Julian Aguon – No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies

Julian Aguon – No COuntry for Eight-Spot Butterflies

Julian Aguon is a human rights lawyer and defender from Guam. “No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies” is a collection of poems, essays and speeches which center around crucial topics such as colonisation, climate change and the rights of indigenous populations. In total, it forms into a manifesto for the respect of life on earth, no matter if human, animal or plant. He gives insight in his own process of growing up, of gaining insight and learning that even though we as humans should care for the same ideas and aims, the world often works with other mechanisms.

The author has formed a strong voice which immediately captures the reader. In the afterword, he states what he thinks is crucial at the moment, it is not being loud, but to listen. He does not use an accusatory tone, but a quite voice which makes you concentrate more on what is said, paying more attention and reading more closely.

Some of the essays provided new information to me, in others, it was mainly the perspective that was new and which I have ignored so far. It is beautifully written despite the seriousness of the topic and the increasing urgency for action.

An outstanding collection that definitely does leave an impact on the reader.

Deesha Philyaw – The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

Deesha Philyaw – The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

Deesha Philyaw’s collection of nine short stories about Black women gives insight in a life behind closed doors, rules unknown to many of us, a secret double life nobody sees or wants to see. The book was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction and was awarded, among others, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Los Angeles Book prize. All stories centre around Black women and Christianity highlighting contradictions and hypocrisy and also a group of women who accept their place given to them by powerful men. They all endure the double discrimination of being Black and being a woman – until they don’t anymore.

What most women share is the fact that they lead a kind of double life they are forced into. For the outside word, they dress decently, lead a God abiding life, do not speak up and care for their children. Yet, at home, behind the closed door, among themselves, they speak freely, they know that even the clergymen have bodily needs they fulfil. They are not perfect, often far from, but they try to make the best of it and teach their daughters what they need to know about life and its double-standards.

The variety of women we get to know is large, from homosexual spinsters still searching for husbands, over half-sisters mourning their always unfaithful father, to a young girl who finally comes to understand that how easily you can be trapped in a situation where wen exert power over you and your body.

The author captures the decisive moment when desires and religious rules collide. They need to cope with contradictions, build their lives around it, always threatened by the verdict of the public and the parish. They are never free, not even those who try to flee from the south, who work and study hard for a better life – ultimately, it all comes back to them.

The tone is funny at times, desperate and harsh at others, always reflecting the characters’ moods on the one hand, which, on the other, will often not leave their house or even their body. The collection shows a life hidden, a life in the shadow of big and strong men, a life worth narrating.