June Book Reads

Before the onslaught of marking papers starts again I’ve been trying to read as much as possible. For the month of June, I read:

  1. Women & Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard
  2. Six Stories, Matt Wesolowski
  3. The Adversary, Emmanuel Carrère
  4. Kitchen Confidential: Insider’s Edition, Anthony Bourdain
  5. The Ouija Board Jurors: Mystery, Mischief and Misery in the Jury System, Jeremy Gans
  6. The Trauma Cleaner, Sarah Krasnostein

Women & Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard

There is no better way to describe Mary Beard’s manifesto as the book I needed to read on the day I picked it up. For context, in Australian politics we have recently watched the disgusting behaviour of Senator David Leyonhjelm who made explicit sexual comments to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (click here for further information). I am angry that women still need to contend with this discrimination. Beard’s two lectures beautifully and succinctly captures the dialogue/environment in which women attempt to strive, where the script is written by men. There is a moment of relief felt when reading a text which so accurately describes your own feelings. I highly recommend Beard’s book and hope one day that I get to meet her, hell aim for the stars – work with her!

Six Stories, Matt Wesolowski

Six Stories was recommended to me as a crime fiction book that included a podcast format. Wesoloski’s book can be broken down to two narratives which come together at the end. The book alternates between the story of those who discovered a body in 1996 and their life’s now and the story told through podcast format of those who were there when one of their friends disappeared. I must admit stylistically it did take me a couple of chapters to get into it, but I really enjoyed it.

The Adversary, Emmanuel Carrère

This book was picked up by chance in an independent bookstore in Shoreditch and I was so happy that I did. This true crime book examines the crimes and life of Jean Claude Romand who murdered his wife, two children, and his parents. It is discovered through Carrère’s story telling that Romand leads a double life – one as a respectable doctor for 18 years, who has a wife, children, works for the WHO, and participates in his community AND the other who is not actually a doctor, does not have employment, has a mistress – which when it all starts to fall apart results in the murders of five people. I really enjoyed Carrère’s writing style which really draws you in wanting to know more about the life of Romand.

Kitchen Confidential: Insider’s Edition, Anthony Bourdain

I had wanted to read Bourdian’s memoir for quite a while and with his recent suicide, there didn’t seem like anytime better than the present. I really enjoyed Bourdian’s writing, the truth in his writing style and the descriptive manner in which he draws the reader into his world is very immersive. Bourdian is very aware of his short fallings and this is respectable, given the poor behaviour he engaged in. But what drew me in more than anything was his discovery of his passion and drive to experience food and travel. The way in which Bourdain describes his first oyster in France as a child and how this sparked his desire, is raw and truthful. One can only hope all of us in life experience these moments of clarity in life. The best way to recommend this book is that when I finished it I then went onto purchase two more of his books.

The Ouija Board Jurors: Mystery, Mischief and Misery in the Jury System, Jeremy Gans

In 1994, a few jurors in the trial of R v Young decided one evening to use a Ouija board to try contact the deceased in this trial. The disclosure by a non-participating juror lead to a re-trial for Young. While Gans is an academic his writing is very accessible, educational, entertaining, and thought provoking. Gans analyses the case in depth and incorporates many other cases where juror misconduct has also occurred. What I really enjoyed about Gans’s book was his ability to consider the situation from a number of hypothetical perspectives to further analyse the conduct of juries and jury members, for example if they prayed or if the conduct had occurred in the jury room and not a hotel.

Gans highlights a number of the issues which currently still exist in the jury system, while at the same time supporting the practice. Personally, I am not in support of juries, principally for the reason that juries do not need to provide written reasoning. Such a practice would be too onerous on jurors but makes appeals much more difficult. But I know that my opinion is influenced heavily from my experience of volunteering on the Griffith University Innocence Project.

The Trauma Cleaner, Sarah Krasnostein

I read this book earlier this year but couldn’t miss an opportunity to support it. I was quite fortunate to be at the book launch of Krasnostein (and Sandra’s) book in Brisbane. The life of Sandra past, present and hints to the future are discussed. From a woman who grew up with an abusive family, who found a new family within the drag community as she transitioned and became a trauma cleaner. Sandra has been so open in telling her story to Krasnostein and it is of great credit to them both – for Sandra to share her story but also for Krasnostein to write it in such an emotive way without overriding Sandra’s voice. Sandra has had so many turns in her life – she has really lived – good and bad – and it has been woven very nicely into a narrative which is accessible to everyone.

I found reading about Sandra’s childhood to be particularly touching in her goal to make connections with people, and how she now uses this skill with her clients is a testament to the person she is. I did particularly like the reflection of the relationship with her son’s and how this may change Sandra’s ending. I just want another chapter! To cover a relationship which was still being built at that stage.

From a criminal justice perspective, this book was a really good representation of the relationship between the LGBTI community and the police service in the 60s onwards, and really a comment on how there is still distance to make to improve this relationship. The reporting and testimony at trial of her rape as a transgender woman, at the time it occurred really was a demonstration of Sandra’s great strength.

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