Round-Up of Recommended Reads
By Mandy Vere
The words “cockle pickers” & “Morecambe Bay” will be forever synonymous with the tragedy of the Chinese workers who were sent to their deaths through the negligence of their gangmaster. Now at last we have a book which documents those nameless lives and the exploitation of the Chinese immigrant community – “Chinese Whispers” by Hsiao-Hung Pai (Penguin £8.99). Benjamin Zephaniah couldn’t put down the next title, “Enslaved: The New British Slavery” by Rahila Gupta (Portobello £8.99) and called it ‘really powerful, moving stuff’. The author seeks out five modern-day slaves and persuades them to tell us their stories, from the Russian teenager trafficked into prostitution to the Chinese man living in fear of the Triads.
While the word “immigrant” is rarely heard without “illegal” attached to it nowadays, and movement of peoples throughout the world is tightly restricted (unless it’s Brits looking for a second home in the sun), movement of capital & goods must be allowed to flow freely. It is perfectly acceptable for us to eat strawberries picked by exploited migrant labour [check out “Two Caravans” by Marina Lewycka (Penguin £7.99) a moving & humorous novel], buy green beans from Kenya and cheap clothes made in Bangladeshi sweatshops. A great book to explore exactly where things come from is “Confessions of an Eco Sinner” by Fred Pearce (Eden Project £12.99) which challenges a series of green assumptions.
Talking of capital, whoever coined the phrase ‘culture of capital’ should have copyrighted it quick – it’s now the title of a book “The Culture of Capital” by contributing editor Nicky Allt (Liverpool University Press £12.95) which explores such issues as ‘bureaucracy versus creativity’, ‘the regeneration professionals’ & ‘outsourced Liverpool’.
Now to some fiction with a bit of a migrant theme – “The Olive Grove: a Palestinian Story” by Deborah Rohan (Saqi £11.99) is based on a true story of the Moghrabi family forced to leave their home with its cherished olive groves; Dinaw Mengestu won the Guardian First Book Award with “Children of the Revolution” (Vintage £7.99), about an Ethiopian revolutionary fleeing to America – ‘a brilliant portrayal of immigrant life’. Meanwhile Dayo Forster gives us the story of a Gambian woman, freespirited, in charge of her own sexuality, facing a choice between Africa & Europe in “Reading the Ceiling” (Pocket £7.99). A people who are no stranger to exile & migration are of course the Jews and Michael Chabon’s latest offering “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” (Harper £7.99) imagines a Jewish homeland not in Israel but in chilly Alaska – it’s dazzling and hilarious.
If your put your mind to it, the principle of ‘no boundaries’ can by applied to pretty much everything, and I must leave you with this gem, “On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries” by Richard Reynolds (appropriately published by Bloomsbury 14.99) which starts as a personal account of ‘unauthorized’ planting and continues with loads of experiences from other guerrilla gardeners. It’s the latest craze and, judging by the state of Sefton Park, a wholely necessary one. What are you waiting for?
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