Like my fellow classmates, I embarked on my own educational journey before joining the MA programme in Literature and Publishing in September 2023. Prior to this, it had been a dream of mine for as long as I could remember to attend Trinity College Dublin. I envisioned walking among the cobblestones and antiquated buildings with the freedom to traverse the Arts Block, sauntering to and from the library without a care in the world other than my studies, the music in my ears, and where I was going to buy my next coffee. Lo and behold, I got in! And to my dismay, it was nothing like I had imagined. I had built up this fantasy in my head that, inevitably, reality could never live up to. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Trinity, I still view it as the Hogwarts of Ireland. It just wasn’t for me – I didn’t even last a full academic year. Such is life. I dropped out, had a great summer, and went to IADT. It’s a much smaller institute, and I loved every second of my four years there. I finished up in 2020, joined the workforce, survived the pandemic, and decided to return to the academic world to pursue a passion that I have only recently realised I could turn into a career. And so, I find myself here, in the sunny, rain-soaked Wes(h)t of Ireland, with new friends, new skills, and new opportunities, one of which I’d like to focus on in this blog post.
The University of Galway has a student-run radio station called Flirt FM 101.3. If you haven’t already heard of it, check it out. It’s one of three campus community radio stations in Ireland, and one of only 21 licensed radio stations on the island. In short, it’s pretty unique. As such, I wanted to get involved in some way. I considered volunteering as a researcher for someone’s show, perhaps for an Arts & Culture hour. To my surprise, however, I landed myself my own show, Saxy Goodness. It airs bi-weekly, as I share the Friday 8pm slot with another show, Jazz Souffle. My tagline is 'the show where I bring you the best jazz, blues, and soul music from the past and the present,’ and I do exactly that, if I may say so myself. Honestly, it’s the perfect excuse to talk about an area of music that not many of my friends, if any, enjoy. Also, when else am I going to have the opportunity to sit in a fully decked out recording studio?
I have no interest in becoming a broadcaster, and as my show airs, I have no idea if anyone’s listening or if my words are just floating out into the ether, but that’s not what matters. Planning, recording, editing, and listening back to myself is just as much fun for me as it is (I hope) for any of my listeners. I do know I have at least one though, because they emailed in with a query once. Jackpot.
I’ve learned so much from running this show, both about myself and the content I discuss. For instance, I never knew I had the confidence or competence to record and broadcast a show – I don’t even like listening to my own voice messages! I’ve structured it so that each show focuses on a certain artist from the jazz/blues/soul world, and I ‘research’ them in advance. (I use the term 'research' lightly because not everything I say is watertight, so please excuse any inaccuracies. I'm a lit student – not a history student – with a passion for good music. That's all.) The majority of my Artists of Choice are of North American origin or residence, simply due to the sheer abundance of music of this genre produced there in the 20th century, particularly from the 1930s through to the 1960s. Artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley (yes, he wasn't always just the King of Rock and Roll), and others, have been the focus of my shows so far. I’ve learned things I had never known, such as the reason for the lack of jazz music produced in Ireland in the early 20th century. To cut a long story short, an anti-jazz campaign in the 1930s reaped the country of any such music, which caused a ripple effect across the Irish music scene that is still evident today. Instead of jazz, we favoured trad music and classic rock, producing many talented and memorable voices. The jazzy-bluesy folk only emerged decades later, and even at that, they are few and far between. I am constantly on the lookout for jazz artists of Irish origin, but it’s just not something that’s hugely popular here. We do have our annual Cork Jazz Festival, but most of the music there is either international or, if native, mostly instrumental.
For each show, I discuss the personal and professional history of my Artist of Choice and create a playlist of songs with a slight emphasis on said artist’s music. The songs I choose span from the 1930s right up to today, as my tagline suggests. I have an hour-long slot dedicated to, as I say, the best jazz, blues, and soul music available, and in case you doubt me, you can listen back to past shows on Mixcloud. Sadly, my master’s programme finishes up (technically) in March, though I may stay on campus until April or May, but after that, my show will cease to exist. It may come as a shock, but I actually don’t have a recording studio in my own home, and there’s only so much the little microphone in my AirPods can do.
I’ve enjoyed the experience immensely and will continue to for the remainder of my time here. My confidence and love for jazz, blues, and soul music has only grown, as has my knowledge and the scope of artists I now find myself listening to. I grew up with Fats Waller and Nina Simone, I discovered Billie Holiday, Bill Withers, and Frank Sinatra during my angsty teenage years playing Fallout and watching Meg Ryan rom-coms on repeat, and I fell in love with Leon Bridges and Gregory Porter as their fame grew alongside my own musical independence and curiosity. The range of music out there is boundless and I’m so excited to see who I discover next.
If you’d like to dip your toes in and listen to what I’ve played, give the official playlist a go. I update it after each show (that is, until I have to say goodbye):
If you’re braver, bolder, and have your shuffle-button at the ready, live a little and listen to my personal playlist (it’s a mammoth – be warned). It features an array of singers, musicians, and instrumentalists spanning almost a century and is called ‘saxy goodness’ which is where my show’s name originated:
When I was accepted into this master’s programme, I did not expect to become a temporary radio broadcaster, and yet, alongside ROPES, it’s going to be the thing I look back on and really appreciate how great an opportunity it was, and realise how bloody proud I am for taking that opportunity by the reigns and committing myself to it. I suppose that’s what college is all about, right? If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend taking it, even if you think fear will get the better of you. Flirt with the unknown and jazz up your college experience. I did, and I have no regrets.
When I first set foot in Ireland, a revelation began to dawn upon me – that my "potaje" conceptually equated to a simple soup, and that "trapo" denoted nothing more than any piece of fabric, unbound by the sole purpose of cleaning. I finally comprehended, through personal experience, the essence of the so-called cultural shock. More profoundly, I discerned that culture is intangibly woven into the words we articulate. Upon my second descent into the land of the green shamrock and the Celtic harp, I came to realise that my thoughts were crafted in one language and unveiled to the world in another. I still recall the moment when my high school English teacher congratulated me for successfully transitioning to English thinking. However, she neglected to mention that, from that juncture onward, a part of me would dim each time I spoke either language, dissipating amidst native nuances exclusive to each.
Indeed, everyone acknowledges that, in one way or another, something is lost in translation. Nevertheless, it appears as though that elusive "something" should remain in the realm of vagueness, almost as if no one dares venture to name it. Gabriel García Márquez, in his magnum opus One Hundred Years of Solitude, wrote, "Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos." (13). It is said that the English translation of this novel is better than the original, a sentiment even expressed by García Márquez himself (Lind). It reads, "At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs." (3). In the English version, the houses are made solely of clay, not reed; the water is merely clear, not ornamentally diaphanous; and the categorisation of the stones as polished surpasses that of being white and enormous, which are both relegated to subordination. My aim is not to denounce Gregory Rabassa's translation, by any means; rather, my interest lies in the observation that something is both added and lost in translations, as if an alternate reality opens up—fascinatingly similar to the original, yet never identical.
There was a period in my life when the stars aligned, and I found myself in translation classes studying a book penned by a girl from the Canaries, which I also used to sell at the bookstore where I was doing my internship. During those months, where I dedicated at least one daily thought to Panza de burro, I once again became acutely aware of that elusive "something" that magically dissipates at the border between two languages. Despite its words being intricately intertwined with the specific culture of the Canary Islands in every word, this book was translated into English. Beyond the technical quality of the translation itself, the result is a complete cultural dislocation for any reader not acquainted with the rural culture of the islands. Even the title, Dogs of Summer, falls light-years away from the original title, which alludes to the term used in the Canary Islands to describe an atmospheric phenomenon occurring in the northern regions when a sea of clouds accumulates between the mountain slopes due to the trade winds that batter them. Evidently, such a title is impossible to translate, leaving cultural equivalence as the only alternative. The rest of the book presents even more specific and insurmountable cases, from the very colloquial and Canarian expression "jalaba del agua" (23) reduced to a mere "she'd flush," (10) to grammatical modifications characteristic of spoken language, such as "salidos pafuera" (27) (instead of the grammatically correct "para fuera"), replaced by the very neutral "stuck out." (15). Once again, the intangibility of the original narrative essence lies beyond the reader's grasp in the translated version, and one can only hope that what remains and what is added proves sufficient to captivate them.
Now, in my journey towards becoming an editor, two languages vie for supremacy in my mind, each aspiring to be the one I ultimately choose for my profession. Opting for translation might have been the simpler route, yet something within me whispered that in doing so, I would be betraying the two tongues that encode my thoughts, never quite capturing every nuance and subtlety in their entirety. On one hand, one tastes like universality, projection, and success, lingering on the palate, while the other carries the flavour of familiarity, depth, and home. Regardless of what the future holds for me, and with no intention to draw a conclusion to this verbose contemplation, the undeniable truth remains that each word, irrespective of its reference, harbours a certain magic within. It is a magic that refuses to be isolated, reproduced, or ignored, for it is an intrinsic part of the very essence that witnessed their birth. This magic, ineffable and ethereal, weaves itself into the fabric of language, making each word a vessel of enchantment that transcends mere lexical meaning.
Yaiza Llamas Ramos
Abreu, Andrea. Dogs of Summer. Translated by Julia Sanches, Astra House, 2022.
---. Panza de burro. Editorial Barrett, 2020.
García Márquez, Gabriel. Cien años de soledad. Diana, 2017.
---. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Translated by Gregory Rabassa, Avon Books, 1971.
