This week combines two particularly awesome bookish campaigns: Feminist Book Fortnight and Independent Bookshop Week. I popped along to the award-winning Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance to chat all things bookish with store co-owner Rachael Howorth.
The store housed a display of feminist books before Feminist Book Fortnight even kicked off, such is the importance of highlighting and challenging gender stereotypes. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls stood out, alongside Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different, which has been on my wish list since before its release.
We had a really interesting discussion on feminism and gender: “Every year, for International Women’s Day, we do a big display of books about women, feminism and women’s history and people come in and thank us. It really resonates with people. They want this to be not just on the periphery but absolutely centre.
“I think feminism is enjoying a renaissance at the moment and it’s cyclical. 20 years ago feminism was very much aimed at girl power but was actually very yobbish and now we’re reassessing and thinking. We’ve got more of an ability to do what we want but have lost a lot of things about respect and consent.
“I’m really interested in the way that patriarchy works for men and women and girls and boys. It’s very limiting for boys. Young men I know, friends’ children, they’re under so much pressure to be a certain sort of boy and man. We don’t really understand how patriarchy really limits men and we’ll only help women by doing that. The things around consent are very worrying and a lot about the way we look at sex is very bad for boys and must be very troubling for them.”
“We do lots of events and I’ve got an event coming up next week with a novelist called Tim Winton. He’s Booker nominated, written about 20 books, written a real surf classic called Breath. One of the things he’s really passionate about is how the patriarchy has affected young men. He’s Australian and comes at it from an Australian point of view. Because he’s a lifelong surfer, he sits out on his board waiting for the next wave, and in the 30 to 40 years he’s been doing that it’s changed in that there’s a lot more women there now, but the way men talk about women, he’s so ashamed. He says a lot of the rites of passage boys have had into malehood in Australia, because they’re quite wealthy and have a very easy lifestyle, one of the real things that’s left is a real, deep misogyny – boys are really harmed by this as well. That’s one of the things we’re going to talk about in the event.”
Rachel also talked me through the stunning new release Suffragette: The Battle for Equality by David Roberts. Another title to add to the list! I was surprised to find a few books in her display which I hadn’t come across before and which I’ve now added to my Pay Day Wish List.
Rachael is particularly interested in literary fiction: “We had Kate Mosse, chair of the Women’s Prize, in for an event. I had a conversation with her about this year’s prize and was on Cloud Nine for the rest of the day!”
We discussed Mary Beard’s Women & Power, which I spotted on the shelf and had just finished the day before: “Women and Power is such an important book. It made me even more interested in the recent retellings of Greek myths told from a feminist perspective, books like Circe.”
The store’s staff picks are a welcome personal touch and, always one to judge a book by its cover (sorry!), I couldn’t help but swoon at some of the beautiful editions.
Events play a large part in the success of the shop: “International Bookshop Week has been so busy, we’ve done so many events. When we do school events, we very much notice the kids coming back with their parents on Saturday to pick up the book they didn’t know they wanted until they saw the author at the event.
“We’ve been here six years now. When we took over the bookshop it was really successful and a part of the community and we’ve built and built it. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of work and the events have definitely helped that.”
The Edge of the World Bookshop is the official bookstore of the upcoming Penzance Literary Festival, due to take place 4-7 July. I’m hoping to attend a few events myself and will report back.
I hope you’ve popped along to your local indie bookshop this week. I’d love to know what books you’ve picked up.