Title: Facing the Yorkshire Ripper – The Art of Survival

Author: Mo Lea

Pages: 176 Pages

Publisher: Pen & Sword

The Blurb

As a survivor of a brutal attack by the Yorkshire Ripper, this book gives fresh insight into the consequences of being labeled a victim of this notorious serial killer.

Mo Lea was followed home and attacked by Peter Sutcliffe, who hit her over the head repeatedly with a hammer. She was stabbed with a screwdriver leaving her with life threatening injuries. The book reveals how Mo has wrestled with the past, struggling to come to terms with the well-trodden, morbid narrative. She has written a new, fresh perspective for the present day.

Her writing offers an alternative account, one which repositions her as a survivor with a success story. While sympathy has its place for the victims, this book gives insight into processes of recovery and success. Mo had no control over unwanted media interventions. Sometimes the Ripper story would appear on the morning news while she was getting ready to go to work. She learnt to contain her anxiety but she could neither predict or escape these uncomfortable moments that reminded her of her past trauma.

Mo Lea’s art practice has been an important factor in her life. She has been fortunate to use this as an outlet to explore her pain, anger, suffering and recovery.

After years of personal growth and recovery, a short film was made of Mo Lea creating a drawing from the iconic photograph of the man who had tried to take her life. She is filmed ripping up the Ripper. She is filmed tearing up the portrait that she had so carefully drawn, rendering him as disposable as a piece of litter. The film shows how Mo turned her story around, making Sutcliffe the victim and herself, the triumphant survivor.

Mo had finally found a way of stepping out of the frame. She no longer felt Iike running away. The illustrations contained within describe better than any words, her journey from tragic despair to calmness and acceptance. By writing this book Mo Lea has found a way to reclaim her story.

The Review

Oh dear. I don’t know what I was expecting with the true crime novel Facing the Yorkshire Ripper but I know I wasn’t expecting to come away from the story feeling unsympathetic to the survivor. Not in a horrible way, I mean, I am glad she survived but I just felt that she didn’t seem to help herself with her survival and this is where I am going to sound awful but it is almost like she used her victimhood too much but then proclaimed that she didn’t want to be a victim. It was almost like she used what had happened to her to justify her behaviour. This is probably due to me and author Mo Lea having very different perspectives when it comes to trauma and I don’t want to take away from her lived experience but the book Facing the Yorkshire Ripper didn’t endear me at all.

Facing the Yorkshire Ripper – The Art of Survival by Mo Lea is available now.

Title: What’s the T?

Author: Juno Dawson

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Wren & Rook

The Blurb

Discover what it means to be a young transgender and/or non-binary person in the twenty-first century in this frank and funny guide for 14+ teens, from the author of This Book is Gay. In What’s the T?, Stonewall ambassador, bestselling trans author and former PSHE teacher Juno Dawson defines a myriad of labels and identities and offers uncensored advice on coming out, sex and relationships with her trademark humour and lightness of touch. Juno has also invited her trans and/or non-binary friends to make contributions, ensuring this inclusive book reflects as many experiences as possible, and features the likes of Travis Alabanza and Jay Hulme. 

The companion title to the This Book Is GayWhat’s the T? tackles the complex realities of growing up trans with honesty and humour, and is joyfully illustrated by gender non-conforming artist Soofiya.

The Review

Something I always worry about is whether or not I say something that could offend someone. If I do, it is a genuine mistake and never intentional. However, with so many marginalised people in society it is such an easy thing to do. And here is why: there just isn’t enough education out there. That is why I am so grateful for the non-fiction books that Juno Dawson has written. The Gender Games, Mind Your Head and This Book is Gay have widened my knowledge about topics that I don’t have the lived experience of. It is the same with her fantastic new release What’s the T?.

We are seeing more and more people – young people – realising that they can be their true selves and that there is help available for them to achieve that – both medical help and help for their mental health when dealing with huge life changes. What’s the T? is essential reading for anyone who works with children or teenagers for many reasons some basic ones being that they know what terms to use, what terminology is unacceptable and how to help and support someone who is questioning their gender.

In her inimitable no-nonesense style, Juno Dawson tells you straight how to be an ally and if you aren’t being an ally then you really are just a weenie (a term I personally feel we need to bring back into fashion.

What’s the T? by Juno Dawson is available now.

For more information regarding Juno Dawson (@junodawson) please visit www.junodawson.com.

For more information regarding Wren & Rook (@wrenandrookbook) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: To Be A Gay Man

Author: Will Young

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

In To Be a Gay Man, Will Young speaks out about gay shame, revealing the impact it had on his own life, how he learned to deal with it, and how he can now truthfully say he is gay and happy.

We know Will as a multi-platinum recording artist, Olivier-nominee, and the first winner of the Idol franchise. But his story began long before his first audition. Looking back on a world where growing up being called gay was the ultimate insult and coming out after a lifetime of hiding his sexuality, Will explores the long-lasting impact repressing his true self has had.

As Will’s own story demonstrates, internalised shame in childhood increases the risk of developing low self-worth, and even self-disgust, leading to destructive behaviours in adult life. 

Will revisits the darkest extremes he has been to, sharing his vulnerabilities, his regrets, tracing his own navigation through it all and showing the way for others who might have felt alone in the same experience.

