‘We see with the brain’: creating a comic book for blind people


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Chad Allen explains how losing access to comics after becoming blind inspired Unseen, the first audio comic aimed at readers who see with their mind

Comic books were not at the top of the list of the things that Chad Allen would desperately miss when he went blind, but they were certainly on there. Growing up in Rhode Island, a friend’s older brother had a huge collection of Marvel and DC comics, which the two younger boys would carefully remove from their protective sleeves to immerse themselves in the four-colour world of superheroes – especially Allen’s favourites, the Hulk and the Punisher.

From a young age, Allen was dealing with some of the effects of what would develop into full-blown sight-loss: “It started off as night blindness, and if I came out of a movie theatre into the sunlight I wouldn’t be able to see for a while.”

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Louise Doughty on Melton Mowbray: ‘My grandparents’ gazes met across a pie’


This post is by Louise Doughty from Books | The Guardian


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The author recalls how the pork pie shaped her family and memories of reading the Narnia books in her den

It’s a good job I like pork pies as I wouldn’t exist without them. My grandparents met when they both worked for Dickinson & Morris bakery in Melton Mowbray. He was a burly man with fat fingers, a master baker who would tour country fairs demonstrating how to make a proper hand-raised pie. The sides of a pork pie should always be saggy: if they are straight and firm, it has been cooked in a tin.

My grandmother was tiny, curly-haired, with a twinkly smile that I remember clearly from my youth. Grandad’s job was to build the crust of the pie around a lump of peppery, grey sausage meat: her task was to pour hot jelly in a circle around the meat. When the jelly set, it would form ...

Nazism, slavery, empire: can countries learn from national evil?


This post is by Alex Clark from Books | The Guardian


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Moral philosopher Susan Neiman has studied how Germany came to terms with the crimes of nazism. She explains why the US and Britain should take note

When Susan Neiman’s German friends discovered she was working on a book called Learning from the Germans, they laughed. “They told me: ‘You cannot publish a book with that title. There’s nothing to learn from the Germans; we did too little and too late.’ And there is something paradoxical about saying: ‘Well, we committed this terrible crime, but weren’t we great at coming to terms with it?’ You can’t really say that. But someone who’s a semi-outsider as I am, can, in fact, say that.”

Neiman, a moral philosopher, spent part of her childhood in the American south and she has written a comparative study of how Germany has come to terms with the crimes of nazism, and why ...

Michael Morpurgo on fighting Brexit: ‘I’ve been spat at. It’s almost civil war’


This post is by Etan Smallman from Books | The Guardian


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The world’s getting nastier, says the writer, and Britain no longer cares. So he’s hitting back – with a Gulliver’s Travels update that targets Trump, Brexit and the refugee crisis

Michael Morpurgo has all the trappings befitting a prolific, bestselling and beloved children’s author. There is the National Theatre production (War Horse, still touring the globe) and its Spielberg movie adaptation; the stint as children’s laureate (a post he helped create); the gold Blue Peter badge and the knighthood. But as a vocal campaigner against Brexit, he is getting used to rather a different kind of reception.

“I’ve been spat at,” Britain’s storyteller-in-chief says nonchalantly over lunch at his local pub in an idyllic Devon village. “I went to Sidmouth folk festival – quite a peaceable part of the world, you would have thought.” The trouble began when he bought one of the “little blue ...

‘I was a dangerous person’: Casey Legler on life as a teenage Olympian – and raging alcoholic


This post is by Stefanie Marsh from Books | The Guardian


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At 19, Legler broke the Olympic freestyle swimming record. But she was also an alcoholic and drug dealer who had suffered years of abuse from her trainers. She is surprised she is still alive, she says

One day, when she was a teenager, Casey Legler woke up with a hangover, then jumped into a pool and broke the Olympic freestyle swimming record. The year was 1996 and Legler was in Atlanta, a member of the French team, having a practice session as she awaited the Olympic finals the next day. Legler, at 6ft 2in, was built to swim. She had been groomed to be an Olympian from the age of 12. But when the finals came – the biggest day of her professional life – she bombed, coming 29th in the women’s 50m freestyle. She spent the next day drunk and dealing cocaine – to Olympic teammates and teenage members ...

