The Equalities Week shelf, displaying a selection of books, in Hertford College Library during Equalities Week.
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Equalities Week at Hertford College – What’s on the Equality Week display at Hertford Library?

It’s equalities week here at Hertford College and our Library Team is proud to be supporting with their display of books from their Liberation Collection and beyond, covering Women*s, LGBTQ+, Disability, BME and Class equality 🏳️‍🌈👫🏳️‍⚧️👩‍🦽

If you notice that anything is missing from this display, please send a suggestion on the Hertford Library form or drop them an email!

Current Hertford Undergradiate, Evie Raja (BA Archaeology and Anthropology, 2021 and JCR Equal Opportunities Rep) has been engaging with the Hertford Community this week and collecting book reviews from titles featured on the Equalities Week bookshelf. A special thanks to Evie.

We will share two of the book reviews, below.

Nell Miles (MBiol Biology, 2020 and JCR Environment and Ethics Rep) has reviewed Afropean by Johny Pitts. (Please note that this book can currently be found on the Equalities Week display but afterwards, will be found at classmarks D 12/17).

Front cover, in black and white, of the book 'Afropean' Notes from Black Europe by Johny Pitts. The image on the cover is of a group of diverse people on an underground train or subway.
Front cover of ‘Afropean’, Notes from Black Europe by Johny Pitts.

In his 2019 book Afropean, Johny Pitts takes readers on a tour of Black European culture across the continent, starting in his hometown of Sheffield and journeying through the likes of France, Germany, Belgium, and Russia to investigate the existence of a coherent Black European identity. Through his tour of ‘Afropea’, Pitts visits Black communities unseen by tourists and explores how European history has shaped the experiences of those living within them. Rich narratives of nightlife in Berlin, Senegalese cooking on the streets of Paris and Afrobeat bars in Lisbon immerse the reader into the beauty of Afropean culture – but this contrast sharply with the stark deprivation and discrimination facing many Black communities, providing an honest view of what life is like for millions of Europeans of African descent today.

The book attracted me because of its relatively unique position in exploring Black experiences within the UK and Europe, compared to most published literature and teaching which seems focused on African American history and identity. Despite growing up in an ethnically diverse area, I recognise that as a white person I have little idea about the experiences of Black and other people of colour who inhabit the same spaces as me but experience life very differently. Afropean was a start to learning more about how blackness affects people’s lives across Europe, and I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the diversity of cultures so often hidden in portrayals of the continent.

Zara Davies (Geography, 2021) has reviewed Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi: (Please note that this book can currently be found on the Equalities Week display but afterwards, will be found at M 70 STI/1).

The front cover of Vanishing Monuments, a novel by John Elizabeth Stintzi.
The front cover of Vanishing Monuments, a novel by John Elizabeth Stintzi.

Vanishing Monuments is a novel written by the non-binary author John Elizabeth Stintzi (they/them). This intricate and evocative story features Alani, a non-binary and genderfluid photographer who returns to their childhood home, forced to reconcile with the memories there as their mother’s dementia worsens. It is a book that depicts the ever present and irreconcilable relationship between the past, memory, and family.

Alani’s return home is framed by the memory palace they have built of a place where they never truly wanted to return. Constantly torn between running away, whether it is towards the flooded Assiniboine River or away from their partner Genny, Alani constantly returns to their “concentric rebellions”.

The book is structured in this circular and thoughtful manner. Each old room of the house is simultaneously a recollection—part of a memory palace formed through a combination of childhood trauma and bitter nostalgia—and a reality, as Alani starts to take it apart. Stinzti explores the concept of gender as a performance, where, in Alani’s codependent and intimate relationship of a mother they didn’t truly know, they return to being “the girl”. The house hums with memories of the things said to the girl in the mirror, the boy in the mirror, and the Alani who exists outside of it. Like Alani, their mother was a photographer, and Alani’s final act in preparing the house for sale is to dismantle her photography darkroom.

“When the monument vanishes, what still stands?” Stinzti frames narratives of palatable and unpalatable memory, distortion and truth, the uniqueness of morning, and control and avoidance within this unsettled semi-autobiography. Vanishing Monuments provides an intimate perspective of genderfluidity from a non-binary author. Vanishing Monuments was shortlisted for the 2021 Amazon.ca First Novel Award.

Special thanks to the Hertford College Library Team, in particular Assistant Librarian, Katherine Knight, and Evie Raja, Nell Miles and Zara Davies for their detailed contributions to this piece. Finally, a reminder that while both of the books, reviewed, can be found on the display currently, afterwards they can be found at classmarks D 12/17 (Afropean) and M 70 STI/1 (Vanishing Monuments).

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