen friends go through tough times, losing weight in the process, and instead of expressing concern, you’ll more commonly hear people quick to comment on how good that person looks. This is Lucy’s take-home message, and it’s a good one: if you notice someone’s losing weight, instead of telling them they look good, ask if they’re okay. It’s really that simple.

Yen-Rong Wong – Twitter Manager

@inexorablist

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Who Are We Talking About? Asian – Australian Writers: An Overview by Tseen Khoo

My #StellaSpark is Tseen Khoo’s article, Who Are We Talking About? Asian-Australian Women Writers: An Overview.

I came across this piece (written when I was just two years old!?) while conducting research for an essay I was writing for an independent project in my final semester of my undergraduate degree. I resonated strongly with the ideas Khoo put forward in this article. It also reassured me that the academic work I was doing, that of exploring the place of Asian female writing in the body of literature, was work that needed to be done. Khoo outlines many problems faced by those in the field of modern Asian studies and its effects on Asian (and particularly South East Asian) literature – and many of these issues remain relevant to this day.

This article also provided me with a list of female Asian Australian writers to follow and research, which I have found extremely useful and enlightening. The question “Who are we talking about?” is still one that many Asian Australian writers grapple with, considering the breadth of the term “Asian” amongst calls for assimilation and claims of multiculturalism. Khoo’s article made me realise the importance of promoting Asian Australian writing, especially that of female Asian Australians. It also allowed me to look inward, and to realise that I, too, had important things to say, and to not be afraid of saying them as loud as I possibly could.

Emma Kate Lewis – Blog Manager

@ekelsewhere

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My #StellaSpark is Jana Perkovic’s The Critic in the Episode ‘Guilt’. Published in September 2016’s Issue 31 of The Lifted Brow, I came across this piece a little late and at exactly the right time. I read it in November, a few days after Donald Trump was declared President-elect of the United States and a few nights after a young man in a car pulled up alongside me to masturbate on an otherwise empty road.

Jana is a performance and dance writer, and her work was unlike any I’d read before. In five numbered acts, she examines rape culture from a perspective that is as engaging as it is relevant, using recent real-world cases and significant theatrical performances in order to do so. She charters the way conversations about rape have changed in recent years, how society at large views femininity in relation to masculinity and, ultimately, how “language makes the world”.

The day I began reading Jana’s piece, I felt vulnerable in my own skin. That feeling admittedly took longer than the duration of the essay to shift. But what had dissipated by the time I’d finished reading was the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that I’d felt prior to doing so. Bleak as its observations on the treatment of women in today’s society are, its very existence is nonetheless uplifting; women are talking about these issues, writing about these issues, and refusing to stay silent. That is how we have the power to shape our futures and, in turn, reshape the world.


Featured Image via The Stella Prize

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