It’s In The Bag and Constance Hall’s Queens.

I recently shared how I had read two Australian novels that included amongst their common themes, domestic violence. These books motivated me to participate in Share The Dignity’s “ It’s In The Bag” Christmas Promotion.

The concept behind this promotion is that women fleeing from violence often leave the scene with absolutely nothing. By filling a handbag with some basic daily necessities, such as a hair brush, tooth paste and brush, shampoo and personal hygiene products you give these women something that is theirs, something to help get them back on an even keel, something to remind them that we care. Refer http://www.sharethedignity.com.au.

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Amongst the essentials I’ve also included a diary, calendar for appointments, and pens. I really struggled to find an appropriate book to include for those down times over the holiday season, and finally settled on Like A Queen by Constance Hall.

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Controversial, I know. Not sure if women over fifty will appreciate as the language is pretty confrontational and colourful. Hall not only calls a spade a spade, she calls it a f******* shovel. Younger women seem to think this is “authentic” and “real”.

Not heard of Constance Hall? She is a blogger with half a million followers on her page, Queens of Constance, and has shared her thoughts on parenting, body image, post natal depression and sex, all totally without filters. No topic is off limits which has been polarising especially with a recent marriage breakdown, new relationship and new baby.

At one stage Hall and her followers, known as Queens, were involved in a slinging match with another Mummy Blogger who tagged Constance, “Slummy Mummy”. No comment from this end.

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Like A Queen is not an easy read in that it seems to need a good edit. Hall tends to get her message across better in short blog pieces, though I do believe that Hall’s genuine intent is to “keep inspiring women to treat themselves better and treat other women better too!” It’s the self esteem message that won me over…..

It’s not an easy task finding an appropriate Self Help book for the victims of Domestic Violence, a book with a message yet is still light and fun. I should know – my work environment has me surrounded by books about the benefits of drinking your own urine, eating the placenta after childbirth, and finding your inner child.

Is there a book that you would recommend?

NOTE:
Since the beginning of 2018, 67 women and 18 children have been killed in this manner in Australia.

When it’s in the stars…..

The Astrology forecast for Gemini’s this week is “to take the time to read an enlightening book or listen to some uplifting music”.

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I’ve just finished reading Jasper Jones by Aussie author Craig Silvey. Fantastic coming of age book based in rural Australia in the 90’s and since adapted into a movie and a theatrical production. It covers incest, murder, domestic violence, race issues, and infidelity. In spite of all that, it is a gently positive tale full of hope, love and friendships. Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringold is another beautifully crafted book which captures all the beauty of Australian wildflowers, the various belief systems of different cultures, and the brutality of domestic violence.

Confined indoors because of much needed rain all weekend I also indulged in a card reading. Why? A girl is allowed to be frivolous, isn’t she? The cards suggested that I should read an uplifting book. I get the hint…..

Interestingly, regardless of the bleak themes of both these books they were quietly uplifting. Naturally, there was non stop music playing in the background and Harry Connick Jr definitely filled the brief.

I’m not really into horoscopes – they are not something I refer to on a regular basis despite being surrounded by chakra, crystal, and aura fanatics – though I do have a favourite astrologist who I read on my birth date each year and who always includes a quote. This years quote totally resonates:

Follow your inner moonlight, don’t hide the madness”
( Allen Ginsberg)

NOTE : Enlightening Books?

Not sure what makes one of these, although I have just filled a handbag full of personal products for women fleeing from a violent situation as part of Share The Dignity’s “It’s In The Bag” Christmas Cause. Refer http://www.sharethedignity.com.au.

Australian Author Challenge : Enemy by Ruth Clare

Ruth Clare’s debut Enemy won the Asher Literary Award, offered biennially to a female author whose work carries an anti-war theme. She was born in Brisbane, Queensland,  and raised in Rockhampton. She earned a degree in biochemistry and journalism at QUT in Brisbane, Queensland. She went on to train as a copywriter and worked in advertising. During this time she had been working on a manuscript. After finishing it in 2014 she found an agent. Her first book was published in 2016.

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With the opening sentence, “I was born into the war still raging inside my father”, the reader immediately gathers that this autobiography is not going to be an easy read.

Doug Callum is an ex Vietnam Veteran, with a wife and three young children, with Ruth being the middle child. He is a totally different person to the young man conscripted to Vietnam and who was involved in the Battle of Coral–Balmoral. This battle (12 May – 6 June 1968) was a series of actions fought between the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and the North Vietnamese 7th Division and Viet Cong Main Force units, 40 kilometres north-east of Saigon.

Ruth tells her harrowing story as a child growing up in a household of regimentation and strict discipline. She and her siblings are often covered in bruises and Ruth lives constantly on guard in fear of upsetting her father, and feeling unloved and unwanted.

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“I had never been to war, but I knew what it was like to be prepared to face the enemy every day. The difference was, my enemy wasn’t a faceless stranger. My enemy was someone I loved.”

She also tells her story as a young mother with her own children, looking back to take stock of her father’s behaviour, which she later learns has all the hallmarks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She seeks out and communicates with numerous Vietnam Vets who admit to similar antisocial traits as well as seeking counselling through the Vietnam Veterans Association.

When Ruth’s parents inevitably divorce, we breathe a sigh of relief – though not for long. PTSD is insidious and leaches into other situations with frightening ramifications.

However, Ruth’s story is not all bleak and you can’t but admire her personal strength and resilience, as well as her compassion for her flawed father and other PTSD sufferers. On a more personal level I admire the author’s willingness to learn the details of her Dad’s role in the military, something he rarely discussed, which adds greatly to her understanding of his condition.

Doug Callum died too young of a skin cancer, suspected to have been brought on by sitting in the jungle of Vietnam for days on end with Agent Orange raining overhead.

I also respect Ruth for her compassion for her mother who has her own demons.

Written extremely well, this is another of those books that should be included on High School Reading Lists, not only for its information about the war in Vietnam, but also mental health awareness and domestic violence issues.

Not a “nice” book, but one that would have taken much courage to write.

NOTE: June is PTSD Awareness Month in Australia.