Lind, Dara. ‘"You're Shakespeare, but you're playing Hamlet as well": Gregory Rabassa on translation.’ Vox, 14 June 2016, https://www.vox.com/2014/4/20/5628860/hes-universal-a-eulogy-for-gabriel-garcia-marquez-from-his-translator.
“No one who likes Yeats is
capable of human intimacy.”
We have won the Booker, for the sixth time in fact. With the inclusion of four Irish novels in this year’s longlist, it makes us the country with the greatest number of nominees in relation to population size; a whopping 37 writers. Paul Lynch is the sixth Irish author to win the prize since Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea in 1978. Exactly half of Ireland’s Booker prize winners have been women, yet this year our feat of two shortlisted authors was occupied by two Pauls. This is all well and good, excluding the fact that the current Irish literary golden age is dominated by female writers. The glut of our groundbreaking writers at the moment are women, so it is all the more frustrating that only one made the longlist of four Irish writers.
The issue with the Irish writing scene is that it is one whose history is entirely male-dominated, overly revered, and untouchable. There has been a tremendous push to promote female authors being published and read, yet when authors like Anna Burns win the Booker, they are compared to Beckett - despite her opinion that she does not fit into “the whole Irish tradition thing.” Since Anna Burns won the Booker in 2018 for her sharp and experimental novel Milkman, there has been a boom in Irish women changing the world of Irish writing. Yet, despite this great drive to innovate, they still get compared to and asked how they fit into the tradition of Irish writing; if they follow in the vein of Yeats, Joyce, or Beckett? This “Irish Tradition” is a closed box, an all-boys club; unchanging and all pervading. The “Irish Tradition” seems to have no space for Irish women – from whom I think the most exciting writing is emerging. Whilst many male writers are content to sit on this tradition and write about the same old same old, women have been freely experimenting and finding new ways to present the Irish woman’s experience in writing. I believe that the “tradition” too is a cage which hinders the progression of writing through a misplaced loyalty to form and content. You can see this in how the Berlin-based writer Gough described the Irish literary writers of the Celtic Tiger,
“a priestly caste, scribbling by candlelight, cut off from the electric current of the culture. Irish literature had gotten smug and self-congratulatory during the boom; lots of novels about how terrible Ireland’s past was, with all its sexual repression and poverty.”
There is no doubt a freedom to be found writing outside the sphere of acceptance, which is undone upon achieving success and being compared to these figures of the “tradition.” Women have always been at the forefront of literary experimentation exactly because of their exclusion from the male literary world; just look at the development and dismissal of the novel before male writers co-opted it.
The reason we currently have this amazing boom is because of writers like Edna O’ Brien, Anne Enright, Maeve Binchy, and Marian Keyes – those who broke out and achieved success at a time when it was far more difficult. They created the groundwork and showed the success that Irish women could achieve in writing in the modern social landscape. Inspired by them, rather than the stale male canon, the new writers of today have germinated into an astonishing web of form, language, and subject – creating the incredibly rich world of today’s Irish writing scene. There is no doubt that we are experiencing a golden-age of Irish writing, which has absolutely been enabled by the experimentation and diligence of Irish women in the Irish literary scene. These days, we are lucky to have Lisa McInerney, Lucy Caldwell, Louise Kennedy, Elaine Feeney, Nicole Flattery, Kit de Waal, Sinéad Gleeson, Doreann Ní Ghríofa, Sara Baume, Eimear McBride, and so many more. Their efforts have altered the scene and created a far healthier ecosystem for all writers, one less indebted to the men of the past, where experimentation and writing outside of that box is far more welcome.
Tramp Press have long been a fantastic proponent of new and interesting talents, publishing many women who are producing daring writing; the likes of Sara Baume and Doireann Ní Ghríofa. They have taken the time to cultivate emerging writers who are experimenting and pushing the boundaries. With their focus on quality over quantity regarding the books they produce, they have become a highly respected figure in the contemporary Irish literary scene. I would also recommend the collection, Being Various, which was published by Faber and collated by Lucy Caldwell as a fantastic jumping off point to experience the vibrancy of the current Irish scene. Two-thirds of the authors included are women, and Caldwell uses the pieces which she chose for the collection to question Irishness and what exactly being Irish means.
The real Irish writing tradition is not about particular writers, themes, or places. It is a tradition of pushing the boundaries of what writing can do. It is regressive to linger on themes which have been explored to the bedrock and no longer reflect the Irish experience. Naturally, these aspects of our past play a strong role in colouring our contemporary writing, but it is important not to let things stagnate in the name of so-called “tradition.” The real Irish writing tradition is one of revolution, of rejecting what the status quo decrees as high art and real writing. That is the true legacy of our great writers like Joyce and Beckett. Tradition means allowing new names entering the literary scene to stand in their own respects, rather than comparing them to one of these figures. Tradition is an attitude and a response; tradition is change.
This autumn I interned with the Dublin Book Festival as an Administration and Marketing Assistant for their 2023 program. With over a hundred events taking place in various locations around Dublin, the festival is a daunting, but incredibly worthy task. This is only the second year of the internship, and I had the lovely opportunity to work with a repeat intern from last year’s MALP cohort, Isabelle Gahan, who was infinitely helpful, not only in the internship but in understanding the masters. Over the course of the six-week internship, I wrote blog posts, assisted audience development, website development, organized children’s craft projects, conducted interviews, and communicated with authors, publishers, and industry professionals. That was all before stepping foot in Dublin. I did a lot of pajama writing with my big cup of coffee and a dream.
Coming into Ireland, I was unfamiliar with the local literary scene, but as a frequent attendee of book conventions and events in the United States, getting involved with the festival seemed the perfect way to dive in headfirst and test the waters. The Dublin Book Festival is unique in that it celebrates Irish writers, and there is a whole host of amazing talent on the island. It was also intimidating. When I started the internship in September, I had barely been in Ireland a month. While, admittedly, I felt completely out of my depth, the Festival Director, Julianne Siron, the Marketing Lead, Róisín Russell, and Production and Administration Lead, Mathilde Murray, made me feel at home so quickly, which is spectacular because we hit the ground running, and the race to the festival was a well-coordinated, flat-out sprint.
Because of my background working with children and in art and science marketing, most of the preparation work that I did was with the Children and Family program and with Science Week events. When the festival came this focus did not stop. When people talk about internships, they talk about blood, sweat and tears—there was none of that here. It was blisters (from sharpening pencils for children’s illustration events, which, for the record, is a hilarious injury), shivers (I was working in a gorgeous but just slightly chilly tent the weekend of the festival) and face breaking smiles. It doesn’t mean the work was any easier, but it was a joy, a puzzle box of considering new angles of event promotion and inspiring audiences. After attending a variety of events and festivals in the states as a spectator, getting to peek into organizing events behind the scenes put into perspective just how much work and careful consideration goes into every decision. From the tiniest detail, Julianne, Róisín, and Mathilde had considered everything. I was in awe of them and the attention to detail I saw them put into every element of the festival, and I was honored to be even a small part of it.
The quintessential fear of an intern is deleting something you’re not meant to—and I cannot count the number of times I sat quadruple checking blog posts and emails to make sure I hadn’t written something horrifically offensive instead of the nice text I’d drafted, or updating the website, wondering if one normal but secret button would suddenly delete the entire thing by accident (I should preface, I have WordPress experience and I know it doesn’t work like that, but I’m also dramatic and it felt like a wild amount of power to be behind the scenes of a complicated webpage). That said, I made frequent mistakes. The website was (thankfully) safe, but I once accidentally deleted all the relevant information out of a spreadsheet…and then couldn’t get it back. It was a five-minute fix. I sent emails without signing off because I discounted my own presence in the process. During the festival, I spent fifteen minutes preparing an introduction for an event I had written about, for authors I had met, an event I was incredibly excited to attend, and I got nervous and fumbled over my words in a tent full of people. And you know what happened? Everything was okay. The event went incredibly well. The audience enjoyed themselves, the festival went on, and the world kept turning.
On several occasions, I remarked to Irish course mates that it surprised me just how encouraging and patient Julianne and Róisín were, how involved they let me be, how surprised I was at the opportunities to reach out to authors and publishers when it would be easier to send messages themselves, expressed shock at the responsibility of placing me in charge of a venue and allowing me to attend the events that interested me most. My interests mattered, and my opinion was sought outside of just accomplishing the essential tasks. I was asked what I wanted to learn and where I wanted to put my energy, and my voice was heard. This sort of open, encouraging work environment was outside of my expectations and a complete culture shock, but it was not a surprise to my Irish friends. “Yeah, that’s normal” or “that’s just how we do things here” were the frequent refrains. It completely blew me away.
While I was ready to learn more about the Irish literary scene, I learned so much more about its working environment. In the master’s, during visits from Irish publishing professionals, and again at Trade Day, we’re told just how small and how kind the industry is in Ireland, but every time I see it in action, I sit, mouth open, surprised Pikachu meme incarnate. It hit hard walking into the annual Irish Publishers Conference Trade Day and realizing that because of the opportunities of the masters and the internship, there were a surprising number of familiar faces in the audience. Though I have not been in Ireland long, the industry is no longer a foreign place. From every level, the sheer consistency of kindness and friendliness that radiated from everyone was so lovely; from the volunteers to The Printworks staff, to the authors and publishers, the festival directors, and of course, the guests in attendance; everyone was genuinely so excited to watch others succeed. The biggest victory was seeing audiences engaging with events that had taken months of wading through minute details, and leaving after the hour was up with bright smiles and their stories, and their community just a little bit bigger.