‘I am proven joyously wrong’: picture book about trans child wins major prize amid moral panic


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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In a week of LGBTQ-hostile news, the £5,000 Klaus Fugge award for illustrated books goes to Jessica Love’s Julian Is a Mermaid

In Julian Is a Mermaid, a little boy riding the New York City subway with “his nana” dreams of looking like the spectacularly dressed women they see – and ends up, with his grandmother’s help, joining the iconic Mermaid Parade. Author and illustrator Jessica Love, who was partly inspired by a trans friend to create the picture book, never expected it to be published after five years of work.

On Wednesday night, Love was named winner of the prestigious Klaus Flugge prize, which goes to the most exciting and promising newcomer to picture book illustration. Judge and former children’s laureate Anthony Browne called the book “astonishingly beautiful”, saying it was amazing that it was her first attempt to write and illustrate a picture book.

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Bernardine Evaristo on Woolwich: ‘We weren’t allowed to play outside’


This post is by Bernardine Evaristo from Books | The Guardian


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The Booker-shortlisted novelist on the garrison town on the edge of London where she was first introduced to the writing of James Baldwin and Buchi Emecheta

The Woolwich of my childhood was a predominantly white, working-class garrison town on the outskirts of London, the Thames obscured by the fortress-like wall of the Woolwich Arsenal armaments factory. Today it’s an incredibly multicultural district on the verge of gentrification, boasting luxury high rises with spectacular riverside views.

My family – English mother, Nigerian father and seven siblings – lived on Eglinton Road, which wended its way to the vast expanse of Woolwich Common at one end and a parade of shops at the other. My first primary school, Notre Dame Convent, was next door to our house. My second primary school, Plumcroft, was a 10-minute walk up Eglinton Hill. My next school, Eltham Hill Girls’ Grammar, took 20 minutes on the bus. ...

Daniel Mallory Ortberg: ‘Writing fiction is not a good alternative to dealing with your feelings’


This post is by Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore from Books | The Guardian


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The host of Dear Prudence and founder of The Toast helps others deal with their personal issues. Here he talks about some of his own

In 2013 the American trans journalist Daniel Mallory Ortberg co-founded the feminist website The Toast. Today he writes Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column, hosts the Dear Prudence podcast, and is the author of the New York Times bestselling book Texts from Jane Eyre: and Other Conversations with Your Favourite Literary Characters (2014). Guardian Australia spoke to him as he touched down in Australia for the Melbourne Writers Festival.

You are appearing in a panel on teenage heartthrobs. Tell us more!

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Lavinia Greenlaw on Essex: ‘As a teen, even Siberia had to be better’


This post is by Lavinia Greenlaw from Books | The Guardian


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The poet and novelist recalls the lacerating east wind, the weekly library van and eventually finding inspiration in village life

When I was 11, my family moved from London to an Essex village. I was bereft. My plan for my teenage years involved going to see David Bowie and T Rex at the Roundhouse, not sitting about in bus shelters. We arrived in winter at a time of power cuts. People spoke of the lacerating easterly wind as blowing in “straight from Siberia”. Even Siberia had to be better than this. When I read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the tedium of the gulag made me sigh knowingly.

I read compulsively and without discrimination as a way of being anywhere but there. Books protected me from my loneliness, too. I read trashy apocalyptic novels, decrepit romances, the small ads in the local paper, ...

