At the start of this year I made a vow that 2020 would be the year I only read female authors. I took that one step further and only listened to female songwriters also.
In two industries that are well-known to be a man’s world, I needed to consume in a way that addressed the issues within these industries, so I didn’t feel I was adding to the problem.
It wasn’t hard – the talent is out there. I’ll go through some of the gems that my 2020 has been blessed with.
Violet Bent Backwards over the Grass by Lana Del Rey
For a songwriter who regularly references the great poets of our time, I knew it wouldn’t be long till we had Lana Del Rey’s own poetry collection underneath our pillows, pressed against our faces as the blue-sky blinds us and the summer breeze makes us want to ride. These poems are open wounds. They seep and pulsate with damage, regret, lust, and hope. Del Rey’s collection is for the woman who has been polished and now lies tarnished, with that tiny illusion of hope keeping her going in a world that has always been against her.
Lana Del Rey has been criticized in the past about her lyrics and how some people consider them to be glorifying domestic violence. I can tell you as a woman who has been beaten and bruised by a man, Del Rey’s words only empower me, give me the strength to admit I am fallible but ferocious, and allow me the space to heal.
Folklore by Taylor Swift
There are so many amazing female artists that have graced 2020 and have been the soundtrack to my writing including Brandi Carlile, Lana Del Rey, Holly Williams, Cat Power, Caitlin Canty; but I’d be out of line for not mentioning Folklore. In July, Taylor Swift dropped a surprise album comprising of “stories” from other viewpoints. The album was an experimental piece of story-telling for the artist and she succeeded. The album broke all records, broke a few hearts, and is responsible for the amount of white wine consumed over the summer.
Why is Taylor such an important woman to support? She’s fighting the man – and you can too. Swift is in the process of rerecording her entire back catalogue which belongs to a dumb investment company purely for profit making. She has no power over songs she’s written herself. Re-recording them gives her all the power back whilst diverting profits from the corporation who think they can own words written by someone else.
To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Typing this title gives me goosebumps, as did the novella, which I read in one sitting. Released at the back end of 2019, this novella is what we needed in 2020. It reaches out to the stars and shows us what truly matters to humanity, much like this pandemic has. The cast of this novella make us feel at home. It’s like Chambers took every single one of my teenaged anxieties and personified them into this diverse cast that represents the true us. Nothing is as profoundly quiet and loud at the same time than this novella. Read it.
Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May
A world you feel immediately at home with if you’re one of the under-represented groups this book includes, Seven Devils is military sci-fi with a cast of amazing women bringing an evil empire to their knees. It’s Star Trek on crack and estrogen, but it’s also a big hug to those of us who dream of the stars as a way of coping with a world that struggles to accept us. On a literary level, the world-building in this romp is infallible, thought-out, and reflective of where society will head when we progress to the stars.
Best of Apex Magazine, featuring Ursula Vernon, Lettie Prell, Sarah Pinsker, and Chikodili Emelumadu
Armed with Best of Apex Magazine edited by the fabulous Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner, I cherry-picked stories from the collection that were written by women. Over half of the stories that are considered the best of sci-fi magazine, Apex, were written by female-identifying authors. I found I read most of the collection just by reading the female authors. Other sci-fi mags – take heed. My favorite, and a story that comes back to haunt me, was “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon. Although merely a glimpse into a whimsical world, it made me want more. I want a video game of “Jackalope Wives” where you must save them from losing their coats to the flames. It’ll all be very Zelda.
“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” tore at my heart. It was writing that put me straight back in positions of requited love – the kind of love that could never be because your best friend just isn’t into girls like you – sound familiar? That’s what the story meant to me.
If you, too, want to make a difference using the most valuable tool you have – your worth as a consumer – then I implore you to spend 2021 only consuming work from creators who are under-represented. Pick up that sci-fi thriller from a BAME author, check out that spooky horror novella that finally sheds a spotlight on queer characters, listen to those re-recorded records and not the master tracks that “The Man” owns (you know who you are), and most of all, shout about it. And remember – as consumers, we have far more power than the industry.
Please note – an alternative title for this article was indeed, “ConsumHER Culture” but it received many groans from pun haters.