Splainer

Sunday, June 26 2022


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I was pulled to the Ouse as a magnet is pulled to metal, returning on summer nights and during the short winter days to repeat some walks, some swims through turning seasons until they amassed the weight of ritual. I’d come to that corner of Sussex idly and with no intention of staying long, but it seems to me now that the river cast a lure, that it caught me on the fly and held me heart-stopped there. And when things began to falter in my own life, it was the Ouse to which I turned.

That’s Olivia Laing in ‘To The River,’ a novel that brings in a deeply personal dimension to a geographical landscape. We love this quote because it speaks of the inherent connection that exists between humans and the natural world.


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We Recommend

Queer tales from across the world!

This June, we’ve been reading some fantastic queer-themed books that question heteronormative narratives and explore sexuality, bodies, queerness, oppression, and love in different ways. We recommend reading about queerness and books by queer authors not just in June, but throughout the year. Here are some picks from our shelves! 

 

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars

Written by Kai Cheng Thom, and published by indie publisher Zubaan, this surrealist book follows the journey of a young unnamed Asian trans girl who runs away from her parents’ abusive home, and begins living on the Street of Miracles. In a pleasure district where sex work takes place, in the company of fierce and larger than life trans femmes, the protagonist finds her chosen family and blooms into the woman she’s always wanted to be. 

 

Confessions of the Fox

Set in the eighteenth-century London underworld, this novel by Jordy Rosenberg is a bawdy, genre-bending novel about a story within a story. It reimagines the life of thief and jail breaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation.

 

In 2021, we hosted a conversation between Kai Cheng Thom and Jordy Rosenberg about trans writing at Champaca. You can watch the conversation here.

 

Fun Home

‘Fun Home’ by Alison Bechdel is a nonlinear graphic memoir in which she chronicles her childhood, her youth, and her complex relationship with her father. In this honest account of her life, which includes transcripts from childhood diaries, she examines her father's closeted homosexuality and reveals how she had more in common with him than she ever knew.

 

Ammonite

On planet Jeep, centuries earlier, a deadly virus wiped out the men and changed the women forever. In Nicola Griffith’s Sci Fi novel, an anthropologist arrives on the planet to test a new vaccine, but finds herself changed irrevocably. Exploring questions of gender and society, community and politics, and love and violence, ‘Ammonite’ creates a unique and unforgettable universe.

 

The Truth About Me

‘The Truth About Me’ by A Revathy is an unflinching and deeply moving autobiography. Revathy was born a boy, but felt and behaved like a girl. In telling her story, she writes about an acute sense of unease growing up, her journey of becoming a woman and the ridicule and violence she faced in her own home.

 

In The Dream House

‘In The Dream House’ by author Carmen Maria Machado is a memoir of an abusive same-sex relationship—but it is also a memoir of the complexity of human emotions, of stories, queerness, and hope. Machado plays with form, metaphor, and narrative tropes to tell a story that is not usually told, and in a wholly unique way. You’ll find chapters where Machado imagines her relationship with her ex-girlfriend as a haunted house, as a murder mystery, as an episode of television. She approaches a difficult topic—her own trauma—with ingenuity and playfulness, wit and wisdom. 

 

Sexualness

‘Sexualness’ by Akshay Khanna examines the emergence of ‘sexuality’ as a legitimate cause for a movement, an aspect of personhood, a political object, a context of social mobility and a mode of connectedness between people and geographies. Sexuality is, in this sense, a ‘modern’ phenomenon. Khanna brings in a new reading of sexuality, offering us the idea of ‘sexualness,’ and making sense of the sexual in non-Euro-North American contexts.

 

Record of A Spaceborn Few

A hundred years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place that few outsiders have been to. In her science fiction novel ‘Record of A Spaceborn Few,’ Becky Chambers examines life on the Exodus Fleet through the perspectives of five different characters as they ponder over the inescapable question of what must be done with a ship that has reached its destination. 

 

We also highly recommend the first two books in the Wayfarers trilogy by Becky Chambers—‘Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ and ‘A Closed and Common Orbit’.

 
Book of the month

‘To The River’ by Olivia Laing

‘To The River’ is named for Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’, a novel that dwells on the passing of time, mirroring the ebb and flow of the sea. The River Ouse is famously the river where Virginia Woolf drowned. Half a century later, in the wake of the end of a relationship, Laing seeks to discover the mysterious pull of the waters of the river. In Laing’s work, the rhythm of the river likewise becomes a metaphor for the ebb and flow of time, and of life itself. We loved how Laing combines meticulous research of the place’s political and cultural history with her own week-long walk around the river, bringing in a thoughtful and personal dimension to the book. 

 

Through vivid and careful observations of the world around her, Laing brings alive the ways in which landscapes hold meaning—meaning that we construct ourselves, by making rivers into metaphors, or dark skies into bad omens, but also histories that are written into the world around us like a palimpsest. Laing reminds us that there are stories all around us. From the banks of the river, she gives us a glimpse into the past of a country, the brilliant mind of a troubled writer, and her own relationship with nature. 

 

This June, we're reading ‘To The River’ for the Champaca Book Subscription and Book ClubRead this book with us and join us in our book club meetings where we dive deep into the book, and what it meant for us!

 
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In today’s edition

From Our Shelves

  • A unique selection of books that play with the form of the novel itself

 

Life at Champaca

  • The third instalment of the Champaca Book Subscription and Book Club is here
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