Top 10 caregivers in fiction | Lila Savage


This post is by Lila Savage from Books | The Guardian


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Writers from Alice Munro to Ottessa Moshfegh explore some of life’s most gruelling experiences in ways that build in survival tools

Shortly before the publication of my first novel, I learned that my mother’s cancer had returned. I am not yet her caregiver but I have cared for folks with cancer before – and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and other afflictions, mostly of old age. I worked as a professional companion for elderly people for nearly nine years before I began writing about my caregiving work in the form of Say Say Say – the story of young woman who cares for a woman with a brain injury, and the complex intimacies that emerge within her family as she declines.

During that time I thought about why people might want to read work on difficult or dark subjects, but it was largely an abstract consideration. By the time I began reading ...

Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem review – lost and found on the River Thames


This post is by Frances Wilson from Books | The Guardian


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A fascinating insight into the discarded objects and lost things that wash up on the foreshore

Mudlarks are river scavengers, but Lara Maiklem is more like a time traveller. Using old maps as guides to London’s former boatyards, quaysides, bridges, causeways, jetties and great houses – all those places where the rubbish was once dumped – she scours the foreshore of the Thames looking for links to another life: Roman brooches, clay pipes, Victorian shoe buckles, Mesolithic flints. A vast and mobile archaeological site, the Thames is uniquely suited to mudlarks because it is tidal, which means that every day, as Maiklem explains, it grants access to its contents, “which shift and change as the water ebbs and flows, to reveal the story of a city, its people and their relationship with a natural force”.

Every drowned, unwanted or lost object is precious to Maiklem, who reveals, as she ...

Too busy? Distracted by your phone? How to love reading again


This post is by Marianne Eloise from Books | The Guardian


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If reading has given way in your life to social media and other distractions, it can be hard to return to books – but these tips could help

In 2019, books are not just a last resort when the wifi is down. There are Instagram accounts, podcasts and even subscription boxes dedicated to reading. Chances are you’ve noticed your friends joining book clubs or posting beautifully lit bookstagram photos. Reading is – if it ever was – cool again.

Why? Perhaps for the same reason we’ve seen a surge in interest in hobbies such as jigsaws and cross-stitch: right now, our brains are saturated with digital information so it’s no surprise that we’re returning to unplugged hobbies. (But also going online to talk about them.)

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Too busy? Distracted by your phone? How to love reading again


This post is by Marianne Eloise from Books | The Guardian


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If reading has given way in your life to social media and other distractions, it can be hard to return to books – but these tips could help

In 2019, books are not just a last resort when the wifi is down. There are Instagram accounts, podcasts and even subscription boxes dedicated to reading. Chances are you’ve noticed your friends joining book clubs or posting beautifully lit bookstagram photos. Reading is – if it ever was – cool again.

Why? Perhaps for the same reason we’ve seen a surge in interest in hobbies such as jigsaws and cross-stitch: right now, our brains are saturated with digital information so it’s no surprise that we’re returning to unplugged hobbies. (But also going online to talk about them.)

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Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?


This post is by Amal El-Mohtar from Books | The Guardian


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At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten

Time-travel stories sit at a nexus of the literal and figurative. All of us are travelling through time – at the ambling pace of a human life, moving in a direction we think of as forward, with the future ahead and the past behind. But memory is a form of time travel, the study of history is an attempt at building time machines, and past and future are entangled.

In 2016, I sat down with my co-author Max Gladstone to write our novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, which follows two time-travelling female spies as they fall in love. That same year was also when I first heard people speaking earnestly and frequently about feeling as if they were in the wrong timeline, as the ...

Top 10 true crime books


This post is by Duncan Campbell from Books | The Guardian


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The Guardian’s former crime correspondent recommends the best writing by and about criminals and cops, villains and victims

In recent years “true crime”, in the form of television documentaries and podcasts, has become very fashionable. But there has always been a small niche for true crime books, sometimes tucked – rather guiltily – below the much larger crime fiction sections in bookshops and libraries. I have about 400 such volumes – the memoirs of criminals, detectives, crime reporters and the explorations and investigations carried out by authors and academics over the last 150 or so years – many of which I have been using while working on Underworld, which is a history of the last century and a half of organised – and disorganised – crime in Britain.