The result of weeks of planning was a breathless weekend (and not just because of all the balloons I inflated). Aside from events hosted in my tent domain, I was able to attend launches and celebrations and get a taste of the Irish Publishers Conference. It was a blast to be involved with. I’m leaving the internship, not only more familiar with the Irish literary scene, but passionately invested in its future, and I cannot thank Julianne, Róisín, and Mathilde enough. I would happily jump back into the crazy rush in a heartbeat.
Everybody knows that the month of October is reserved for pumpkin spice lattes, dark academia, and spookiness. From movies to novels, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn't immediately think of Coraline, Hocus Pocus, or Dracula. Though I’m not a great enthusiast of themed holidays, I was nonetheless consumed with the thought of finding the perfect Halloween read, one that would have me tucking my legs under a blanket, huddling up and, in a stroke of masochism, turning off the bedside lamp.
It's Halloween, after all; it's important to set the mood.
I knew my search was over when I laid eyes on The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix. Don’t let that mouthful of a title fool you. This is not the camp, satiric, supernatural fiction you might be expecting. At least, not entirely.
The premise is misleading enough. Patricia Campbell, a burnt-out housewife whose guilty pleasure is reading true crime novels with other housewives in their "Not-A-Book-Club" book club, starts suspecting her mysterious (and wildly handsome) new neighbour, James Harris, of kidnapping children.
Nancy Drew-levels of shenanigans ensue.
What follows will have you in a constant state of anxiety, fury, and fear. You won’t be able to put it down. You make a deal with the book when you sit down to read it and it will demand its pound of flesh. More than once, I felt my eyes wobble like soft-boiled eggs at the sheer power of Hendrix's descriptions, visceral and gory and terrible in the best of ways.
To fully understand the throbbing core of the novel, the reader must first come to terms with the symbolic nature of the vampire. This creature, so often watered down by sparkly retellings and smouldering actors, is restored to its predatory and gothic glory in the body of James Harris. Abhorring the sun whilst thriving at night, only allowed inside by direct invitation, and commanding beasts to do his bidding– he is immortal and he is singular, in a world designed for sameness.
Hendrix brings back the original serial killer to reflect on the hypocrisy of American morality, which only applies to those who are the same. The "other", represented by the low-income black characters living on the outskirts of Charleston, is not extended the same courtesy.
Beloved James Harris, on the other hand, is given the benefit of the doubt and all the leniency the men in this Southern gated community can afford, as he flashes dollar signs as readily as he does his pearly whites, all the while tormenting their wives and preying on their children The role he plays in this suburban farce is of the All-American poster child; white, male, self-assured, entrepreneurial. The American dream materialised.
What a nightmare that turned out to be.
The same can be said for the female experience. Instead of merely scratching the surface of Southern suburbia in the nineties, the book delves into the emotional and physical labour expected of the stay-at-home mom, the rich inner world women create, once married life snuffs out dreams and ambitions. Patricia is saddled with the care of her dementia-ridden mother-in-law, her two children, and aloof husband. Partly, the true horror stems from the suffocating and alienated life she leads, entirely for others, their wants, and their needs.
The other part comes from a swarm of rats biting and scratching a woman to death.
As Patricia is manipulated and gaslit by every man in her life, to the point of an accidental overdose, she must fight tooth and nail to protect her children, her neighbourhood, and her sanity from a threat nobody else thinks exists. Her carefully manicured, white-picket-fence life begins to rot, and it is up to her to either paint it over or excise it.
Beneath the layers of gore and glamour that admittedly drain the upper-middle-class of any authenticity and real feeling, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires is simply a cautionary tale about a woman who should be seen but not believed. Whose word doesn't hold as much power as a man's. When you let yourself become a trophy, you give the world permission to make you a sacrifice.
There is nothing more terrifying than that.
PS: If you're like me, and you pair books with a cinematic chaser, I'd recommend Fright Night (2011), a horror comedy in which Charley finds out his next-door neighbour is a vampire. It matches the pace and tone of this book remarkably well.
Like a new season of American Horror Story, every issue of ROPES is taken over by a sparkling new cast of MALP students, ready for brand-new plotlines, character arcs, and dramatic finales. This consistent evolution allows ROPES to take on a refreshingly mouldable format, with each MALP group bringing a fresh set of eyes to every issue. Before introducing ourselves, however, we’d like to briefly introduce you to the journal itself.
Without getting too historical, we’ll fill you in on the origins of this cherished publication.
(Review of Postgraduate English Studies) was founded in 1992, a journal originally publishing material encompassing Irish literature, history, and politics.
As an extracurricular project attached to the MALP programme, the publication is conceptualized, edited, designed, marketed, and produced by master’s students of Literature and Publishing at University of Galway. In 1998, ROPES incorporated its first piece of fiction, allowing the journal to move in a more creative direction. In recent years, ROPES can be seen as a celebration of a variety of innovative work, both written and visual.
So, back to us. This year’s group of MALP students hail from all over the world, with each member bringing something novel and treasured to the 32nd issue. Brought together by a love of literature and an inquisitiveness about the mystical publishing world, the year's team is one of promise, passion, and enthusiasm. We aim to utilize ROPES not only as a charitable project, but as a platform to showcase emerging and diverse artists, both international and from Ireland. In the 32nd issue of ROPES, we aim to create a tangible and artistic expression of the city of Galway, as well as reflecting the wonderful diversity and creativity to be found within our own team. With that in mind, we’d like to introduce ourselves and give you all a feel for who we are and what we do.
Without further ado, here’s to Issue 32!
Laoise Ní Raghallaigh - Managing Editor
Dia dhaoibh a chairde! My name is Laoise, and I'm delighted to be serving as Managing Editor for the 32nd issue of ROPES. I was born and raised in Meath and have a BA in English, French, and Creative Writing from NUIG (or UG, as the kids say). I'll read just about anything, but I have a soft spot for particularly weird and wonderful short stories, and I'd spend every evening at the cinema if I could afford it! I hope this coming issue reflects the heart of our town, and I'm so excited to continue ROPES's legacy for another year.
Áine Feeney - Assistant Managing Editor
Hey! My name is Áine, I’m from Cork, and I recently graduated from University College Cork with a BA in English and History. My favourite genre at the moment is contemporary Irish fiction and when I’m not studying, you can find me hunched under a tree or over a cappuccino with my latest read. I am really excited to be taking part in ROPES this year as Assistant Managing Editor and I hope this journal will be a reflection of the talented writers in Galway and beyond, as well as the diversity of our team this year.
Megan McCreanor - Editorial Lead
Hi everyone! I’m Megan, I’m from Donegal, and I’m the Editorial Lead for ROPES 2024. I’m honoured to be part of such a passionate and enthusiastic team, and I’m sure that we will produce something truly special in the 32nd issue of ROPES. Having faffed around in Spain for the past few years after obtaining a BA in English and Spanish, I’m excited to get stuck into a Master’s in Literature and Publishing. In my free time, I love podcasts, photography, thrift-shopping, and being outdoors. Reading-wise, I’m not fussy, but I tend towards contemporary Irish fiction (preferably strongly feminist—anything by Anne Enright will suffice!)
Laura Murphy - Production & Design Lead
Hi! I’m Laura, I'm the Production and Design Lead for ROPES 2024. I’m from Dublin; lived, studied, and worked there, but I’m loving living and studying in Galway now. I completed my BA in English, Media, and Cultural Studies in 2020, so I’m ready to get back on the academia train. A couple of things about myself: I love podcasts, horror films, and the sit-com Friends. My favourite song is Strawberry Swing by Coldplay, and Jeff Goldblum once liked a tweet of a painting I did of him, but then he deleted his Twitter account so I have no proof. Devastated.
Courtney Knudsen - Sales & Marketing Lead
As a lifelong reader and bookworm, I always knew I wanted to work with books. I pursued an undergraduate degree in English, graduating with a First-Class Honours from Concordia University Texas in 2010, and I’ve worked in bookshops since 2007. Most recently, I was a buyer, focused primarily on children’s books for Santa Fe, New Mexico’s oldest and largest independent bookstore. When I’m not reading or helping others find books they’ll love, I’m probably hiking, camping, road-tripping, or taking photos—sometimes all of these at once! I’ve travelled a lot of places, and lived on multiple continents, but Ireland has always been and will always be my favourite place in the world.
Heya, I’m Tazi, and I’m from Fort Wayne, Indiana. I completed my BA in English and Spanish with additional studies in History and Creative Writing at the University of Alabama. In the last few years, I’ve studied in Chile, Scotland, and Germany before settling in Spain for the last two as a primary school language assistant. I’m a massive fantasy and science fiction nerd, but as my Goodreads shows, I read just a bit of everything: poetry collections, memoirs, graphic novels, contemporary fiction, etc. I’ll be working on both ROPES's Sales and Marketing and Editorial teams this year, and I can’t wait for y’all to see just how we’ve made issue 32 so special.
Yaiza Llamos Ramos
Hello! I'm Yaiza, and I’m from Lanzarote, Spain. I completed my BA in English this year at the University of La Laguna in Tenerife. I've been a beta reader and advanced reader for some authors, and I've also done several courses related to publishing and creative writing. I love reading and my favourite genre is fantasy. I’m so happy to be part of ROPES this year!
I’m Leah Smith and I’m from Cavan. I completed my undergrad at the University of Galway in English, Geography, and Creative Writing. As part of the editorial and production and design teams, I hope to put everything I learned during my undergrad to good use. When it comes to reading, I tend to switch genres depending on my mood, and I like to read in either physical form or as an audiobook. If you don’t know where I am, I’m probably in the swimming pool. I’m excited to be a part of ROPES this year.
