Dying Matters week

dying matters logoEvery year in May, Dying Matters host an Awareness Week, which places the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement firmly on the national agenda. In 2018, the week will run from 14th to the 20th of May and will be asking “What Can You Do… in your community?” To find out more about the week and to find events near you have a look at the Dying Matters website.

Books can be a huge help in many ways when talking about death and bereavement. They can provide practical help such as family law to help with wills and probate, to poetry books to help you choose the right poem for a funeral. We have all these and more in our libraries to help you.

Talking about death can be tricky, especially to children, and books are a good way to help with this. Below is a review from one of our librarians on a book that helped her through a very difficult time in her life.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, reviewed by Sam.

a monster callsI have never been so scared to read a book in all my life than I have this one.
Last year I watched the film adaption of this book and I cried like a baby, then something unexpected happened, my mum was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly I was in the same shoes as Conor the young boy who this story is based around. Unlike Conor I only had a week before my mum sadly passed away. In the book Conor’s mother seems to have been suffering with cancer for a while going through various trials and treatments. I suppose in a way I was lucky that I didn’t have to suffer the horrible feeling Conor does of waiting for his mother to pass and guilt that Conor does which in turn causes him to summon the monster.

I felt that the use of the monster and his stories was a fantastic way to portray how a child rebels against life and it’s unfairness. The monster visits Conor three times and tells him three stories. These are very misleading as both the reader and Conor believe that the good person will always win and that justice will be done. However the monster shows him that unfortunately that isn’t always how the world works. During the monster’s visits Conor seems to have “black outs” where damage is done and it’s like a small child who has done something bad and blames their imaginary friend, “The monster did it”. I thought that this was a good way of showing how even though he is a teenager he is still a child.

During the book the adults in Conor’s life all have different ways in which they try to deal with the situation. His teachers give him special treatment – which leads to him being bullied by a gang of boys in his class. His grandmother is very hard but underneath she is caring and believes that Conor should be told the truth about what is happening. His parents both seem to want to hide some of the harsh facts with regards to his mother’s treatment. While reading this I agreed with the views of his grandmother as a lot of Conor’s frustration with the situation is that both his parents keep telling him everything is going to be fine and don’t worry about it but he knows that that’s not true. This causes him to bury what he knows to be true and pretend that everything is fine. I felt this way myself even though I was 25 at the time of my mum being in hospital with cancer, because I was my mum’s youngest I have always been somewhat put in a bubble whenever difficult things happen. You notice certain looks between people, things get said that you weren’t aware of and even though I am an adult people would rely on my older sister but not myself which was extremely frustrating. I felt that feeling throughout reading this book – the total and utter feeling of helplessness, that nothing you can do will help.

Another of the feelings that I felt throughout this book was isolation and loneliness. Despite his teachers offering to be there for support, his dad who comes back from America and him having to live with his grandmother, Conor spends most of his time alone or with the monster. Even in school surrounded by his classmates, he still feels alone. His main friend Lily has been cut off from him because despite them being close from their mothers’ friendship because she was told what was happening to his mum and told everyone at school. This caused what the kind of situation it always causes, that awkwardness, when people don’t know what to say so they don’t talk to you at all. The only “normal” contact Conor has and I say that in the loosest form possible is when Harry the teacher’s pet and his cronies bully him. Conor puts up with this because they are speaking to him and not treating him like he isn’t there. Eventually Conor uses the monster’s help when Harry decides that the worst thing for Conor would be treat him as if he were invisible.

I felt this book was a great way for people who may know someone who is going through this situation to try and understand what they are going through and how they may be feeling. It also helps identify the stigmas that cancer brings that no one wants to talk about and shows that not talking about it can actually make it worse in the long run. For me the best way if you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation or know someone who has is to talk to them and ask them how they are feeling. Do something fun or have a cup of tea, treat them how you normally would and listen if they want to talk. That is what got me through and even a year later I’m still getting over the loss of my mum. It’s not something you ever lose but you also need to think about yourself. I think the book reflects this as Conor realises that those you love never really leave you, they are always with you in your memories. 

Zine Library Highlights

This blog is written by Claire and Sapphia, the founders of our Zine library here at Central Library in Leeds.

Our small but mighty Zine Library can be found on the first floor corridor of Leeds Central Library. We have recently acquired some new zines and wanted to share some of our favourites.

All art should have a purpose

All art should have a purpose

All art should have a purpose

A beautiful zine full of photo collage, retro images and inspirational quotes. The images transport you back in time to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with romantic images, nostalgic depictions and clever composition of all the various layers. Printed and pasted onto gorgeous paper with beautiful flowers, it’s one to get your hands on for a perusal.

