Arrival: A reading list by Nataliya Deleva

By The Indigo Press

By The Indigo Press

Motherhood

Sheila Heti

£9.99 £9.29

A poignant account on choice and women’s ambivalence towards motherhood, this work of Sheila Heti was a huge inspiration for me while writing Arrival. Cleverly approached and inventive in form, Motherhood is a thought-provoking read I keep returning to. The narrator is a woman in her late 30s who, throughout the book, asks a yes-or-no question, then throws three coins: two or three heads means yes, two or three tails, no. It might sound unserious and paradoxical, but through this model of exploring the possibilities and choice, the narrator is able to take control over her decision to become or not to become a mother. It’s the process of questioning the gender expectations and inflicted roles, of weighing out the gains and losses of having a child, of comparing the work of the artist with that of a mother that I find most fascinating.

Whereabouts

Jhumpa Lahiri

£14.99

A significant fiction book for me this year was Whereabouts. This is the first novel Jhumpa Lahiri writes originally in Italian and then self-translated in English. It was recommended to me by one of the thoughtful booksellers at Bookbar, and it absolutely matched my taste. Lyrical and melancholic, with each short episode – often not longer than a page or two – the unnamed narrator notes down her efforts to locate her place in the world while drifting further way from the urban life.

My Body Keeps Your Secrets: Dispatches on Shame and Reclamation

Lucia Osborne-Crowley

£12.99 £12.08

This is one of the most powerful non-fiction books I read this year is which Lucia voices out the testimony from women and non-binary people about their experience of identity and inflicted shame. A bold, intimate read that explores what it means to live with a chronic illness in a female or non-binary body. An important book that should be read and studied.

Gargoyles

Harriet Mercer

£9.99 £9.29

A beautifully calibrated blend of memoir and essays, this book looks at the female body in relation to pain, chronic illness and loss. It depicts the experience of the female narrator bound to bed for weeks and months, her body engulfed in pain, while her brain tries to process the condition, the constant pain and nausea, and what it means to live with the physical manifestations of the illness. The narrative meanders through her childhood memories evoked by the current events. But these memories are most often disturbing: a recollection of loss and traumatic experiences, like the death of Harriet’s partner, an early sexual assault or losing her father to cancer. These memories come back when the darkness settle as gargoyles.

When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back

Naja Marie Aidt

£9.99 £9.29

This is perhaps the most stunning memoirs I’ve ever read: unsettling, intense and beautiful at the same time. The book was originally published in Denmark in 2017, two years after the harrowing event it tries to grapple with: the death of the author’s twenty-five-year-old son in a tragic accident. It tells the story of a mother grieving her lost child through a text that seems broken but somehow perfect in its imperfection as it tries to recount such overwhelming pain. I find the way Naja Marie Aidt narrates trauma captivating—through fragments, borrowed voices, and memories. This book itself creates a meta-text of grief, giving context to all these voices: other writers, poems written by the Naya’s son Carl or by his brother after his death.

Faces on the Tip of My Tongue

Emmanuelle Pagano

£12.00 £11.16

This is another book in translation that I find intriguing. It’s a collection of interlinked short stories but it could also be read as a novella made out of vignettes. There is a delicate, almost translucent thread entwined in the narrative which provides hints, takes the reader to the next story, like a children’s game, only to discover a new detail, invisible before. What holds these stories together, are the re-appearing characters: people on the periphery of society. The slow-moving narrative lingers in a moment of time and it’s that ordinariness of the events, the prolonging of the moment that helps the reader find pleasure in moving through the pages.

In the Dream House: A Memoir

Carmen Maria Machado

£9.99 £9.29

A poignant account of the abuse suffered at the hands of the person one loves, this memoir is still haunting me, and it’s one of the most important influences on my own writing. It consists of short chapters, each titled as ‘Dream House as…’ The narrator falls in love with a witty blond Harvard graduate but their bond soon begins to morph into emotional and, at times, physical violence. The passionate at first connection turns into something incomprehensible: the coercive behaviour traps her into a manipulative relationship. Her partner becomes aggressive when Machado doesn’t answer her phone and accuses her of cheating with everyone from friends to her own father. The narrator’s confusion – is this abuse – explores perhaps the most important part of abuse: the grey areas which create uncertainty and often make the victim of abuse question their own agency. The structure of the memoir reflects the shattered memory of a person who had experienced abuse and is trying to recollect their reflection of the traumatic events – this, I’ve experienced myself, is the most honest and truthful way of talking about trauma.

Assembly

Natasha Brown

£12.99 £12.08

This is another work of fiction which I read this year and found difficult to put down. It’s a well crafted slim book. The form is as captivating and inventive as it is the narrative: it focuses on the detail, on fragments of conversations, of memories, of seemingly mundane corporate environment events imbued with passive aggression and offensive acts experienced by the narrator, but it also spans over centuries and expands to high concepts as capitalism, colonialism and the historical grounds for racism. The narrative employs a poetic language with a strong sense of rhythm and depicts masterfully the different manifestations of non-acceptance, of not belonging, of identity clash with societal expectations.

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