Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Review: My Baby Shot me Down

My Baby Shot Me Down
Blinding Books

Authors: Clarissa Angus, Katherine Black, Maggy van Eijk, Harriet Goodale, Deborah Hambrook, Claudine Lazar, Rachael Smart, Ruth Starling, Alison Wassell and Laura Wilkinson.

My Baby Shot Me Down is an anthology of short stories, poetry and essays. It is women writing for women about what it means to be a woman. This is Blinding Books's first foray into creating an anthology and I think they've pulled it off. The organisation is spot on, the author introductions are punchy and quirky, and as for the selection, well, let's just say I'd like to give the editor a pat on the back (in a non-patronising way, of course).

One thing I will say is that it's taken me a while to get through this anthology. I don't think anthologies are there to be devoured in one sitting, but this one certainly requires a few. Don't get me wrong, that's not for negative reasons, it's just a little full on at times. Visceral came to mind at various points. Sometimes it's violent, occasionally it's a little hopeless, and more than once it had me questioning what good there is left in humanity. But, amongst all that are these little glimmers of something, I'm not sure what, but something that suggests that things will be ok in the end.

'Tuppences' and 'Patriarchy' by Rachel Smart deserve a mention for their unapologetically blunt language. Both cut straight to the core of the manipulation of the female body and the simultaneous exposure and concealment of the female body. 

'with adults like that, in a society like ours, who needs fucking enemies?'

'King of Cliche' by Alison Wassell is written entirely in, you guessed it, cliches. It's pretty genius. 'We'll Meet Again' by Harriet Goodale made me reassess my own reaction to the random elderly man who sits and stares at you. Laura Wilkinson's two short stories are subtle yet truly memorable. And finally, Deborah Hambrook's poetry takes mundane every day situations and reveals what can hide behind the mundane. 

I could easily mention every author in this collection, and point out many more heartbreaking, truthful and slap-in-the-face passages, but I won't. Part of this anthology's power, I think, is in discovering it for the first time and experiencing that initial shock, the growing awareness and, when it's over, feeling the need to go away and evaluate your own identity.

This anthology showcases a selection of unknown and overshadowed female voices. It's dark and disturbing at times, but hey, being a woman isn't all sugar and spice all the time. It's a collection that could be picked apart for hidden meanings and definitely one to dip in and out of over and over again.

Thank you to Ruth at Blinding Books for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.


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