Hello there! My name is Vlad and I come from Romania. I completed my BA in English and German Language and Literature at the University of Bucharest. I must confess I am far from an avid reader, but whenever I have time to spare, I thoroughly enjoy sitting down and devouring any book I can get my hands on, especially if we’re talking fantasy, science fiction, or historical fiction. I am committed to ensuring that future generations of readers have a wide selection of good books to pick from when the craving hits them, and, to that end, I am very much looking forward to working on the coming issue of ROPES as part of the Production and Design Team!
Hi! I’m Marieke (Marie). I’m originally from South Africa and grew up in Limerick. I completed my BA in Film Studies & English Literature at Trinity College, where I was also involved in making videos for the college newspaper. I love reading all things, but specifically young adult and literary fiction. I’m very excited to be working on ROPES’s production team this year!
Hey! I am Manuela, and I’m from Venezuela. I moved to Spain six years ago to study Journalism. After graduating, I decided to focus on my passion for books and storytelling and moved to Ireland to study an MA in Literature and Publishing. I am excited to be part of the Production and Design Team and the Editorial Team for ROPES. My favourite genres are fantasy and sci-fi, sprinkled with romance and adventure. But occasionally, I’ll read mysteries. I also love movies and TV series (especially if they are related to any of Disney’s brands), arts and crafts, baking, and writing.
I’m Blaise Gilburd and I studied my undergraduate here in Galway in Creative Writing, English, and German. I am extremely excited to be participating in the production of ROPES for my Master’s, and will be helping out with the editorial and marketing departments. I am a writer myself so I can’t wait to be inspired by all the amazing submissions. You can read my own work in Tír na nÓg, Skylight47, Crossways, and Here Comes Everyone.
Laoise Ní Chainte
My name is Laoise Ní Cháinte and I’m thrilled to be on the Editorial Team of ROPES. Born and raised in Galway, I graduated from University of Galway in 2022 after studying English and French through Irish. I’ve always been passionate about reading, and I’ve spent my life trying to surround myself with literature and books. In the past year I’ve worked with the James Hardiman Library, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Oxford University Press, and I’m so excited to be back in Galway doing the MA in Literature and Publishing with this lovely bunch!
Hello! I’m Gloriana from Costa Rica. I completed my undergraduate in English at the University of Costa Rica. I love discussing books, exploring different cultures, and capturing moments of everyday life through photography. My interests in literature range from women’s writing to gothic and translated fiction. You can find my ramblings and photos on Instagram: @gloriousprose. I am thrilled to be part of this year’s ROPES and I’m looking forward to seeing issue 32 come to life.
Hello! I'm Claire and I'm from the United States, specifically North Carolina, which is down south and along the east coast. I completed my BA in English Literature and Writing at Gardner-Webb University last year. I'm thrilled to be continuing my studies of English literature, writing, and books in general through the MALP program and through ROPES. My favourite genres are fantasy, gothic, historical fiction, paranormal, sci-fi, southern gothic, or any blend of all those. I’m also a big fan of classics, folklore, and mythology. I hope to be very involved in ROPES, especially in Sales & Marketing and Production & Design.
Hi, hello! I’m Yelaina, and I hail from a minor city outside Boston, USA. I dug a little hole for myself here in Galway while I did a BA with Creative Writing at NUIG, and there I remained. I’m a reader, a writer, and a die-hard fan of coffee, escapism, and cats. I have a few tiny publications, including one in the ROPES 2021 issue, Ephemeral, and I served as the fiction editor for a small literary magazine for a pleasant two years. I’m fond of stories about things that tempt and distress me—which is unfortunately most things.
Hi! My name is Emily, I'm from New York, and I'm so excited to be working on ROPES! I graduated with my BA in English and BA in psychology from Binghamton University. Some of my personal favourite genres include YA, fiction, and mystery. I also love theatre, and my neighbours’ dog. This is my first time living abroad, and it's been such a wonderful experience; I'm absolutely loving Galway. I'm part of the Editorial team, and I’m so excited for everyone to get their hands on our edition!
Dear reader, my name is Tamára and I’m from Lisbon, Portugal. I finished my degree in Arts and Humanities a year ago and I’ve been working as a movie reviewer since then! I have a Major in Asian Studies and a Minor in Editing, which basically means I love learning about new languages and cultures and I’m nitpicky about all things grammar. Art is my passion, especially literature, cinema, and the fun ways they intertwine, but I'll always trip over my words explaining them to someone. If I loved it less, I might be able to talk about it more.
On January 26th, I attended my very first Over the Edge event with a close friend of mine. We’d always said that we’d go during our undergraduate degree, but never did seem to find the time. The stars seemed to align for us that Thursday – we were both in town for the evening, and we’d already arranged to go for dinner. So, after a swift meal, we made our way to the Galway City Library and quietly entered the children’s section, where readings were already underway.
Over the Edge has been a highlight for the Galway literary community for many years. Founded by Kevin Higgins and Susan Millar DuMars, its aim has always been to serve the literary and writing community in the city and the west of Ireland generally. They run regular events in the library which showcase a featured group of writers, as well as providing a stage for new, up-and-coming, and established writers to share their work in front of a group.
As I had expected, there was an excellent turnout on the night. Chairs lined much of the room, shaded by a large felt tree and various other colourful decorations. These seats had already been filled and so people had tucked themselves in between bookshelves, peeking around to catch glimpses of the speakers at the podium. My friend and I had to stand as inconspicuously as possible beside the librarian’s desk, but eventually we were shepherded to a better spot by one of the librarians.
The night began with readings from a few featured speakers – Seán Gibbons read a section from his latest crime novel, Ferdia Mac Anna entertained the crowd with sections of his memoir, and Terri Metcalfe made her public reading debut with some wonderful poetry pieces. We were also lucky enough to hear pieces read by students of the university’s MA in Writing programme during the open mic section of the evening. The floor then opened up to other speakers, sharing work they were currently working on or had recently published.
Though the event was a celebration of the 20th birthday of Over the Edge, it was also a celebration of the late Kevin Higgins and his work. Speakers had been selected to read some of his poetry, much to the delight of the audience. Many took the opportunity to share personal stories about how they knew him and Susan, or how they had been supported by him in their writing careers. The whole night was a beautiful tribute to him, and to the work he and Susan have done over the years for the Galway literary community.
by Tara O'Malley
Last Friday, literary journal Tolka celebrated the launch of its latest issue at Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop with authors Roisin Kiberd and Brenda Romero, who read from their pieces published in the journal. Tolka’s editors — Liam Harrison, Seán Hayes and Catherine Hearn — have an aim to publish “promiscuous non-fiction”, and the evening at Charlie Byrne’s exemplifies very well what they mean by that.
Born during the pandemic, Tolka has become an important piece in Ireland’s vast literary journal scene, set apart by the passion its editors share for publishing non-fiction that is not easily defined. They decided to take the name from the Tolka river because, as Catherine Hearn explained, the word comes from the Irish “tolga”, which means to overflow, and most of the texts they publish share the quality of stretching the limits of genres.
One of the pieces included in the latest issue of the journal, “What We Share” by Brenda Romero, is an interactive piece of non-fiction in which, in the style of role-playing video games, the reader chooses the path the main character takes from a set of options. The text focuses on real-life stories of women who were sexually trafficked and the choices offered to the reader only reinforce the powerlessness of the character. “How do you find the balance between fiction and nonfiction in a piece?”, Romero was later asked by a member of the public, and the question might as well express the genre-bending nature of the text and much of the spirit of Tolka’s preached “promiscuity”.
The overflowing quality was also much noted when Roisin Kiberd read from the piece published in Tolka’s second issue, “Jeff Bezos Talks to God”, which focuses on the brief minutes the billionaire spent in his spaceship in 2021. The piece is not only a mix of non-fiction, critical commentary, and nonfiction, but also a hybrid in its form: at parts list, essay, story, and article. When discussing with the authors, Liam Harrison quoted Beckett: “form is content, content is form”, and went on to ask Romero and Kiberd about the genesis of their work. The evening at Charlie Byrne’s was a celebration of Tolka’s new issue and a reiteration of it being the place where “the overflow” and the “literary promiscuous” find their place. In an age where we feel compelled to label most things, it is much appreciated to know such a place exists.
by Fernanda Ortega
As you might already know, ROPES is published annually by the students of the MA in Literature and Publishing of the University of Galway. Because of that, each year the journal is looked after by a completely different group of people. The ROPES team of 2023 is multicultural and multilingual, with members from Ireland and around the world. We come from varied backgrounds, but we all are passionate about literature and the arts and have complementary interests within the publishing industry. With this in mind, one of our main goals is to publish an array of works that portrays singular literary voices and perspectives. As a whole, the journal represents an archive of creativity and diversity.
Since publishing is a creative endeavor, we believe it is important to highlight its human nature and that you know who the people are behind ROPES. That’s why we want to introduce ourselves!
Anna Blackburn (she/her)
Hi! I’m Anna and I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I completed my BA in English with Creative Writing at UCD this past year and am so excited to be on the Editorial and Marketing teams for ROPES 2023! My favourite genre to read and watch is dystopian fiction and my favourite author is Victoria Aveyard who wrote the Red Queen series. I love travel, creative writing, concerts, and volunteering with Fighting Words.
Ana García LdeC (she/her)
Hey there! I have a super long name, so I just go as Ana García LdeC. I am from Mexico City, and I’ve also had the opportunity to live in Colombia, the USA, and now Galway. During high school I studied Creative Writing, and went to college in Mexico City to study my BA in English Literature so the Literature and Publishing Master’s at the University of Galway is a perfect fit for me. I am passionate about digital publishing and multimedia storytelling. As for literary genres, my favourites are romance, Victorian, gothic, memoir, modern classics, and popular fiction. The next edition of ROPES has a fantastic new team behind, and I really can’t wait for you to see what we create for you. Twitter: @anagldec.
