The Year in Words

Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I love to read. As a PhD candidate, reading, analysing, questioning, debating and contemplating the written word is my full-time employment. Luxuriating in the thoughts of philosophers and educators is a privilege I am afforded every day. Enveloped in academic sentences, paragraphs and essays has yet to negatively impact upon my enjoyment of reading outside of campus, in fact, it propelled it further.

Twitter is my favourite social media platform. My timeline is an explicit curation of people whose opinions provoke contrasting arguments and who challenge society’s stereotypes. Every thumb scroll results in an article where I learn something new or have my thinking changed. To mark the oncoming celebration of a new year, I wanted to reflect on some of the things which I learned this year and listing the articles and books which made a significant impression on me seemed rather appropriate. In no particular order…

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“When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”

‘In Conversation with Chris Rock’ by Frank Rich for Vulture.

“She pinpointed women she thought were interesting and worth being friends with, and she asked them to lunch.”

‘Make Friends the Nora Ephron Way’ by Lynn Enright for The Pool

“I used to feel unsafe right in the moment of an accomplishment – I felt the ground fall right from under my feet because this could be the end. And even now, while everyone is celebrating, I’m on to the next thing. I don’t want to get lost in this big cushion of success.”

‘A Very Revealing Conversation with Rihanna’ by Miranda July for the New York Times

“The only people who mention my age are English journalists, everyone else is just interested in getting the job done.”

‘Lunch with the FT: Mhairi Black’ by Jeremy Paxman for the Financial Times

“Sex workers are now seemingly the last cohort of women it is ok to victim blame if they are assaulted.”

‘The Big Blog Post about Decriminalising Sex Work’ by Paddy Morris for SexSiopa.ie.

“We have to remember, from the start of his career West has always wanted to be the black man who could dominate in what are traditionally seen as the arenas of white men, many of whom have been accused of appropriating the cultures of others to elevate themselves.”

‘It’s not that Azealia Banks and Kanye Dislike Izzy and Beck, They May Just Care Too Much’

by Ali M Latifi for Media Diversified.

“I just realised that I need to work without permission. As long as you’re asking people to help you, you’re not empowered to help yourself. I had a lot of what I needed; I just didn’t realise it.”

‘Ava Duvernay: The Film Director Who Tells Epic Tales Through Intimate Stories’

by Ann Friedman for The Gentlewoman.

“My mother was my saviour, and my brother’s too. In such a life, she was a bastion of protection. First she protected us from our father, and then she took us away from his malign influence. Somehow, she never spoke ill of him, and encouraged us to pursue a relationship with him when he could stay sober. She took us, alone and penniless, and raised us both. She helped us both through university to postgraduate level. She sacrificed endlessly for us, and was swollen with pride. We loved and respected her with a ferocity that we will probably never feel again.”

“Leavetaking: The Nurse Rings and Suddenly I Realise My Mother is Dead’

by Laura Kennedy for The Irish Times.

“In some ways — from the outside, at least — it seems like the worst of both worlds: famous enough to have your life disrupted, not quite famous enough to reap all the perks. For now, the guys prefer the term “known.”

‘On the Road with the Teen Social Media Stars of DigiTour’ by Ellen Cushing for Buzzfeed

“My body is what it is, just a body, a thing that walks and hugs, it’s grand. I chose to care more about being sound or funny and getting by on that.”

‘Why Can’t All Lads be Sound Like Hozier?’ by Alison Spittle for HeadStuff

“Sometimes I wonder if I’ve missed it by a year, bringing it back. But you know, I was being a mum. I couldn’t rush it. And you’ve got to give people a chance to miss you.”

‘Adele Interview: World Exclusive – Adele’s First Interview in Three Years’ by Hattie Collins for i-D

“You don’t change the behaviours of an entire culture overnight. You change it bit by bit, day by day, character by character, song by song, film by film, TV show by TV show.”

‘What can Female Friendships Teach the World?’ by Niamh Mulvey for The Pool

“When people are caught in the backs of trucks at the border, drivers and the companies they work have to pay €2,800 each per migrant, and drivers have an informal agreement to let the others know if anyone’s snuck on board.”

‘Meet the Residents of Calais’ Breathtaking Migrant Shanty Town’ by Siraj Datoo for Buzzfeed

“Our triggers take the form of tiny, often unpredictable reminders that will unexpectedly assault us in our daily lives. The texture of mandarins when chewed. Red cowboy boots. A grasp around our wrist. The word “bitch.” A sudden movement towards us. The smell of petrol. A hand placed over our eyes. A stare held too long.”

‘Triggered by Reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey’ by Roe McDermott for Hot Press

“Race is not something to overcome but it is something that can complicate (in good and bad ways) everyday interactions. It’s a fact of life, just one of the many variables that determine our experiences.”

‘Aziz Ansari’s ‘Masters of None’ Nails Race Perfectly’ by Bim Adewunmi for Buzzfeed

“She, like every other girl in St. Brigid’s, had been infatuated with Jack Doyle since he had moved to town ten months ago. He was tall, he was handsome, and he was the best player on the hurling team. Much of the credit must be given to Jack Doyle for their success, the Examiner wrote after Ballinatoom won the country final for the first time in fifteen years, he has the potential to become the finest hurling player this county has ever produced. He could have had any girl he wanted in St. Brigid’s but for some reason it was Sarah that he had chosen.”

‘Only My Body’ by Louise O’Neill for The Coven

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From articles, to books. This year, I read and wholly recommend ‘Tender’, ‘Asking For It’, ‘The Long Gaze Back’, ‘Americanah’, ‘Giving Out Yards’, ‘Not Lost’, ‘A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life’, ‘The Spinning Heart’ and ‘Irelandopedia’ is on my Christmas list.

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to read more books – in the physical, literal sense. I love my Kindle but little compares to the scent of ink and the texture of fresh pages of a new narrative waiting to unfold. I also want to deliberately choose stories by writers of colour and work which amplifies minority voices. If you have suggestions, please send them my way.

Finally, this stream of consciousness began with my musings on Twitter and it seems apt to finish it in a similar fashion. Many of the articles, books and ideas that are articulated above were recommended by friends and those I follow online. Don’t let the year end without introducing yourself to Louise, Jeanne, Sinéad, Roe, Neasa, Aoife, Sarah, Alison, Alan, Valerie, Annie, Harry, CatherineShawna, DarrenAoife, Jo, Zoe, Anna, Jennie, Louise, AzzyKate, Tara, Darragh, Sarah and Sarah online.

Any articles, books or Twitter-folk you were particularly fond of this year? Comment below, sure. 

Written by

Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.

One thought on “The Year in Words

  1. I really enjoyed this Sinéad. I had read a lot of those articles/ posts/ essays during the year but it’s amazing how easily we can let them wash over us. I’m reading ‘I am Malala’ at the moment, I’m not usually into non-fiction but despite the harrowing subject matter, it’s an easy read. Oh and I just finished Colum Mc Cann’s 13 Ways of Looking, absolutely brilliant.

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