Hidden Voices of History

For me, the most fascinating thing about looking into the past has always been the multitude of stories which make up history. It’s these narratives which draw me in, rather than detached facts or analysis. Many of my favourite books are historical fiction because of how it walks the line between being imaginative, by transporting me to other places and times, and being relatable, through the realism of the settings and conflicts faced by the characters. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee is a historical fiction novel which both immersed me in unfamiliar world and gave me opportunities to recognise…

When a fictional game changes your life

  It is difficult to imagine a time when the University of Oxford was simply associated with ancient buildings, the white bow ties and mortar boards of “sub fusc”, and the archaic Latin speeches. While those images may still hold salience, my friends back home in Australia seem to think that living in this town is akin to attending Hogwarts. Indeed, key scenes throughout the film adaptations have been set on Oxford grounds. You may recognise parts of Christ Church College, New College, and the Bodleian, as sites for Harry’s magical development. You may recognise the image below as the…

How a couple of big hard sex criminals got mental illness right

It is easy to find mentally ill characters in pop culture. There’s the casual alcoholism of the titular character in Archer; and the revolving door of the sanitarium constantly admitting and releasing characters in Pretty Little Liars. Orange is the New Black has Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, whose very name shows the stigma mental illness still has, and Lena Dunham’s character on Girls, who punctures her eardrum in an anxious compulsion to get her ear completely clean. The characters in Silver Linings Playbook find that love conquers all, even mental illness, and The Dark Knight’s Batman battles the schizophrenic Joker….

The Power of Education and Peaceful Protest

Like many people, I first heard of Malala Yousafzai in October 2012, when headlines rang across the world that a fifteen-year-old girl had been shot by the Taliban. Initially, I reacted in a similar way to how I usually do when hearing of tragedies in the media: with a mixture of instinctive horror and sadness. Most of all, I felt frustrated at how helpless I was to do anything about it. What I didn’t anticipate was how much Malala would come to inspire me: to appreciate the power of my education, and to become more courageous in speaking up for what I believe in. When…

How Never Let Me Go is like feeding cats

Every morning I feed my two cats. Every morning I try to get them to calm down while I put their food in their bowls, to wait for me to finish before they start eating. More often than not, they have completely forgotten their lesson from the day before to sit and wait. It can be very frustrating, but I try to remember that they are just cats; they don’t have the same memory capacity humans have. So I forgive them, and I’m patient with them, and I pursue my quiet training in the calmest way I can. I recently…

We are stardust before we are divided

  Stefan Klein, the acclaimed writer behind The Science of Happiness and The Secret Pulse of Time, is on a mission to connect laypeople with the diverse and often misunderstood realm of science. With his latest book, We Are All Stardust, Klein sits down with some of the world’s most prominent scientists and poses the questions that us laypeople feel too intimidated to ask. The result is a collection of casual conversations with people who, at first, seem so extraordinary that we will never understand them. Yet, Klein brings them back to Earth, and we learn that they are just…

True Despair, True Connections

Worthless is the real-life story of young author Robyn Hennesy’s struggle with sexual abuse, eating disorders, bullying, depression, self-harm, criminal activity, and drug addiction. Told in a raw and practically unedited form (it feels like we are sometimes reading the quickly scribbled diary entry of a teenager) we are brought face-to-face with all the terrible and heart-wrenching moments of Robyn’s, and her twin sister Ashleigh’s, life growing up in Surrey, England. They are average young girls, who have ordinary aspirations and dreams. This is all disrupted when, at age nine, the twins begin to starve themselves and worry about their…