Cats in Action by Emily Gilbert

It’s in the title. This is one is for cat lovers. A collation of cats including Lulu, Walter and Sebastian painted in a glorious array of locations, showing themselves off. Including pouncing, prowling and generally showing off and getting in the way. Just like your general cat.

Error 404

Error 404

Error 404 by Scott W Mason

Illustration portraiture, photography and illustration exploring identity and mark making. With interactive elements to play with and super graphic design this is a great zine to explore.

Bees for beginners – Sophie Ellis

A Bee-ginners guide to the wonderful world of the most amazing insects. Bees of course. A great zine to discover all the different bee species, why they might sting and how they protect themselves with cute little illustrations. Also ‘thirst aid’ for bees and an itinerary of all the flowers that you should plant to keep those bumbles happy and healthy.

Perks of a new body

Perks of a New body

Perks of a New Body; A Zine about turning 30 by Frannerd

I have just turned 30, this was clearly a zine I had to read. A super cute zine full of illustrations and quirky anecdotes. ‘When you’re 30, you stop caring about stupid stuff….and start caring about the important stuff. It’s lovely to think about the changes you have in your mind set becoming a full-fledged adult. (I won’t lie to you. I’m not sure I’ve even made it yet.) But I definitely feel myself sitting on the ‘adult’ fence for most scenarios including comparing yourself to others and spending time with the people that are important to you.
You can also find a Body Positive bullet journal our librarians have created as part of the Engaging Libraries; Body Image and Mind project. Find it in the zine library and add your thoughts, drawings and share.

Existing autistic

Existing Autistic

Existing Autistic by Aven Wildsmith

A zine about living in the world as an autistic person, beautifully illustrated with bits of information and affirmations that will make you feel empowered and inspired. Great to read if you want to know more about autism or if you are autistic and want to feel fierce.

Women in stem

Women in Stem

A mini celebration of Women in Stem by Vicky Likes Drawing

This zine looks at women working in STEM( Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) It acts as a perfect pocket guide to women who have conquered male dominated industries and serves to empower the next generation of women inventors, thinkers and scientists. It includes information on Ada Lovelace who was regarded as the first computer programmer, creating the first algorithm carried out by a machine and Mae Jemison who became the first Black American women to travel to space in 1992. I keep a copy on my desk as inspiration.

105 Women Press

105 Women is a collective based in Leeds run by artists from all countries and across generations. This is their first publication and includes work from Cherry Styles. The zine includes poems about slavery, anger, home, loss and war but also depicts the strength the women gain from one another in telling their stories, creating, laughing together, and listening.

Gone; A Zine about Grief by Flo Toch

This zine is a heartfelt exploration into grief by the author. The author uses the zine as a way to talk about her grief after the loss of her dad. It also includes empathic poems and writings from others effected. The sharing and pure honesty of the writing looks to help others who are going through the same process. We find this zine is particularly useful at our Death Cafes in helping people to open up about death and their fears. It also has a list of resources on the back page.

Our collection of zines is growing but we are always looking for submissions. Get in touch zine.library@leeds.gov.uk or send them into Zine Library, Leeds Central Library, LS1 3AB. All zines need to adhere to our stock and collections policy.

Helen Dunmore posthumously wins Costa Book of the Year

Ali Inside the waveWe are so pleased that Inside the Wave by the late Helen Dunmore has been named winner of the 2017 Costa Book of the Year. The collection, Dunmore’s tenth, explores the borderline between the living and the dead – the underworld and the human living world – and the exquisitely intense being of both, and includes her final poem, ‘Hold out your arms’, written shortly before her death in June 2017, aged 64.

The announcement was made on Tuesday evening at an awards ceremony held at Quaglino’s in central London where Dunmore’s son, Patrick Charnley, accepted a cheque for £30,000, from Dominic Paul, Managing Director of Costa.

Ali Days withoutInside the Wave, published by Bloodaxe Books, is the eighth collection of poetry to take the overall prize. Poetry has a strong record in the Costa Book Awards, often winning the overall prize several times in a row. Most recently, Christopher Reid won in 2009 with A Scattering, followed by Jo Shapcott with Of Mutability a year later in 2010. The 2016 Costa Book of the Year was Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, the first novelist ever to win the Book of the Year twice.

Ali in the days of rainInside the Wave beat the bookmakers’ favourite, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by bestselling debut novelist Gail Honeyman, In the Days of Rain by author and academic Rebecca Stott, Reservoir 13 by novelist Jon McGregor and The Explorer by children’s author Katherine Rundell for to win the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000 at the awards ceremony.

 

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won twelve times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.

To see our previous blog post following Helen Dunmore’s death, with links to her books, please click here.