Alessia Fiorello (she/her)
Hello! I am Alessia and I’m from Bonn, Germany. I completed my BA in English, German, and Comparative Studies this year at the University of Bonn. I am an avid reader and my favourite genres are romance and contemporary fiction. I am excited to be part of the Sales and Marketing team, and I can’t wait for you all to hold this year’s edition in your hands!
Alicia Calvo Hernández (she/her)
Hello, I’m from Madrid, Spain. Just a year ago I was finishing my degree in Journalism and Humanities and working on my final thesis, which was focused on the representation of the home and its intimate and social dimensions in British and Irish contemporary narrative. So, you can say I love houses and literature. Now, since I have had to leave my own house to study this master’s, I’ve made books my home, and I can’t wait to pour this love for literature into ROPES 2023! You can find me on Twitter: @Alicia_CalvoH.
Cassia Blondelot (she/her)
Hi, I’m Cassia. I’m from a tiny village in France, but I moved to Galway a few years back after completing my MA in English Literature and Cultures in Lyon. It’ll be no surprise that I love reading, and I'm fascinated by what languages and translation can tell us about different cultures. I tend to read a bit of everything, from experimental literature to children’s books, although I mostly stick to fiction. I’m thrilled to be a part of ROPES and to get to work on putting great content out there for you to read! You can find me on Twitter: @CassiaBlondelot.
Ciara Harris (she/her)
I’m Ciara and I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is a very small coastal city in Eastern Canada. I recently completed my BA in English at Saint Mary’s University, and I’m so excited to be serving as the Managing Editor for this year’s ROPES. I love all kinds of literature, but I have a particular interest in short fiction, and my maritime roots definitely come through in my reading choices; I love any story about the ocean, seaweed, salty breezes, you name it! When I’m not reading, you can find me crocheting knick-knacks for my friends and family or exploring local cafés. Reach out to me on Twitter: @ciarak_harris.
Claudia Madden (she/her)
Hey, I'm Claudia! I’m from Athlone, Co. Westmeath and I recently graduated from Maynooth University with a BA in English. Reading has always been a special interest of mine, especially genres such as horror, gothic fiction and sci-fi. My biggest passion is poetry and I wrote my own collection of poetry for my final year creative dissertation. I’m super excited to be a part of both the Editorial and Production and design teamS for ROPES! You can find me on Twitter: @claudiamadden1996.
Fernanda Ortega (she/her)
Hey! I am Fernanda from Mexico. I graduated from a BA in Latin American Literature at Universidad Iberoamericana. I love reading, writing, and travelling, which is why I’m now in Ireland. I love to read literature from all over the world, and right now I am particularly interested in poetry and translation. You can find me talking about all sorts of books on Instagram: @flowersinthelibrary. I’m really happy to be part of this year’s ROPES team and beyond excited for you to read the next issue.
Isabelle Gahan (she/her)
Hi! I’m Isabelle and I’m from Dublin. I have a BA in English and Film from UCD and a Certificate in Creative Writing from Maynooth University. Like my fellow classmates, I have a huge love and passion for reading, and the genres I love the most are fantasy, historical fiction, and anything a bit magical. I spend my spare time writing, making art, and chasing my ginger cat around the house (it’s true, male ginger cats are himbos). I am so excited to be a part of the Editorial team for this year’s edition of ROPES.
Julie Kathrine Steen Paulsen (she/her)
Hi there, I am Julie. I come from the lovely city of Trondheim, Norway. I have a BA in English Literature from the Norwegian University NTNU, a semester of South American Literature from UNSAM (Buenos Aires), and four years of law school from the University of Bergen. I am planning to write my legal MA thesis on international copyright upon graduating from UG. I have an eternal love for the classics, especially modern American and English gothic fiction, but I have more recently developed an interest in international literature. I am looking forward to contributing to this year’s edition of ROPES as part of both the Editorial and the Sales and Marketing teams.
Katherine Therrien (she/her)
I’m Katherine, or Katie for short! I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, although I’ve spent a lot of time in Scotland. I have a BA in Literature and History from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and an MA in Creative Writing from Edinburgh Napier University. I am a writer as well as a reader and, as a part of the editorial team, I love finding new and daring stories—be they experimental, genre, or personal essays!
Kiki Andrews (she/her)
Hi! I’m Kiki and I’m from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. I completed my BA in Language and Culture Studies with a specialisation in English literature in an intertextual perspective at Utrecht University. I am passionate about the representation of women in books and other stories. As for literary genres, I tend to read a bit of everything, but mostly enjoy contemporary fiction. I am so excited to be serving as Assistant Managing Editor for this year’s ROPES and can’t wait for you to see the 31st edition!
Mariana Denisse Morales Hernández (she/her)
Hi! I’m Mariana from Mexico City. I completed my BA in English with a specialisation in translation at Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM. I love all kinds of books, but I am most interested in contemporary poetry, women’s writing, cross-genre writing, and translations. Give me a text that works with images of water, colours, or food—my second passion in life is eating—, and I’ll be obsessed with it for an indefinite amount of time. I’m beyond excited to be a part of the Editorial and Production and Design teams for ROPES 2023! You can find me on Twitter: @marianaden_.
Michaela Shaw (she/her)
Hi there! I’m Michaela and I’m from Sligo. I completed my undergraduate in English and History at the University of Galway just this past year. I have always been an avid reader and writer, and I’m particularly interested in the more unique and avant-garde forms of the arts. I am very proud to be serving as this year’s Sales and Marketing Lead and I am so excited for my team and I to work on some really great events and content for you all.
Olivia Long (she/her)
Hi! I’m from Charleston, South Carolina, and recently completed my undergraduate degree in Publishing at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I am so thrilled to be serving as ROPES Editorial Lead this year and to work with such a creative and talented team. As to be expected, I’m very passionate about reading, and enjoy reading fantasy, science fiction, and horror series in my free time. I also adore Greek mythology, and my current favourite author is Madeline Miller.
Rachel Cahill (she/her)
Hi! I’m Rachel and I am from a village called Bree in Wexford. I have a BA in English and Digital Methods and Data Literacy from UCD and a professional certificate in Editorial Fashion Styling at the Dublin Institute of Design. I am passionate about fashion, culture, and reading. I act as the creative director and editor of online magazine VAPID, pushing against the stigma for those who simultaneously enjoy engaging with current worldly topics and fashion. I am excited to be working on the sales and marketing team this year! I frequently read fantasy novels. I love cats. You can find me on @theonlyraquelle and www.vapidmagazine.com.
Regina Zavala Corona (she/her)
Hi there, I’m Regina. I’m from Guanajuato, Mexico. I graduated this year with a BA in English Literature. As expected, I love books and my favourite genres include fantasy, romance, gothic fiction, and of course, the classics. I am excited to be part of both the Editorial and the Sales and Marketing teams. Can’t wait for you to see this year’s edition of ROPES!
Róisin Cremin (she/her)
Hi, I’m Róisin. I’m from Mallow, Co. Cork and have recently graduated with a BA in German Studies and Music at Mary Immaculate College. Having studied German for my undergrad, I have a particular interest in translation. Along with translated works, my favourite genres to read are contemporary fiction, romance, literary fiction, and fantasy. I like to write poetry in my spare time and post book reviews on a number of online platforms. I am very excited to be working on ROPES this year as part of the Editorial and Sales and Marketing teams, and I cannot wait for you all to see what we have planned!. You can find me on instagram/twitter: @somethingarosie.
Shannon Kelly (she/her)
Hello, I’m Shannon Kelly! I completed my undergraduate degree at University of Galway in 2021, with a BA in Children’s Studies. In addition to my BA, I have successfully completed higher diplomas in early childhood care from UG and marketing communications from UCD. I have a passion for children’s literature and a great interest in digital illustration. I am delighted to be the Production and Design Team Lead for ROPES 2023 and to have the opportunity to work with the amazing team.
Hi! I’m Sinéad, and I’m from Killarney, County Kerry. I graduated from UCC with a Bachelors in English in 2021! I love reading and writing, and particularly love theatre and poetry. I am very excited to be part of this year’s Marketing and Sales team for ROPES. You can find me on twitter: @sineadbart.
Tara O’Malley (she/her)
Hi! I’m Tara. I’m from Connemara, Co. Galway and have recently graduated from a BA in Creative Writing, English and Classics at the University of Galway. I’m fluent in both English and Irish. I’m passionate about writing and reading, which is why I’m very excited to be a part of the ROPES Editorial team this year. I love to read poetry, creative non-fiction, and all types of fiction, but particularly anything inspired by mythology and folklore. You can find me on Twitter: @taranimhaille.
Valeria Cecilia Barbon (she/her)
Hey there! I’m Valeria from Italy. I have a BA and an MA in English and Russian Literature and Languages from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. I am an avid reader (and a food enthusiast): I read pretty much anything, from classics to fantasy. I am so excited to be involved in both the Production and Design and Editorial teams to shape this beautiful publication, and I can’t wait for you guys to enjoy it!
Mark your calendars! The 4th of April brings about the start of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, a highly anticipated event for book lovers. Before you buy your tickets, ROPES members Sheridan Pena and Mariah Inman share their most highly anticipated events taking place next week and why they think you should swing by.
