Girls’ Globe Book Tour: Finland

Finnish literature echoes the country’s vast forests, icy winters and endless summer nights. But also, at times, the conservatism and racism, social gaps, and haunting memories from the two world wars. At its best, it’s dark, witty, and brave – particularly the works of these five writers.

Outside of Finland, Tove Jansson (1914-2001) is best known as the creator of the wildly popular Moomins. Jansson was a multitalented artist who wrote and illustrated fiction for children and adults. She also led an ‘unconventional’ life, choosing never to marry or have children, but instead to put her artistry first. She often approached taboo themes, for instance, she incorporated her romantic relationships with women in her stories. (In Finland, homosexuality was considered an illness until 1981.)

The Summer Book is set on an island in the Finnish archipelago. Sophia and her grandmother spend the summer on the remote island, observing and living in harmony with the animals, birds and natural forces around them. It’s a quiet and soothing story about the sea, friendship, life and death, written without beautifying filters or nostalgia.

I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes and dream! – Tove Jansson

Katja Kettu wrote her most successful novel in the back of a car, while she and her boyfriend were travelling back to Helsinki from Rovaniemi, the small city in the north of Finland close to the Arctic Circle where she grew up. Maybe that is why her writing is as wild and untamed as the northern lights. Katja also works as a director of animated films, and her bestseller The Midwife was turned into a movie.

The Midwife is a controversial love story between a Nazi officer and a Finnish midwife during WWII, set in the icy forests of Finnish Lapland. The midwife falls in love at first sight with the handsome officer who one day comes to the village as a photographer. She joins the German side as a volunteer nurse, just to be close to him. Brutal murder, abortions, pain… Is all really fair in love and war? A magical, hypnotic, fleshy, and disgusting story about love.

Rosa Liksom is a Finnish writer and artist from Lapland who has produced a large number of novels, children’s books, art books, and plays. In 2011, she was awarded the Finlandia prize for her novel Compartment no 6.

On a long train journey from a wintery Moscow to Mongolia, a young Finnish woman gets stuck in the same compartment as a talkative, foul-mouthed former soldier. He talks and drinks endlessly during the long journey, and even trying to silence him by pouring a bottle of nail polish remover into his vodka doesn’t help. The pen of Liksom is poetic, dramatic and incredibly witty.

Sofi Oksanen is one of the best known contemporary Finnish writers. Her stories are brave and fierce, and she’s not afraid to attack touchy subjects. In Sofi’s debut novel Stalin’s Cows, the eating disorder of the main character and the racism she and her Estonian mother are subjected to make the novel a very painful read at times – but also an honest and touching one.

The bestseller Purge is set in Estonia, where the worlds of Zara and Aliide collide. Zara is a trafficking victim on the run from her pimp, who ends up as by chance in Aliide’s backyard. But, it turns out that the meeting of the two women might not be a coincidence at all. Here begins a story of past horrors, sexual abuse, and how history is written by the winners – but we all have blood on our hands.

If you enjoy discovering new female authors, make sure to read Girls’ Globe’s recommendations from Sweden, Latin America and Scotland too!

4 Scottish Authors You Need on Your Bookshelf

There is, and has always been, a wealth of wonderful and unique writing coming out of Scotland. Here are some of my favourite female Scottish writers, both long-loved and newly-discovered:

Ali Smith

One of Scotland’s best-loved writers, Ali Smith is an author, playwright, lecturer and journalist whose novels and short stories have gathered multiple prizes and endless admirers. Born and raised in Inverness, a small city in the north of Scotland, Smith started writing poetry at just 8 years old.

There’s a long list of Smith novels to choose from, but my favourite is Hotel World, a mesmerising and inventive piece of writing in which Smith is beautifully playful with language – often going pages at a time without punctuating the stream-of-consciousness of her narrators.

“Stories can change lives if we’re not careful. They will come in and take the shirts off our backs. Tell the right stories, and we live better lives.”

– Ali Smith, during a radio interview in 2016

Jenni Fagan 

A poet and novelist, Fagan graduated from Greenwich University with the highest possible grade for a creative writing. She was was included in the most recent Granta list of the 20 Best Young British Novelists. In fact, she was the only Scottish writer on that list.

Her debut novel, The Panopticon, tells of Anais Hendricks, a teenage girl in care. Told in a first person Scottish vernacular, the novel pulls on Fagan’s own experience of life – she was looked after by the state for 16 years – without succumbing to the slightest hint of cliche.

The sky is a vast black. Each star up there is just a wee pinhole letting in pure-white light. Imagine if it was all pure-white light on the other side of that sky.

– Jenni Fagan, The Panopticon, 2012

Kirsty Logan 

Kirsty Logan is fiction writer, book reviewer and writing mentor. She lives in Glasgow where, according to her own website, she drinks coffee, listens to true crime podcasts and dreams of the sea.

