Zadie Smith's debut, forced reproductive control, dreamy Korean rock, and more.
Digest #16, September 29th 2020
Hello my dear readers! Happy Wednesday. A quick note to say I appreciate your patience with this week's digest, as I've been swamped with work and family responsibilities. I know some of you (hi Natalia!) have been anxiously awaiting it, and I deeply value your support.
This weekend, Alex and I are celebrating our five year wedding anniversary (heteronormative milestone, hurrah!) and we're going to a lakeside cabin with our son Leo next week. I'm determined to pre-write the next few editions of this digest and am hard at work curating them even as I write this one.
Expect the next few issues to come through on Sundays as usual, and thank you sincerely for sticking with me through this busy period. I've also announced the winner of this month's book giveaway in the footer, so make sure you scroll to the end!
Zadie Smith's first novel, White Teeth, is in my humble opinion one of the most perfect novels that exists. It's so well written that it pains me, as a fellow writer, to absorb the prose. It's a beautiful pain, because it's so exquisite, and an envious pain because I know I'll never write even partially as well as she does. The novel was first published in 2000, and focuses on two friends who served together in war, Samad Iqbal who is Bangladeshi, and the Archie Jones who is English. The plot revolves around these two men and their families in London. It interweaves complexities about identity, sexuality, race and religion in Britain with a sharp plot and incredible wit. The novel explores the layered relationships of the United Kingdom and its relationships with those regions it once colonised: Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. If you've never read it, please fix that. I couldn't recommend any book more.
My own copy of the book.
My enormously talented work colleague Zoe Hamilton runs a documentary film production company called Goat Tree Productions. Alex and I recently watched their 2019 film, Small Family, Happy Family, and were absolutely blown away. The central narrative of the film is well summarised by its official synopsis:
Mitilesh, a young woman from Central India, is recruited by local health workers to get sterilized in a mass surgical ‘camp’. As she decides to undergo the surgery, her narrative is situated in the larger context of population control in India - one that has for decades sacrificed women’s health and reproductive rights in the name of economic progress.
Like any brilliant documentary, it presents a clear and well-argued thesis, supported by a mountain of evidence. It enthralled us and had us commenting on the content out loud, remarking at how little we knew about reproductive control in India. If this topic is new to you as well, I highly recommend viewing the film. It has a running time of 39 minutes, and costs $5.95 to rent for 48 hours. On the topic of forced reproductive control more broadly, a wide range of supplementary resources are available on their website, including ways to take action!
The film's release poster.
I recently learned about the fabulous South Korean indie rock band HYUKOH (혁오). They've been making music since 2014, and gained mainstream popularity in Korea the year after. Poring through their discography for the last few days, I have loved ever single track. The song Gang Gang Schiele is particularly beautiful. Listening to it, I feel transported to the seaside somewhere, like I'm living a montage of happy scenes. It reminds me of road trips down the Western Australian coast with friends, eating ice-cream and breathing in fresh, salty sea air. I hope you find a few minutes to listen and see if you love it too.
The band. Pictured from left: Oh Hyuk, Im Dong-geon, Lim Hyun-jae, and Lee In-woo. Photo by GDW, from Dazed Digital.
Netflix's new film Enola Holmes follows the famous detective Sherlock's teenage sister as she makes her way into the world, uncovering her own mysteries and developing her own identity. It features Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven from Stranger Things) as the title character, with Helena Bonham Carter playing her mother and Henry Cavill as Sherlock. Aside from great casting, the film features smart dialogue, a tight plot without any obvious loopholes, solid character development, gorgeous period costuming, and fun action scenes. It's grade A, theatrical release quality, which makes sense because the distribution rights were only sold to Netflix from Warner Bros because of the pandemic. That means if you've already got a Netflix subscription you just saved yourself the cost of a theatre ticket. If you're worried you won't enjoy it, don't. It's really good. The film is based on a young adult book series, so we know this is just the first of many, and I'm already excited for the sequels.
The promotional poster for the film.
As we enter Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, I'm turning to hearty stews with spices, slow cooked meats and delicious garnishes in the kitchen. Last night, I made a lamb tajine that was the ultimate satisfaction dish, with some dried dates, saffron, onions and almonds. If you haven't made tajine before, I promise it's extremely easy. This recipe serves as the perfect base, and I agree with the vast majority of the notes that precede the recipe on how to cook different variations. When my Mum, Kerry, and I travelled to Morocco back in 2014, we experienced just how seasonal their cooking is. It was olive and orange harvesting time during our week long visit, and we ended up eating fresh olives and oranges incorporated somehow in basically every dish we had. Don't be intimidated by making this. You can add a huge variety of fruits, meats and nuts to a tajine (either during cooking or as a garnish) and come out with something delicious. I recommend perfecting your base, and then having some fun experimenting. If you have a clay tajine pot, amazing. If you don't, a slow cooker or a big sturdy pot on the stove that can be transported into the oven will also do the job.
A picture of some delicious-looking tajine d'agneau, from Zeste.
If you've subscribed to The Seven for a while, you'll know I love Tracee Ellis Ross a whole bunch. Growing up in Australia, I only had access to select Black American sitcoms, so I'd only ever heard about her classic 2000s show Girlfriends but never seen it. I am so stupidly excited that the entire show is now available on Netflix. It's hilarious, in a kitschy and sometimes problematic turn-of-the-millenium way, and I'm already hooked. The craziest relevation to me so far though, is how Ms Tracee (now 47) has not aged a single day since she was in her 20s. I will pray to the moisturiser, sunscreen (and melanin) gods, and hope I get an ounce of this magic.
A screenshot of Tracey from Girlfriends (2000) and a picture of hers from Instagram (2020). Right??!?! Queen.
I'm leaving you with something to make you laugh. This comedy clip about a dodgy PR-driven diversity stunt is so funny it actually had me in stitches. Unfortunately, the part about the black post boxes is real though.