Heroes and Villages: A. K. Blakemore, Jan Carson and the Power of the Mob
Wednesday 6th April at 8:30 pm - Town Hall Theatre
I personally love reading about dystopian societies and have recently become enamoured with historical fiction so this event is a must-see for me. I cannot wait to hear the conversation between two wonderful storytellers such as Jan Carson and A. K. Blakemore.
Leave the World Behind: Rumaan Alam in Conversation
Thursday 7th April at 8:30 pm - Town Hall Theatre
How far can you trust a stranger? This is the central question in Rumaan Alam's book Leave the World Behind. I'm looking forward to this event as I'm sure it'll push me beyond my typical way of thinking (Plus the Netflix adaptation of the book will star Julia Roberts so this basically has her seal of approval).
It's About the Journey: Danny Denton and Claire-Louise Bennett
Saturday 9th April at 4:00 pm - An Taibhdhearc
Another go-to of mine is books that focus on a character's mental journey as much as their physical one. Danny Denton and Claire-Louise Bennett focus on this phenomenon in their novels, and I won't be able to resist attending this event.
The Sound of Paradise: Raymond Antrobus and Roger Robinson
Saturday 9th April at 8:30 pm - Town Hall Theatre
Poetry is a relatively unfamiliar genre to me, but I always wish to become more familiar with it. Even with my lack of knowledge on the subject, I recognized the names of Raymond Antrobus and Roger Robinson and knew I had to go see these two powerhouse poets.
Staying In: Will McPhail in Conversation
Sunday 10th April at 2:00 pm - An Taibhdhearc
I took one look at the cover of In and knew I had to read it. The exquisite graphics drew me in, and the writing style hooked me completely. I will be severely disappointed if I do not get to meet the author behind this book.
Cúirt Zine Fair
Friday 8 April 12 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. - The Cornstore
Saturday 9 April 12 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. - The Cornstore
Sunday 10 April 12:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. - The Cornstore
If you are an art hoe like me who loves to support local artists and independent presses, I highly recommend taking a peek at the zines*, prints, and comics that will be for sale at the Cúirt Zine Fair. The fair is free to attend, however, I highly recommend throwing down some handsome cash at the first zine you fall in love with.
*A zine is a self-published leaflet or booklet with original or appropriated art.
Staying In: Will McPhail in Conversation
Sunday 10 April 2 p.m. - An Taibhdhearc
As an avid fan of graphic novels that prick at the heartstrings, I am a sure-fire supporter of Will McPhail’s debut novel In. The novel made me laugh, cry, and reconsider my everyday life choices. You will find me clutching his book at this event as he explains the inspiration behind his novel.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the launch of the ROPES Literary Journal! This event will be held on April 6th at 4:00 pm in An Taibhdhearc, and entry is free for everyone. Make sure to come by if you want to engage in exciting literary chats and hear the contributing writers speak about their work. We can’t wait to see you all there!
On a random Wednesday afternoon in the typical pouring rain of Galway, I ran into the first cafe that would let me take cover. Luckily for me, I happened upon my new favourite cafe in town. Hidden within Dominick Street, Rouge waits unassuming for its next happenstance with another cafe-reading-lover.
Upon first glance, the restaurant looks like just another pub, with its black paint and red-coloured logo on the building. Honestly, with its outside looks, one can assume it would be synonymous with The Front Door, O’Connell’s Bar, or Monroe’s Tavern.
However, once I stepped foot into Rouge I was transported into a romantic cafe tucked within the cliffs of Normandy, France that I visited less than ten years ago.
As I made my way through the entryway, my eyes followed the ceiling which curled itself around the jagged stone walls. I let my eyes follow the rocks to rest upon the walnut leather sofas and candlelit tables that longed to be filled with the buzz of people.
“Bonjour, comment ça va?" A woman’s voice called from beside me as another woman seeking asylum from the heavy downpour feasted her eyes upon the immaculate vibes of this underrated cafe.
Side note: You don’t need to know or speak French to
go here, however, the baristas openly speak it, so if you want to sharpen up on
your French, are a native French speaker, or are just sick of speaking English,
don’t be afraid to talk to them in French.
I turned to the till to see two baristas greeting me
behind a bar filled with fresh pastries, quiches, and other French cuisines.
Not only is the coffee good, but the cafe offers free Wi-Fi
for those who want to plant themselves in one place to study for hours on end.
I know I’ll be found on the couches, catching up on Suzanne Young’s Program series that I’ve been addicted
to these past few weeks.
With the turbulence of 2021 behind us, its the perfect time to look back, reflect and wonder how we managed to get through it. The confusion of restrictions being lifted and re-instated, of never knowing what the next week will bring, left us all needing a safety net to get us through it. The one thing we would turn back to because we knew that getting lost in it would make everything else seem tolerable. Today some of the ROPES team members are sharing the little indulgences and obsessions that got them through 2021.
Joyce’s Real Housewives remedy:
When my Dad, the ruler of the TV remote, started working late shifts during the lockdown, my mother, sister and I could indulge in the TV that he wouldn’t have put up with - The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. We watched women in extravagant outfits throw drinks, lie to each other, recover from addiction, and sometimes go on trial for embezzlement. And of course, the ridiculousness of this likely made us forget about the worries of our own lives. Often, an episode would be followed by a debriefing session where we would decide whose side we were on and what we would have said in any given argument - we were completely drawn in by the spectacle of it all.
I often hear people categorise television in two ways; shows that they think are genuinely good, and shows they watch because their brain can’t tackle anything that requires much of them. During a draining 2021, I think the latter has grown more popular. But I also think it’s possible for a TV show to straddle both categories. Reality TV knows its place as a provider of comedy, lavishness, and drama and if it achieves what it sets out to, like The Real Housewives franchise has done, then you can’t deny its value. The Real Housewives has created characters and storylines that, to me, are comparable with the television greats. I have never encountered a better villain than Lisa Rinna or a better underdog than Kim Richards. If you have seen the Amsterdam dinner party scene, you know it’s comparable to Shakespeare. And Lisa Vanderpump’s Season 5 tagline; “Throw me to the wolves and I shall return leading the pack” should have received an award. The show is unapologetic and uncompromising and demands to be taken seriously within its genre.
I no longer live with my family but we still discuss The Real Housewives at length together. During a difficult year, the show brought me much needed comfort and laughs, drama when my life was lacking in it, and something to get excited about with friends and family who loved it too. It also made me into a staunch advocate of reality TV. Clearly.
Liam’s MARVELous movie obsession:
So, celebrity culture is kind of terrible. I know what type of cereal Adele eats every morning. Joe Rogan has stolen all of my friends and he won’t give them back. Chet Hanks terrifies me. Celebrities are a blight. I hate them.
But – and there’s always a but…
I don’t know Mr Garfield personally, but do I love him? Yes.
Do I kind of wish we were best friends? Also yes.
The pandemic has changed me. And not in an interesting way. I came out of this lockdown with no cool new hobbies. I’m terrible at carpentry (Andrew can build rocking chairs), I still don’t know how to play the piano (Andrew plays beautifully), and I’m still the same height (Andrew is taller than me if you include the hair).
Some people worked on themselves during the pandemic. I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 26 times. Do you want to know what I watched last night? The Amazing Spider-Man. That was a stupid question. You already knew the answer.
I’ve never been great at expressing my feelings, but I decided to write a poem which I hope articulates my obsession (that’s a very strong word, maybe I’ll change that to ‘fondness’) a bit better.
Shall I compare thee to summer’s day?
Except you have hair
Really nice hair
I think I want to be you
How does your hair do that?
I don’t know how this happened. I don’t want to be obsessed with him, but I am. And I know some of you are too, you little freaks.
But you know what, after everything that’s happened over the last two years, we deserve our happiness wherever we can find it, we deserve a bit of light in all this darkness. We deserve Andrew Garfield
Yashika’s tea treatment:
My secret to happiness is made of four things: milk, water, sugar and leaves. Chai, my companion through times rough and smooth. No matter what mood I am in, a cup of adrak-wali-chai (ginger tea) will clear all the fuzz out of my brain and make life peaceful and calm. It is almost like meditation for me now. There is something so reassuring about the fact that everything in my life can change in an instant, but chai will be beside me through it all.
Megan’s bookish break:
Last summer, with the help of an amazing friend who is always on call with book recommendations, I read the fantasy trilogy Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab. She knew I was going to devour these books. I grew up on this genre, living in magical worlds, but I hadn’t visited in a long time.
Diving into the parallel Londons and getting to know would-be-pirate Lila, and morally-conflicted Kell and the rest of Schwab’s brilliantly painted characters brought me back to a special kind of joy. It got me to go back to my reading roots and allowed me to fully escape into another time and place for a while without holding back.
Apart from the beauty of the book itself, there is that specific bond you develop with a friend who gives you a book and lets you unapologetically text them scores of messages whenever something shocking or racy or hilarious happens. At those times, I felt acutely the significance of the books writers gift us and the friends who bring them to our attention.
Isabel’s Love Island getaway:
In June, most of my friends and I finished our undergrads. Soon after, a lot of them moved away. We went from being together in little Galway for four years, terminally involved in each other's lives, to being splintered across Europe. Only a couple of us remained here and we - the stragglers - found ourselves stuck for things to do, not knowing how to spend the long, bright evenings now that we could no longer bask in the act of simply being surrounded by company. Only one thing was capable of patching up our loneliness and bittersweet independence, and that was Love Island. Each night, we would rush home from our service industry jobs, stopping in Spar on the way to pick up an overpriced bottle of craft beer, and hop on the couch just in time to hear Virgin Media’s 9 pm answer to the Angelus: Ian Stirling saying “TONIGHT, ON LOVE ISLAND”. Being able to sit down for an hour every night to hear British twenty-somethings say the same thing over and over again, watching them lick their wine glasses so that their lipstick wouldn’t leave a mark, and wondering if any of them were having a sneaky cigarette off-camera released enough dopamine to numb the strangeness of that summer for me. This year, when I’ll have finished my MA and when even more of my friends will have left this town for good, I can’t wait to use the show as a coping mechanism all over again.
