A Room Called Earth
by Madeleine Ryan
A Room Called Earth is one of the most gently potent books I’ve ever read. The prose is razor sharp, fresh and could only come from an author whose understanding and experience of the subject matter is as close to home as one could get.
The story is stream of consciousness, told from the point of view of a young woman, fiercely independent and original, who is getting ready to go out to a party. Her rituals, her perspectives about these rituals, her perspectives about Melbourne, where the book is set, her longing for contemporary Australia to face up to the cultural asymmetry, and negligence of Aboriginal culture and approaches to ecological fallout, that the country so badly needs to have with itself. The book is vital and beautiful. A celebration of radical self acceptance.
The point of view of the unnamed protagonist allows us into the (greatly underrepresented) internal world of a neurodiverse woman. This is never directly addressed, pulling us in to understand her unique point of view through the prose itself, in turn creating a greater sense of the dynamic and distinct way she experiences the world.
The author herself has autism, having been diagnosed at age 27 whist writing the early iterations of the novel. She has written comprehensively about her experiences in publications such as Vogue and The new York Times, advocating for better understanding, compassion and resources to support the neurodiverse community.
To the book itself-
Our protagonist prepares and heads out, granting us with hyperrealistic portraits, astutely observed, of the characters we meet at her party. These archetypes are immediately recognisable: The slightly competitive, front facingly aloof ex-boyfirned, here with his new girlfriend; the beautiful woman, objectified by the male party-goers, an energetic fulcrum of the party, all others hanging off her moves and choices about who to flirt with and speak to. The protagonist astutely observes how these kinds of dynamics reinforce an expected hetero-normative two and fro, underpinning so much of what drives mainstream connection and decision-making in trying to, and continually missing one another in attempts to form genuine connections.
It’s in the line to the toilet, she first genuinely connects with someone: and the early embers of romance eventually ensue, paving the way for authentic and deep revelations about grief, historical trauma and loneliness.
The journey and where we are left, with our protagonist having found the beginnings of friendship, created an internal space for me, which made me feel like I was being left with a warm hug. This book and feeling stayed with me for days. I loved this book SO MUCH
by Natsuo Kirino
It has been literal years since I finished a novel. OUT by Natsuo Kirino was not only a welcomed first read after a monster sabbatical from inhaling any literary content, but also, my experience of reading OUT and getting to be alongside Masako, Yayoi, Kuniko and Yoshi struggling, working class gals who embody the asymmetric power balance women of different ilks of the working class experience and face, in contemporary Japan felt universal, specific to place, but with likenesses to women working to pull the weight and provide for their families in Aotearoa, and the world. It like a rad feminist retaliation against a potential status quo.
Loosely, the book follows the events after Yayoi, a night shift worker on the floor of a bento lunch factory, kills her philandering, drunkard of a husband after he abuses her physically.
She asks for help from her colleagues Masako and Yoshi to get rid of the body. They agree, all goes to plan to evade discovery, until they are convinced to let the fickle, addictive and spendthrift Kuniko into the fold.
What I loved the most about this book, was the sparseness of text but the depth of metaphor throughout.
The allegorical way that violence transpires, not for violence’s sake, but so that we, the reader, are granted access into the psyche of women, otherwise unseen, or heard in Tokyo, of the working class.
I frikken loved this book