Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered

Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are the hosts of the much loved podcast My Favourite Murder, and in this book Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, they present a dual memoir which offers life advice with a true crime twist.

I enjoyed this one with a nice glass of wine!

The book starts with ‘Let’s Sit Crooked & Talk Straight’, and introduces the journey of the authors in producing their podcast and book. It is then split into 8 main sections, and a conclusion:

1- Fuck Politeness: In this section of the book, one of the greatest life lessons that Georgia and Karen have to offer is ‘fuck politeness’, and it looks at how we need to unlearn the need to meet other people’s expectations. I really enjoyed how the lesson was taught through the story of true crime where we can protect our own safety in these situations by not being polite. Ultimately, we unlearn so that we can learn how to act in our own best interests without being a jerk.

“So how’s about we kick things off with some thoughts on one of our favorite Murderino battle cries: ‘Fuck politeness’ Fuck the way we were socialized. Fuck the expectation that we always put other people’s needs first. And while we’re at it, fuck the patriarchy! Yeah I said it.”

2- Sweet Baby Angel: the authors tell us how we’re all born sweet baby angels until life happens and it can harden you up until your ‘halos crack or rust’. Here, we are told that self-care is super important- and they’re not wrong.

3- You’re In A Cult, Call Your Dad: It’s true, life does have many cults, whether it’s the cult of being polite, Western beauty standards, or popularity. Karen and Georgia offer advice on ‘how to not drink the Kool-Aid, Even When You’re Spiritually Parched’.

“You should always have people in your life that will call you on your bullshit- like, for example, when you’ve joined a cult. But they’ll also then help you get out of said cult, even if they think you were dumb for joining the cult to begin with. And likewise, you should be there for your friends and family when they make dumb mistakes”

4- Send ‘Em Back: This section is introduced with the realisation that almost every serial killer has had a major head trauma as a kid. The term send ’em back is the suggestion that you should send your kid back if this happens (they’re not telling you to literally get rid of your children don’t worry). They suggest that there are a number of red flags to look for, just in case, and a number of things that mess us up as children too, besides head injuries.

5- Don’t Be A Fucking Lunatic: This section starts off by exploring party culture through Karen’s experiences, and by sharing these experiences the authors hope this can help us learn from their mistakes and ‘be a little less of a lunatic’ with some drinking dos and don’ts. Georgia then offers top ten realisations that she had in therapy.

6- Get A Job: Having a job is so important for self-sufficiency in our capitalist society. There are jobs we don’t like and jobs we do like. Here, Karen and Georgia offer advice on both.

7- Buy Your Own Shit: No one can take better of you than you- this chapter is all about providing for yourself. It’s important to spend responsibly though, and although Karen and Georgia talk about the personal reasons for doing so, I think in a time where our climate is so badly affected by mass consumption, we need to be sustainable in the way that we consume.

8- Stay Out Of The Forest: ‘Life is filled with conceptual forests that we’d do best to stay away from’. Karen and Georgia talk about some of the dangers they have faced and how they coped with it, as well as risk taking behaviour that can take us into the dangers of the forest.

All in all, I thought this was a really cool book, you can tell the authors are passionate about true crime and it’s pretty cool that they moved away from the typical self-help book structure to make it an enjoyable read for true crime lovers just as themselves.

The princess saves herself in this one

The princess saves herself in this one is a brilliant collection of poems by Amanda Lovelace.

The cover kinda looks like Cards Against Humanity right?

The collection of poems is split into four sections:

  • The princess
  • The damsel
  • The queen
  • You

These sections of the collection put together the different parts of Lovelace’s life, and explore all sorts of themes such as love, abuse, grief, health, healing, and empowerment.

The simplicity of the writing makes the poetry accessible to everyone, and lacks the sometimes bourgeoisie elements that the poetry we are exposed to in school has.

A major critique is that I found some parts too much of a reminder of tumblr-like posts, something which I personally am not a fan of, but perhaps this will appeal to younger readers.

All in all it can be a very relatable read, and the journey is mostly empowering, talking about Lovelace’s own experiences with dealing with the many things that life can throw your way.

I love the way she uses fairy tale imagery juxtaposing our expectations, shaped by society, and the reality of things.

‘I didn’t realise I could be my own knight’.

Greta Thunberg- No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference

Greta Thunberg sparked the school strikes for the climate when she decided to do a strike on her own outside the Swedish Parliament. She has inspired millions of young people, and whilst receiving much admiration, she has also faced much criticism.

The speeches included in this book are:

Our Lives are in Your Hands– a speech addressing the climate march in 2018. Most striking was Greta’s comment on the disregard for her generation’s future:

So please, treat the climate crisis like the acute crisis it is and give us a future. Our lives are in your hands.”