Can you think of anything better than wrapping yourself up in a soft blanket, a mug of hot cocoa in hand and a heavy book in your lap? We know we can’t. Here are some books ROPES member Alison Rizzo would recommend for when venturing outside into the cold isn’t appealing.
The Secret History by Donna Tart
Our protagonist, Richard, meets a group of classics students in a remote university in New England; what could possibly go wrong? Somewhere in between mystery, thriller, and a tale of wasted youth lies this gripping novel. Set during a snowy winter at Hampden College, this chilling story will show you what happens when the lines of morality are blurred by a fog of debauchery. For the academics out there, this is the perfect novel to set the mood for a long winter of studying.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
No list of winter reads would be complete without a Russian novel or two. Tolstoy’s work transports the reader to the wintery world of 19th century Russia where we meet Anna Karenina, a heroine who is sick of her empty existence as the wife of Alexei Karenin. She embarks on a dangerous affair with the handsome, young army officer Count Vronsky. Tolstoy’s acute insight into human nature gives Anna Karenina some of the most memorable characters in literature, each written with Tolstoy’s characteristic depth and knowledge of human nature.
The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Set in the Russian wilderness lies a story full of magic and intrigue. This novel makes you feel like you’re sitting by the fireplace, being told an ancient tale by a beloved grandmother. The story follows Vasilisa, a girl who grows up listening to her nurse’s fairy tales with her siblings. As she grows up, the household spirits which were once revered by all are no longer respected, causing danger to unfold. Vasilisa is forced to enter a world of nightmares and defy her loved ones in order to protect them from harm. This novel is the perfect read to awaken your inner child and re-immerse yourself in the enchanting, yet delightfully dark, world of fairy tales.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Don’t let the name of this book fool you, this isn’t your typical cosy Christmas read. Vida, a novelist who is just as famous for the mystery of her missing thirteenth story as for her published works, is finally willing to divulge the secrets of her past. She chooses Margaret for the task, a biographer who sees a curious parallel between the pain of her own past and Vida’s mysterious one. This novel is a love letter to storytelling and the art of writing, a perfect read for the booklovers among us.
This week we’re diving into the world of
book festivals with our own Kasandra Ferguson! Read on to experience the Dublin
Book Festival for yourself and find out about the major events and themes that
stood out this year.
Dublin Book Festival
Late last month was a wrap on the annual Dublin Book Festival, which operated with a mixture of live and online events, all captivating in their own right. The Smock Alley Theatre was the central hub for most of the week, but Dublin at large was explored. There were activities taking place at the Chester Beatty Library, National Botanic Gardens, and Dublin Port Heritage Center, all woven together by walking and boat tours around the city. (My favorite outing was the sketching session at Chester Beatty with Róisín Curé to celebrate her new book, Dublin in Sketches and Stories.) The various seminars featured a slew of both established and new authors, including President Higgins himself, who attended to discuss his new book, Reclaiming the European Street: Speeches on Europe and the European Union, 2016-20. A few trends stood out most strongly amidst the festival, all of which bode well for the direction of the Irish literary scene. Check out the program from this year to see the full list of writers and published works - you’re bound to find something you’ll love!
This year’s festival shined a light on a variety of authors and their stunning works, including pieces like the new anthology Queer Love by contributors including Emma Donoghue and Neil Hegarty, Diverse Republic by Melatu Uche Okorie, and Unsettled by Rosaleen McDonagh - a truly arresting collection of essays, and a personal recommendation of mine. These writers brought attention to topics ranging from the LGBT+ community, Travellers’ rights, and immigration to ableism and the female experience in Ireland throughout the past century. Small presses in Ireland have been pushing for a more inclusive selection on bookstore shelves - particularly Skein Press, the publisher of Unsettled and one of the main sponsors of Play It Forward (in conjunction with The Stinging Fly, one of Ireland’s top literary journals). The initiative allows for a diverse group of emerging writers to be mentored by more experienced authors such as Lucy Caldwell and Cauvery Madhavan. The collective experience over the course of the festival inspired an immense amount of passion, inspiration, and, pointedly, hope for the arts scene in Ireland.
Irish language, history, and mythology
Carrying throughout the festival was a strong, clear push to promote works which focused on the Irish language, history, and mythology. One of the earlier events was an online launch of It Rose Up: A Selection of Lost Irish Fantasy Stories, an anthology of oft-overlooked, darkly humorous folktales. The collection is edited and introduced by Jack Fennell, who gushed about his adoration for such quirky horror stories and unsettlingly fun myths. Soon after, audiences were given a chance to listen in to a conversation with Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin - a novelist, children’s author, guitarist and singer, screenwriter, and publisher - to discuss his life and work. A pillar in the arts community, he’s contributed significantly to the revival of Irish language media, having written several awarded novels in it for example. Moving to more sweeping tales, Jo Kerrigan spoke about her new novel, Stories from the Sea, which lovingly recounts many of the legends developed around Ireland’s existence as an island nation. Occurring at the Dublin Port Heritage Center, it was easy to be transported out to the waves by Kerrigan’s stories. Peppered throughout the week were stunning seminars on real-life history, including one of my favorite’s, ‘Ireland 1922: Women in Independence, Debate, and Civil War,’ which used Diarmaid Ferriter’s new book Between Two Hells: The Irish Civil War as a launching pad for riveting discussion on women’s roles in independence, debate, and conflict. Altogether, the festival highlighted the unyielding insurgence of writers, artists, academics, and more dedicating themselves to revitalising popular interest in Irish culture.
Promotion of local libraries and independent bookshops
This seems like an easy one, but if there are any day-to-day topics that remain crucial to members of the literary scene (particularly in a country like this, which houses a variety of hearty small presses and independent sellers), they are: support your local libraries and buy from indie bookshops. Seriously. Every seminar in Smock Alley Theatre let out afterwards into the charming alley behind the building, where it was almost too easy to grab a quick coffee from The West End and wander into The Gutter Bookshop for a signed copy of the speakers’ books. All of which I did, on five occasions. My duffel bag was significantly heavier on the trip home. Regardless, the best way to promote a vibrant, thriving literary scene, brimming with all of the complex, culturally rich qualities mentioned above, is to keep it local. For our Galway readers: Charlie Byrnes is just a stroll away.
The Dublin Book Festival is one of many arts festivals taking place throughout the country, so find the one’s happening near you in the future - those behind the scenes are always looking for support and fresh audiences, and I know you’re always looking for a new book to read.
So many exciting things
have been happening this fall in Galway. Halloween, the setting up of the
Christmas market, the approach of finals…yikes, maybe let’s ignore that for
now. While I know we’re all simultaneously excited about Christmas and dreading
the start of December exams, let’s put all of that on pause for a moment and look
back at one of the major highlights of November. ROPES member Yashika Sharma is
here to take a look back at the festival of Diwali and guide us through its
Diwali, more than just a Festival of Lights
This is an experiment for everyone out there: Whenever you meet an Indian on the street, ask them, “What is Diwali?” It is a major possibility that they will respond with: “Diwali is a festival of lights!”
And they are not wrong! It is the festival of lights celebrated by Hindus. Diwali today is all about candles, lights, crackers, and sweets. Many understand it as the day when we pay homage to Gods and Goddesses, inviting them to our homes, thus signifying wealth and prosperity. However, the origin story of Diwali stems from the Indian epic Ramayana.
Ramayana relates the story of Lord Rama and his triumph over the evil King Ravana. Ravana kidnaps Goddess Sita, Rama’s wife, and takes her to his kingdom, which is situated in today’s Sri Lanka. Rama, along with his brother Lakshmana, takes an army full of monkeys and their King to fight the mighty Ravana. His divinity and archery skills become Ravana’s doom, killing each member of his family one by one, and then finally destroying Ravana. Rama then takes Sita back to his kingdom, Ayodhya. In the celebration of the return of their king and queen, citizens of Ayodhya lit oil lamps all over the city. This is the significance of using oil lamps called ‘diyas’ during Diwali festival.
Why were the oil lamps lit, you ask? Because it was the new moon. Therefore, the date for Diwali differs each year.
Ramayana: The importance of the book
It is said to be auspicious to have a copy of Ramayana at your home. The mythological tale has multiple themes that must be inculcated in day-to-day living to have an ideal life and become an ideal human being. Ramayana is centered around Lord Rama, who is considered to be the icon of ‘dharma’ (duty). Throughout the tale, there are multiple occasions where, as a reader, you might disagree or wonder why Rama decides something or acts the way he does. But the book is clear: “Rama will follow his duty, and so should you.”. This is what Ramayana teaches us; make sure that you are righteous, and follow your duty, even if that means that you have to suffer yourself. While this notion has changed in today’s world, with the importance of personal health and self-love becoming central to our life, honouring our duties towards our family, friends and the world around us sure is fulfilling.
On Diwali, every family comes together, prays to the Gods for health and prosperity, and enjoy the festival together. In Ramayana, we witness the love between brothers Rama and Lakshmana. Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita spent 14 years of exile, living in the woods, without any luxury. It is said that during these 14 years, Lakshmana did not sleep and stood guard over his brother and sister-in-law. When Lakshmana laid injured on the battlefield, Rama’s tears and words for his brother are so moving that you can’t help but shed some of your own. To look at Ravana’s end, we see his brother Kumbhkarana giving his own life, even though he believed that Ravana’s ego has taken him to the path of doom. In contrast, two brothers, Vibhishana and Sugriva, are the cause of their brothers’ death. From this, we learn that it is important to support your family, but it also important to guide them towards the right path.