Try The Gracekeepers, a magical story of a floating circus and two young women in search of a home. Filled with inspiration from Scottish folklore and fairytales, Logan’s lyrical debut made me think of Angela Carter’s writing in the best possible way.

We don’t belong anywhere, because we can belong everywhere.

– Kirsty Logan, The Gracekeepers, 2015

Janice Galloway 

Another of Scotland’s most esteemed female writers, Galloway is the author of several novels, short stories and poetry collections. She has done extensive radio work for the BBC, and is a writer in residence at four Scottish prisons.

Her first novel, The Trick is to Keep Breathing, is widely regarded as a Scottish literary classic. Dealing with depression and trauma, it is bravely written and brutally honest, and manages to be exhilarating at the same time as full to the brim with despair.

“No matter how often I think I can’t stand it anymore, I always do. There is no alternative. I don’t fall, I don’t foam at the mouth, faint, collapse or die. It’s the same for all of us. You can’t get out of the inside of your own head. Something keeps you going. Something always does.”

– Janice Galloway, The Trick is to Keep Breathing, 1989

You can join Girls’ Globe on our global book tour of female authors. Try these writers from Sweden and Latin America…you might just discover your new favourite!

Books to Make You Feel Bold

To mark International Women’s Day 2017 we’ve been celebrating the commitment and courage of the bloggers and organisations in Girls’ Globe’s network.

We asked each of them to share their secrets of feeling BOLD. Here are the top 20 books that Girls’ Globe reads to feel inspired, emboldened and ready to take action!

  1. We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    What does “feminism” mean today? That’s the question
    at the heart of this personal, eloquently-argued essay.

    Book 1

  2. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, Nujood Ali
    Nujood Ali’s father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. This book reminds us that hope is a verb.
  3. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
    This innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers through one woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life.
  4. Daring Greatly, Brené Brown
    A powerful new vision that encourages us to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives.
  5. Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby
    The most inclusive anthology ever attempted of oral and written literature–in every conceivable genre–by women of African descent the world over.
  6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
    A world of make-believe to delight readers young and old, where the height of adventure is limited only by the depths of imagination.

    Book 6

  7. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
    Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary is an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
  8. Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay
    A sharp and funny look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we need to do better.

    Book 5

  9. In a Different Voice, Carol Gilligan
    This book started a revolution. Published decades ago, it made women’s voices heard, in their own right, with their own integrity.
  10. The Start Up of You, Reid Hoffman
    I would recommend this book to every young woman (and man) I know. It discusses how we can be the master of our own destiny, which is emboldening.
  11. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
    First published in 1937 and generally dismissed by reviewers, this novel is now embraced as one of the greatest works of the 20th century.

    Book 2

  12. This Sex Which is Not One, Luce Irigaray
    Irigaray reconsiders the question of female sexuality in light of current discussion of feminist theory and practice.
  13. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
    A true account of a man dying of cancer reminds us of the fragility of life, how important it is to seize every moment and to hold on to the things that matter.
  14. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
    This classic novel of freedom and longing has inspired every generation since its initial publication.

    Book 3

  15. Unbowed, Wangari Maathai
    Winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and single mother of three recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.
  16. The Women’s History of the World, Rosalind Miles
    Women’s vital part in the shaping of the world has been consistently undervalued or ignored – this book sets the record straight.
  17. The Blue Sweater, Jacqueline Novogratz
    The story of a woman who left a career in international banking to try to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it.
  18. Just Kids, Patti Smith 
    The legendary American artist’s first book of prose offers an an honest and moving story of youth and friendship.
  19. The Hobbit, J.R. Tolkien
    Recognized as a timeless classic, this much-loved story recounts the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring and a cruel dragon.
  20. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
    An unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

    Book 4

    How many of these books have you read? Which titles would make it onto your own list? We’d love for you to share your ‘Books to Make You Feel Bold’ recommendations with us – please leave a comment or use #BeBoldForChange on FacebookInstagram or Twitter

When Time Stood Still: A Story of Courage, Survival, and Healing

Once in a while a book comes around that will have a profound impact on the lives of others. In a rare combination of personal reflection and professional insight, When Time Stood Still is a book that will not only assist in the healing of survivors, but also in public acknowledgement and understanding of childhood sexual abuse.

​The prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine in the world, as many victims are too young or vulnerable to disclose the experience. According to the Children Assessment Centre (CAC), an estimated 500,000 children were born in the US in 2014 will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Statistics available state that child rape occurs every two minutes and that 90 percent of molesters abuse children they know. Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. This translates to more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse living in the US.

When Time Stood Still is a rare experience, not only for the authors, but for readers.