Here you will find a friend, champion and mentor, breaking taboos with frank honesty, and offering invaluable practical advice on overcoming the difficult issues too often faced within the LGBTQ+ community.

The Review

I always wonder with celebrities who write books how much of what they say is the truth and what is made up and – more importantly – what it kept back. For the first time they are in control of the narrative of their own story rather than being at the hands of headline grabbing journalists with questionable morals. With Will Young’s To Be A Gay Man I really feel that he has bled his life on to the pages of his book.

To Be A Gay Man shows Will Young at his most vulnerable. He talks about his sexuality, how the shame of this affected his mental health and his descent into needing to seek medical care because he lost control. The terrible thing about all of this is that they things that caused his distress are not things to be ashamed of and speaks volumes about how the society we live in still treats ‘the other’ with disdain that when you identify with this mythical ‘other’ you develop internal hatred. It really is heartbreaking.

Will Young should be congratulated on his candour in To Be A Gay Man. This is the kind of book that will help others.

To Be A Gay Man by Will Young is available now.

For more information regarding Will Young (@willyoung) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

Title: An Extra Pair of Hands – A Story of Caring, Ageing and Everyday Acts of Love

Author: Kate Mosse

Pages: 208 Pages

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

The Blurb

As our population ages, more and more of us find ourselves caring for parents and loved ones _ some 8.8 million people in the UK. An invisible army of carers holding families together. 

Here, Kate Mosse tells her personal story of finding herself as a carer in middle age: first, helping her mother look after her beloved father through Parkinson’s, then supporting her mother in widowhood, and finally as ‘an extra pair of hands’ for her 90-year-old mother-in-law.

This is a story about the gentle heroism of our carers, about small everyday acts of tenderness, and finding joy in times of crisis. It’s about juggling priorities, mind-numbing repetition, about guilt and powerlessness, about grief, and the solace of nature when we’re exhausted or at a loss. It is also about celebrating older people, about learning to live differently _ and think differently about ageing. 

But most of all, it’s a story about love.

The Review

I have read a few Kate Mosse books, loved her Languadoc Trilogy so when I saw that she had released a non fiction book, I won’t lie to you, I was intrigued. Especially when I saw its association with the Wellcome Collection. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

In An Extra Pair of Hands Kate Mosse explored what it is like to become a carer for those who has once cared for you. Having gone through this myself recently I say it is the moment you become an actual adult. You may have a mortgage, a car, be married and even have kids of your own but when your parents become your responsibility the whole axis of your world goes of kilter. And it is terrifying.

Mosse explore this so well in her book looking at the practicalities of looking after a parent, taking control of things you never had to do before but mainly she looks at the emotional side of things both of you as the carer and the parent whose loss of independence and having to rely on others can be hard to accept.

The one thing that Mosse does stress is that through all the hard times and though you may feel really negative about becoming a carer at certain points (we are all human) that it is an absolute privilege to be able to give back to those who have given to us.

An Extra Pair of Hands is a heartbreaking yet uplifting read.

An Extra Pair of Hands – A Story of Caring, Ageing and Everyday Acts of Love by Kate Mosse is available now.

For more information regarding Kate Mosse (@katemosse) please visit www.katemosse.co.uk.

For more information regarding Serpent’s Tail (@serpentstail) please visit www.serpentstail.com.

Title: This Can Never Not Be Real

Author: Sera Milano

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Egmont Books/Electric Monkey

The Blurb

A compelling, heartbreaking and hopeful book for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Jennifer Niven and Holly Jackson.

In the unremarkable town of Amberside, the unthinkable has happened: Terrorists have attacked a local festival. No one knows why, and no one knows who the attackers are, but that doesn’t matter. What matters first is survival. And what matters after that is survival, too.

In this brilliantly written account of hope, humour and humanity, five ordinary teenagers are caught up in a truly extraordinary situation. It’s a heart-pounding and gripping account of the fight for survival as the attackers prowl the festival grounds, told from multiple perspectives.

This is a book for anyone facing the barrage of bleak reports that fill our newsfeeds and for anyone who needs to see that behind the hate that makes the headlines, there is always love.

The Review

I won’t lie to you, I am a traditionalist when it comes to literature. I like it to be narrative, speech marks, proper punctuation – the whole shebang and normally when a book veers away from this I get frustrated. However, with This Can Never Not Be Real I was able to get past the non-traditional format because the story is so damn good.

It is a story of a terrorist attack that happens during a local festival in a small town and it is told from the perspective of several people. It is told in what can almost be described as soundbites of information interspersed with police reporting. The style is similar in style to how you feel an interrogation would go but also shows how one event can be experienced by several different people in many different ways.

What it also does is highlight underlying prejudices and challenges them. It shows how communities – big or small – can be brought together through tragedy and how powerful the shared experience is.

I thoroughly recommend This Can Never Not Be Real and will be foisting it into the hands of the students I work with whether they want to read it or not.

This Can Never Not Be Real by Sera Milano is available now.

For more information regarding Sera Milano (@seramilano) please visit www.seramilano.com.

For more information regarding Electric Monkey (@EMTeenFiction) please visit their Twitter page.