Triumph of Good over Evil
The most basic trope in all mythological stories: good destroys evil. May it be Zeus and Cronus, Tuatha De Danann and Carman, or Rama and Ravana, we see how good magic always wins over evil. Symbolically, you can take this trope in two ways. First, you might come across a lot of negativity and people that can prove to be toxic in your life. In such a case you need to overcome this by having a positive approach towards life and removing everything evil from it. Second, fighting with your inner inhibitions and winning over them; defeating your dark side. Ravana was said to have 10 heads that symbolized 10 personality traits he had: Lust, Anger, Delusion, Greed, Pride, Envy, Mind, Intellect, Will and Ego. This Diwali, let’s promise ourselves to get over all negative emotions, and stay happy and healthy.
If you would like to read more on Ramayana, here are some recommendations:
1. ‘Maryada’ by Arshia Sattar
2. ‘Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of Ramayana’ by Devdutt Pattanaik
3. ‘The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic’ by R. K. Narayana
4. ‘The Ramayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Indian Epic’ by Vālmīki, Ramesh Menon
Alright, we are done with Diwali. Alexa, play ‘All I Want for Christmas’ by Mariah Carey.
The air is getting cooler, the days are getting shorter and pumpkin spice is starting to appear in our coffees. Spooky season is in full swing, and what better way to celebrate than by reading a terrifying book?
Luckily for you, ROPES member Liam Maguire has a list of his top 6 books that will scare the sh*t out of you. These picks will be judged on two metrics – how much fun you’ll have reading them and how much they’ll terrify you. Thus, the self-explanatory fun metre and spooky metre.
Let’s get spooky!
Perfectly Preventable Deaths & Precious Catastrophe by Deirdre Sullivan
Why not spend this Halloween season in Ballyfrann? It’s a cosy place, you’ll love it there, really. It has a castle! Castles are cool. What else does it have? Oh, well there’s the blood magic and the long history of girls going missing…oh, and the possible ancient terrors that haunt the town.
This is a series that will make you laugh, cry, and laugh again with ease. Sullivan writes so convincingly that it is hard to believe magic is not real.
These books are perfect for the Halloween season, but don’t be fooled, it gets dark in Ballyfrann. Real dark. There is a lot about family and witchcraft, first loves and teenage summers spent with friends drinking tins. But underneath it all is the horrors of the everyday. Characters are completely broken down and left bereft of themselves, creating an eerie sense of the uncanny throughout the series.
But there is also hope. Without the terrible things the characters endure, they would never be capable of the bravest act of all – being loud when the world expects you to be silent.
Fun Metre: 5/5 Spooky Metre: 5/5
TW: Sexual violence, self-harm.
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Reading this book is like staring into the sun – it hurts, and it blinds you, and you know you shouldn’t be doing it, but for some reason you just can’t stop yourself.
I’m not a squeamish person, but I have never tried so hard to actively forget what I had just read immediately after reading it. The overarching theme is similar to Murata’s previous novel Convenience Store Woman, but she takes the idea of societal rejection in a whole new, disturbing direction.
Earthlings is hard to stomach, so I would only recommend it if you’re the type of person who not only likes to watch car crashes in slow motion, but who also likes being involved in said car crashes.
Fun Metre: 3/5 Spooky Metre: 5/5
TW: Sexual violence, self-harm, incest.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Part-thriller, part-metafiction and all terrifying, this book is a breath of fresh air in the tired genre of possession horror.
What is terrifying about A Head Full of Ghosts is just how understated the dread throughout is. What is scary is the idea that horrible things can happen to people who have seemingly done nothing wrong. There are twists throughout and pop culture references – The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project both get shout outs.
But the most refreshing thing about this book is how Tremblay approaches the delicate subject of possession and treats it with genuine compassion. There are no monsters, not really, and by the end there are no definitive answers. And maybe that’s the scariest thing of all, that there are some things we just don’t know.
Recommended for fans of horror classics who are looking for something new but familiar.
Fun Metre: 4/5 Spooky Metre: 4/5
TW: Self-harm, physical violence.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Have you been personally victimised by Squid Game? Me too. Want to go through it all over again?
Ok, so the premise isn’t exactly the same. Battle Royale is less a parable about capitalism, and more about the control of a totalitarian government. The results, however, are similar – a bunch of teenagers are forced to compete in a game where the goal is to be the last one alive.
The spiritual predecessor to The Hunger Games, Takami’s novel is unrelenting and very, very bloody – a case study on the brutality of humanity. This is perfect for you little freaks out there who enjoy feeling empty inside.
Fun Metre: 4/5 Spooky Metre: 3/5
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
What sort of list would this be without including the Queen of Horror herself? Jackson writes magic, pure and simple. Reading any of her work is like watching a spell being cast in real time. She captures that same feeling you get when you wake up from a dream that you never wanted to end, only to realise you can no longer remember what it was about.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is Jackson at her best. The story centres around Merricat and Constance, sisters and village outcasts who are shunned after a family tragedy of which they and their uncle are the only survivors.
The blood of this book is the unease that flows through every passage and the loneliness that emanates from each page. Hypnotic, crushing and absolutely gorgeous – this is the perfect book to read this Halloween.
So ignore those trick ‘r’ treater’s at your door and tuck yourself in by the fire. Was that creaking coming from the attic? Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be fine. It looks like it’s going to be a very long night, so why don’t I make you a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me.
Fun Metre: 10/5 Spooky Metre: 10/5
We are officially opening our call for submissions!
ROPES is now back for its 30th edition. Yes, you read that right…it’s our 30th edition! The new ROPES team is very excited to be involved in the production of the new edition, and we cannot wait to see what all of you wonderful writers and artists out there have up your sleeves.
Before you get those creative juices flowing, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- The word limit for written submissions is 3000 words
- Art and photography submissions must be 300 PPI+
- Only previously unpublished works will be accepted
- A maximum of 3 pieces per submission is allowed
We cannot wait to see what you have in store for us this year! Keep an eye on our blog, where we’ll be posting writing tips, reading recommendations and other content to help inspire your inner artist.
A note on deadlines; written pieces must be submitted by the 31st of December, 2021. Art and photography pieces must be submitted by the 14th of February 2022.
Send your submissions to [email protected]. Please include your name and the title of your work in the subject of your email.
By Yaa Gyasi
pp. 262, 16.51
Yaa Gyasi has outdone herself once again with the publication of her second novel: Transcendent Kingdom. A story about one of capitalism’s biggest illusions ‘The American Dream’. As a child, Gifty would beg for her parents to tell her the story of how they got to Alabama from Ghana. Gyasi conveys a story about what it’s like to have a complicated relationship with one’s home country when you are a child of an immigrant, the odd feeling of not fitting in anywhere because you are not ‘American enough’ in one context and ‘too American’ in another.
Gifty’s parents don’t have an easy time settling in, her mother is constantly working, while her father finds it difficult to hold down a steady job. Nana, her older brother was the catalyst for their move. Her parents sacrificed everything for their eldest son to live in America and have more than they may have had in Ghana. Although her father never settled in, he became the homemaker and Gifty fondly remembers the times he would pick her up from school and feed her dinner.
Many years on, Gifty is now living in San Francisco, a Neuroscience PhD student desperately trying to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed Nana’s life. When her mother comes for a prolonged stay, it becomes obvious how poor her mental health is as she spends all her time in bed sleeping. While Gifty is testing her mice in the Stanford University lab, she hopes her mother will awaken from her sadness.
Gifty and her mother become to understand one another during this time and learn how they can rebuild their futures with the rubble of their pasts. The realities of immigrant life in America paired with the fact that they are one of the only black families in their community speaks to an experience everyone needs to read. This novel is vitally important and talks about many issues in an approachable and empathetic way.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet (2020)
Publisher: Riverhead Books
“You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood. Somehow, the Vignes twins believed themselves capable of both.”
Brit Bennet’s second novel The Vanishing Half follows the lives of two estranged twins, Desiree and Stella. The twins grew up in a predominately black community in the small southern town, Mallard. After a turbulent childhood, the twins decide to run away together at the age of sixteen in search of a new future. Despite being identical twins, the two girls separate and lead completely disparate lives; one has a daughter and moves back to Mallard to care for her mother, the other runs away again, passing for white and hiding her identity from all those she meets, including her new family.
Bennet’s narrative skill is exemplary through the novel’s exploration of multiple generations and perspectives as she weaves together the story of the Vignes twins through their childhood and their life in California. Interestingly, this novel extends to include the narratives of the twins children, as we are shown the impact of their mother’s decisions on their daughters' lives and identities. Starting in the 1950’s, this novel follows the twins until the 1990’s, exploring their experience of identity, family, and race throughout the changing times in America. The perspective of the twin’s daughters heightens the development of this novel through the deeply disparate lives the cousins live, reflective of the effect of their mothers’ decisions and exploring the influence of family, class, and race. Bennet combines tragedy, romance, and humour amongst the complex issues of racial identity, ‘passing’, LGBT identity, and domestic violence.
This novel packs in a multitude of interesting characters and its constantly developing plot makes it the perfect page-turner for your summer reading list. HBO has purchased the rights to adapt Bennet’s The Vanishing Half into a limited series which will grace our screens in the near future so there is no better time than this summer to read this novel!