Almost Everything is Black and White- a speech delivered to Extinction Rebellion in 2018- Greta called for civil disobedience with the well known phrase:

It is time to rebel”.

Unpopular- a speech delivered at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2018- Greta critiques the inaction of UN leaders towards climate change and declares that:

We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. You’ve run out of excuses and we’re running out of time. We’ve come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”

Prove Me Wrong- Greta addresses the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2019- she asks that ‘you prove me wrong’ for the sake of the future, and for the WEF to stand on the right side of history by pledging to do everything in their power to push their own businesses and governments in line with a 1.5 degrees celsius world.

Our House is On Fire- in yet another address to the WEF at Davos in 2019, Greta announces that Our House is On Fire, and thus highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis to the WEF.

“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

I’m Too Young to Do This- Greta responds to criticisms over social media in 2019, and talks of her entry into activism so as to emphasise the integrity of her activism to those who have criticised her and her family.

You’re Acting Like Spoiled, Irresponsible Children- Greta address the European Economic and Social Committee, once again critiquing the inaction towards climate change and pointing out the urgency for action now.

“I am sorry, but saying everything will be all right while continuing doing nothing at all is just not hopeful to us. In fact, it’s the opposite of hope. And yet this is exactly what you keep doing. You can’t just sit around waiting for hope to come- you’re acting like spoiled, irresponsible children. You don’t seem to understand that hope is something you have to earn. And if you still say that we are wasting valuable lesson time, then let me remind you that our political leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction. And since our time is running out we have decided to take action. We have started to clean up your mess and we will not stop until we are done.”

A Strange World– Greta dedicates her Goldene Kamera Film and TV Award to ‘the people fighting to protect the Hambach Forest. And to activists everywhere who are fighting to keep the fossil fuels in the ground’. She speaks of the strange world that her generation are having to inherent, and how the actions of adults do not make sense in the context of climate crisis. She states that this is the only world we have and finishes by pointing out the crossroads we are at in history, and in the shaping of how the crisis will pan out:

“We are failing but we have not yet failed. We can still fix this. It’s up to us.”

Cathedral Thinking– Greta addresses the European Parliament in 2019, and repeats that we need to act as if our house is on fire, pleading for members to listen to the scientists.

Together We are Making a Difference- Greta addresses an Extinction Rebellion Rally in 2019, with great gratitude and a message that:

“We are the ones making a difference. We, the people in Extinction Rebellion, and those striking school for the climate, we are making a difference. It shouldn’t be like that, but since no one else is doing anything, we will have to do so. And we will never stop fighting, we will never stop fighting for this planet, and for ourselves, our futures, and for the futures of our children and our grandchildren. Thank you.”

Can You Hear Me? – Greta addresses the Houses of Parliament (UK), in 2019, and massively critiques the UK government’s handling of the crisis, offering examples of where things are going wrong, and calling them out on the business as usual approach that they have had. She represents the concerns of her generation when she says:

“We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back. I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me”.

Personally, I think Greta is not only a brilliant advocate for the future of our planet, she is an outstanding role model for young people. For too long youth voices have gone unheard, often with adults telling young people what they think- such as in the riots of 2011. Greta Thunberg addresses this.

Although, it must be mentioned, that there are many brilliant young activists who fight for our planet who are not given the same attention or praise, and we must ask ourselves- why is this? People like Jamie Margolin, Mari Copeny, Xiye Bastida, Isra Hirsi, Kevin Patel, Elsa Mengistu, and Nadia Nazar,

Know Your Place: Essays on the working class, by the working class.

This book is a brilliant insight into the lived experiences of people who are working class in the 21st century. It is a fascinating reframing of the more traditional assumptions of what it means to identify as working class, as well as who gets to identify as such. If you want to learn about class structures in Britain and then this book is a must!

As you can see I’m an unapologetic library user.

As the editor Nathan Connolly informs us in the introduction, this book came as a response to a tweet calling for writing which reveals working class voices on the state of the UK at a time when tensions were high due to the EU referendum.

It is true, within popular discourse, there is most certainly a lack of representation of working class voices, that is not to say that people who are working class are absent from the media, but they are presented in ways that are not true to reality. Even more shocking is the lack of working class voices in academia, perhaps as a result of a perceived ‘elevation’ of those academics who have came from a working class background to a middle class lifestyle that is associated with those who have been through the higher education system.

Indeed, Connolly ends the book with a chapter aptly named ‘You’re Not Working Class’, which reflects on Connolly’s own class identity. In doing so, Connolly neatly summarises the intentions of the book, as well as providing a critique of the ways in which people who are working class have been viewed:

“Delegitimising the working class is a step towards removing working class voices. If we want working class writers, actors, politicians, and judges – and if we want those institutions to understand working class life- then we need to expect the working class to be educated and intelligent, perhaps even cultured, perhaps even partial to a high-street coffee chain latte. Otherwise, we’re just telling them to know their place” (Connolly, 2017).