What is striking is how much things have changed in the last couple of decades, in that many of those involved in ...

Mick Herron on Newcastle: ‘The only north-east writer I knew was Catherine Cookson’


This post is by Mick Herron from Books | The Guardian


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The thriller author on living above his father’s shop and playing in the back lanes of the city

I’m always fascinated, when out after dark, by lights on in flats above retail premises, but that’s because I grew up above the shop myself. My dad’s optician’s shop was on Jesmond Road, Newcastle. It was a busy main road in the 1960s, and our black front door was forever splashed with dirt from passing traffic. Decades later, when I found a similar door near the Barbican in London, I stole it for a book.

I shared a bedroom with two of my brothers, and a bunk bed with one of them. My eldest siblings had rooms of their own, my brother’s with black and white polystyrene tiles on the ceiling – local colours.

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Mick Herron on Newcastle: ‘The only north-east writer I knew was Catherine Cookson’


This post is by Mick Herron from Books | The Guardian


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The thriller author on living above his father’s shop and playing in the back lanes of the city

I’m always fascinated, when out after dark, by lights on in flats above retail premises, but that’s because I grew up above the shop myself. My dad’s optician’s shop was on Jesmond Road, Newcastle. It was a busy main road in the 1960s, and our black front door was forever splashed with dirt from passing traffic. Decades later, when I found a similar door near the Barbican in London, I stole it for a book.

I shared a bedroom with two of my brothers, and a bunk bed with one of them. My eldest siblings had rooms of their own, my brother’s with black and white polystyrene tiles on the ceiling – local colours.

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Closing libraries means abandoning society’s most isolated and vulnerable | Dawn Finch


This post is by Dawn Finch from Books | The Guardian


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As mental health services continue to be cut, librarians are becoming an informal lifeline for people with serious problems

For most of us, the library is a source of books and information. The core factor of the work of a librarian is absolutely vital and should never be forgotten. But something else is happening in our libraries, with repercussions for library workers.

I worked for a long time in public libraries and most of my day was not spent shelving books (or reading them). As much of my time was spent dealing with human beings as printed volumes. A passion for books and reading first drew me to library work, but empathy, belief in human rights and the importance of social activism kept me working in them. I’ve worked in libraries of all sizes, from large city ones to tiny mobile ones, but what they all had in common was ...

Phony business: are today’s teens turning on The Catcher in the Rye?


This post is by Dana Czapnik from Books | The Guardian


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JD Salinger’s Holden Caulfield once seemed the universal voice of teenage angst, but now he’s too quaint for young people. Can we learn to love it again, asks Dana Czapnik

Here’s a thought. Teen angst, once regarded as stubbornly generic, is actually a product of each person’s unique circumstances: gender, race, class, era. Angst is universal, but the content of it is particular.

This might explain why Holden Caulfield, once the universal everyteen, does not speak to this generation in the way he’s spoken to young people in the past. Electric Literature gave this explanation of The Catcher in the Rye’s datedness: “If you’re a white, relatively affluent, permanently grouchy young man with no real problems at all, it’s extraordinarily relatable. The problem comes when you’re not. Where’s The Catcher in the Rye for the majority of readers who are too non-young, non-white, and non-male to be able to stand ...

‘What did you order?’: Christian publisher CBD changes name after cannabis queries


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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US Bible vendor Christian Book Distributors says its acronym has become confusing for customers

After 40 years of trading, the American Christian bookseller CBD has been forced to change its name after customers in search of a different kind of balm – the cannabis-derived compound CBD – ended up in the wrong place.

Christian Book Distributors, also known as CBD, was started four decades ago by brothers Ray and Stephen Hendrickson, selling Christian books, Bibles, home-schooling materials, toys and games. But the company has announced that the rising popularity of cannabidiol, the legal cannabis-derived chemical known as CBD, has begun to cause some unfortunate customer errors.

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