Survivors of abuse face numerous long-term negative effects, such as eating disorders, substances abuse disorders, sexual dysfunction, and most commonly experience guilt, shame, depression, relationship difficulties, and/or other types of dissociative disorders. Historically, there have been two broad approaches to the treatment of child sexual abuse: a victim advocacy/child welfare approach and a family-systems model. However, over the last two decades there have been a number of clinicians and researchers who have studied and developed new comprehensive treatment models. One such model is uniquely described in When A Time Stood Still.

When Time Stood Still gives readers a “living picture” of the use of art therapy in treating child sexual abuse in conjunction with professional therapeutic dialogue. With astonishing courage and bravery, Ziv Koren, a 36 year-old social worker, who was sexually abused by her uncle from ages 6 till 16, shares her personal story of recovery. The book lays out full narratives, including email exchanges between Ziv and Professor Rachel Lev-Wiesel, PhD., founder and head of the Graduate School of Creative Arts Therapies & the director of The Emili Sagol CAT Research Center at the University of Haifa.

While Ziv had never drawn in her life, she was encouraged to take much of the written material she had created over the past six years of therapy and translate them into art. In the first half of the book, readers are given the unique opportunity to not only see the drawings created – which at times can be very difficult to view – but to read the exchange between therapist and survivor as they try to determine what emotions and memories are exemplified within the art. Readers travel with Ziv as she moves from a state of dissociation and detachment from her past, to a full confrontation with her memories, as well as with her perpetrator.

The second part of the book presents and summarizes the current data on the uniqueness of childhood sexual abuse, including the five “traumagenic constructs” that Prof. Lev-Wiesel introduced to the field: Soul’s Homelessness, Captured in Time, Entrapped in Distorted Intimacy, Betrayal Entrapment, and Reenactment.

It is clear from the very first drawing that Ziv and Prof. Lev-Wiesel were embarking on an incredible journey of healing. Throughout their time together, Ziv created about 60 drawings, each reflecting various times of the abuse, unconscious symbols of pain, and integration of body and mind. Thanks to an intensive and continuous relationship with Prof. Lev-Wiesel, Ziv began to transform, healing the severe symptoms of her trauma. She became less addicted to pornography and ended S&M sexual relationships. She began to sleep for longer hours, and taking better care of her nutrition, hygiene and appearance. And after 20 years, Ziv was able to confront her uncle and see him clearly as a perpetrator and someone who hurt her.

When Time Stood Still is a rare experience, not only for the authors, but for readers. Insight into such personal trauma can, at times, feel overwhelming and too personal, as if someone’s personal diary was placed in your hands. It will not only assist professionals to better understand the uniqueness of child sexual abuse, the resulting trauma, and the healing process, but will give much to survivors and those seeking to learn more about abuse. Thanks to Ziv’s persistence and bravery, the unique tool of art was uncovered that will assist therapists working with victims of trauma. And it will no doubt, help countless of survivors.

The book can be purchased on Amazon in Paperback, Kindle, or E-Book.

 

Professor Rachel Lev-Wiesel, PhD. has been a therapist helping survivors of child sexual abuse for over 30 years, and has published 130 scientific papers and chapters on trauma, child abuse, sexual abuse, and the use of drawings for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. 

Ziv Koren, MA, is a social worker and art therapist at the unit for treatment of released prisoners in the Ministry of Social Welfare, in Israel.

An Interview with Nadia Hashimi, Author and Girl Advocate

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a book signing where author Nadia Hashimi spoke about her newest novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. Pearl tells the story of a young Afghan girl (Rahima) and her great-great-grandmother (Shekiba) who both dress as boys to overcome incredible gender inequities. I read the novel a few weeks prior and absolutely fell in love with the story and its cast of strong female characters.

Nadia proudly supports women’s and girls’ empowerment and was excited to share more about her book and her life with Girls’ Globe. You can find the entire the interview below.

c/o William Morrow Publishing
c/o William Morrow Publishing

How did your background and/or personal life influence the story of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell?

My parents came over to the United States from Afghanistan in the early 1970s.  They initially had the intention of returning to their homeland after a few years, but then the Soviet invasion happened and Afghanistan went into a downward spiral and it wasn’t safe for them to return.  It was because of these events that I was born in the United States.  From a distance, I’ve watched my counterparts (my female cousins) have a very different experience growing up in war-torn Afghanistan.  This made it really important for me to be grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had.

Most of the characters in The Pearl That Broke Its Shell are strong women and girls, particularly Shekiba and Rahima. What character did you most enjoy writing? Who do you relate to the most? Why?

Thanks for calling them out as strong female characters.  I’d have to say I enjoyed writing Khala Shaima, the disfigured and defiant aunt, most of all.  Because she’s got a deformity, she is somewhat liberated from the traditional rules and restrictions of society.  She’s an old maid and goes around telling people (even men) exactly what she thinks.  She’s the voice that eggs Rahima on, urging her not to give up and to question what people think girls should or shouldn’t do.  She makes education and literacy a priority.  Since I was blessed with a family that supported me all the way and never set boundaries on my potential, it’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of most of my characters.  Thank goodness for that.