The essays in this book include:

The First Galleries I Knew Were Black Homes, by Abondance Matanda- Matanda explores the intersections between her identity as a black working class women and her own experience of seeing the representation of this identity in British culture.

The Pleasure Button, by Laura Waddell- Waddell explores the relationship of class with food and its emotional ascriptions.

More Than Just a Dream Land, by Yvonne Singh- Singh reminisces over the importance of the seaside in Singh’s own life, and in doing so highlights the significance of this space for working class individuals. The gentrification of the seaside is critiqued as a destructive force, ridding the hope and freedom that the seaside has symbolised for so many.

The Death of a Pub, by Dominic Grace- Grace displays a great deal of nostalgia for the cliché ‘Great British Pub’, and how the loss of these spaces affects working class communities.

Britain’s Invisible Black Middle Class, by Sylvia Arthur- Arthur comments on the experiences of Black workers in Britain by tracing their own employment history, with the hope that future generations will claim their place in the world rather than this place being assigned to them.

An Open Invitation, by Kit de Waal- de Waal critiques the lack of working class voices in creative writing, commenting that often many of these writers peer in on working class experiences from a privileged position. Most striking is de Waal’s conclusion that “there are stories already written which deserve to be read and new stories that will remain lost or untold until something changes”.

Navigating Space, by Durre Shahwar Mughal- Mughal talks about her experiences as a working class, Welsh Muslim woman, and how this shaped her experiences of becoming an academic writer, viewing her own presence in different spaces as a ‘necessary disruption’.

The Benefit Cuts, by Sam Mills- Mills critiques the violence of austerity brought about by Conservative governance, and discusses working class experiences of austerity which Mills fears will make the gap between the rich and the poor become a gulf.

One of Us, by Andrew McMillan- McMillan writes about the intersectionality between his working class identity and identity as a young gay man, critiquing common narratives surrounding these identities, and the need for plurality.

Glass Windows and Glass Ceilings, by Wally Jiagoo– Jiagoo discusses their experience as someone who is working class as well as a Housing Benefit Officer, and the impact of this ‘double life’.

Heroes, by Catherine O’Flynn- O’Flynn reminisces over growing up and fitting in with a subculture.

Disguised Malicious Murder, by Rebecca Winson– Winson refers to Engel’s, (1844), essay on The Condition of the English Working Class in England, highlighting that ‘when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and unnatural death…its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder’. It is through this lens that Winson critiques Austerity and its violence towards the working class, having a detrimental impact on mental health, and mental health services. Such violence is justified by narratives of self-affliction and a culture of blame that is placed onto the working class.

Where There’s Shit, There’s Gold, by Ben Gwalchmai- Gwalchmai details the experiences of the rural working-class and critiques the lack of representation in British media.

The Housework Issue, by Cath Bore- Bore talks about her experiences as a cleaner, and how working class women have been lied to, whereby the “fabrication that if we work hard, do the right thing- whatever that means- then we’ll be ok and get the good stuff”.

Living on an Estate Gave me a Community I Never Knew I Needed, by Gena-mour Barrett- Barrett compares the experiences of growing up on an estate and then moving elsewhere. “The truth is, I felt safer living on our rundown estate among people I trusted than in a house, isolated and alone, among people I didn’t”.

Hop Picking: Forging a Path on the Edgelands of Fiction, by Lee Rourke– Rourke explores the ways in which working class voices have been made passive.

Reclaiming the Vulgar, by Kath McKay- McKay talks about reclaiming the vulgarity that has been associated with the working class.

The Wrong Frequency, by Kate Fox– Fox explores issues surrounding stereotypes based on accents associated with class identity.

The Immigrant of Narborough Road, by Alexandros Plasatis- Plasatis talks about being “the fucked up immigrant with a PhD who worked in factories, exploring the new working class England”.

Education, Education, Education, by Peter Sutton- Sutton discusses the education system, and the idea that the working class can “grab an escape route via education”.

Growing Up Outside Class, by Sian Norris- Norris discusses the experience of growing up without really being able to belong to a class, emphasising the sense of belonging that is brought about from being part of a class, and yet the isolation from this as a result of other parts of one’s identity.

What Colour is a Chameleon?, by Rym Kechacha- Kechacha explores issues of social mobility, class, and colonisation, and how you can adapt your ‘tongue’ to be a ‘chameleon’.

And of course, the final chapter- You’re Not Working Class by Nathan Connolly.

Overall, this is an excellent book, and as the writers are speaking from their own experiences to comment on the class system in the UK, they do not claim authority over all working class experiences, and instead hope to inspire others to speak up about their experiences as well!