What inspires you to write books about empowered women and girls?

I write about empowered women because that’s what interests me and because I hope some younger readers will be inspired by the characters.  I think all girls need to learn to assert themselves.  While much better than the world depicted in Pearl, even western society doesn’t always afford girls the same potential as boys.

Without giving away spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write in The Pearl That Broke Its Shell? Why? 

Toughest question.  I’ll say, without giving much away, that it felt really good when my characters were able to turn a positive corner.  Their experiences are pretty grueling and I was very invested in them as people.  At the same time, some of the hardest scenes to write are actually really important to me because they depict the brutal way some girls are treated.  Child “marriage” (such a euphemism) is really tough to think about when you get into the gritty details but that shock factor is what draws empathy and awareness.

The bacha posh tradition is a major aspect of your novel. Can you explain more about it? Is it still present in Afghanistan? 

In Afghanistan, boys are valued over girls for all the same patriarchal reasons that exist worldwide.  Boys carry on the family name and are supposed to care for their parents as they age (not really true in today’s world).  Some families without sons feel that they are lacking and often are pitied by others in the community.  By transforming a daughter into a bacha posh, a boy dressed as a girl, they are able to restore honor to their family.  They might also believe a bacha posh will bring good luck to the family and that they’ll have a true son in their next child.  It’s not something every family does, but happens commonly enough that nearly any Afghan living in Afghanistan knows of one.  It does still occur but my belief and hope is that it die out as the societal value of daughters rises.

View this post on Instagram

Girls' Globe blogger @epstein85 had a wonderful time speaking with Nadia Hashimi last night about her new book 'The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.' The novel tells the story of two Afghan women who live parallel lives a century apart. Rahima is living the legacy of her great-great-grandmother, Shekiba, and through the hardships she endures, she draws strength from this relationship. They share a common tenacity, a desire to survive despite incredible challenges. Filled with strong female characters, 'The Pearl That Broke Its Shell' is a must-read for any girl advocate. Learn more about the author and the book by visiting NadiaHashimi.com. #book #reading #literature #genderequality #Afghanistan #feminism #sheroes #MENA #girlsinspire #girls #women #childmarriage #VAW #girlpower #WomenInspire

A post shared by Girls' Globe (@girlsglobe) on

 

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell discusses many important issues in Afghanistan: political corruption, child brides, violence against women, and gender inequality. In your opinion, is Afghanistan becoming a safer place today than it was during Shekiba’s time? How do you think these issues will impact Afghanistan’s future and the future of Afghan girls?

These issues are crises in Afghanistan.  A corrupt government cannot effectively provide for or protect its daughters. When school funding disappears into the pockets of politicians, young students suffer. When girls are married young, they are more likely to experience health problems or even die during childbirth/pregnancy.  They are unlikely to go to school and more likely to be abused.  Add to this the knowledge that it is really hard to break out of a cycle of poverty or violence in a family, and it’s easy to believe some Afghan girls simply don’t stand a chance.  The landscape is changing, though.  It is a much safer world than it was a decade ago and many Afghan women are thankful to the western nations who helped free them from the oppressive Taliban control.  Women are now part of government again. They are becoming working professionals and contributing members of their families.  Young girls can look up to assertive, accomplished women in their communities and be inspired to do great things.

What are your plans for the future? Will you be writing more books about women and girls? About Afghanistan?

I have a second novel that will be released July 2015 called, When The Moon Is Low. It’s the story of an Afghan family beset by tragedy by the brutal Taliban regime.  A mother is forced to make some really harrowing decisions and, with her family, flees Kabul.  As they make their way across Europe, Saleem, the barely adolescent son, is separated from the rest of the family.  As he struggles to reunite with his mother and siblings, he floats into the dark world of human trafficking.  It is a coming of age story for a young boy, a marriage and a family as a whole.

I’m currently working on a middle grade version of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, in which Rahima makes a guest appearance.  I’ve also got two other stories in the early works.  One is another Afghan story but the second is not.  As an author, it’s incredible to be able to write about anything under the sun.  The possibilities are endless, as long as you can create compelling characters and an intriguing plot.

Can you recommend books and/or organizations for those interested in learning more about the women and girls of Afghanistan?

I’d recommend Fariba Nawa’s Opium Nation.  Fariba is a brave journalist who provides an eye opening glimpse into the opium trade in Afghanistan and how it impacts individuals, particularly children. Also, However Tall the Mountain, by Awista Ayub, is a great true life story of what athletics can do for Afghan girls. For organizations, check out Women for Afghan Women.  Their interventions are making a profound difference in the lives of Afghan girls and women.

Thank you Nadia for your amazing insight on girls in Afghanistan. We can’t wait to read your upcoming novels!