To refer to The Other Side of Hope simply as ‘a literary magazine’ feels like an injustice. It is a beautiful, complex and painful collection of short stories, non-fiction and poems written and edited by refugees and immigrants. Having recently finished reading my copy, I find myself contemplating the journeys portrayed between the covers of the magazine days later. My mind wanders back to the melancholic ending of the fictional story ‘the Proposal’ by Qin Sun Stubis, or the heart-wrenching experiences of perpetual displacement, racism and otherness experienced by the protagonist of the poem ‘Engelestân’ by Kimia Etemadi. The Other Side of Hope is more than a magazine – it constitutes a tool for building empathy, for generating understanding, and an avenue through which to become immersed in the lives of refugees and immigrants for a brief, yet emotive period of time.
Content warning: mentions of violence against women, police violence
From getting through that ‘to read’ backlog while stuck at home to reciting inspiring extracts at protests and on picket lines, we have read in many ways these past 12 months. As ever, at The Norwich Radical we believe in the written word as a world-changing source of joy, inspiration, education and hope. In this article, three of our contributors come together to share the best things they read in 2021, new and old. Each recommendation comes with a link to buy it direct from the publisher or on bookshop.org (where possible), but we encourage you to use your local bookshop in the first instance if you can. Happy reading!
When I was asked by a friend to think about the difference between being a professional artist and a semi-professional artist with regards to my own practice as a writer and a poet, the distinction between the two seemed – to quote author Daniel Piper – arbitrary and unnecessary. The word semi-professional is not something that has been in my vocabulary, because my ideas of professionalism go beyond the dictionary definition of these two words.
By Vyvyan René
‘I was still standing. I’m shot, I thought, I’m shot. I reached down and touched my stomach. Blood. There was a small hole, slightly charred, in my white shirt: my Paul Smith shirt, I thought, with a pang of anguish. I’d paid a week’s salary for it in San Francisco.’
A novel preoccupied with appearances and the dark realities they can conceal, it is no wonder that clothes are a recurring theme in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. As protagonist Richard notices the gunshot in his expensive shirt at the climax, his ‘anguish’ stems less from the injury to his physical body than to the painstakingly assembled body of signifiers he has spent the novel maintaining; a ‘small hole’ through which his history, in its imperfect secrecy, is exposed.
The Solstice Shorts Festival is an international festival held on 21st December of each year, and includes short stories, poems and songs. In 2019, it was held in seven port towns across four different countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Portugal). The theme was ‘Time and Tide’, with performers sharing work about making a living on or beside the water, and making new lives over the water. Arachne Press funded the event, along with 50 crowd funders, Arts Council England, Aberdeenshire Council, and Literature Wales. The press is directed by Cherry Potts, who edits/co-edits all the anthology. She also runs the festival connected with this book, and is one example of just one of the independent feminist ventures that makes up the live literature scene in the UK.
A tall hill of turquoise, gendered cooing and guffawing, chainmail crop tops, and dance-fights with mops, performed to the sound of nineties nostalgia: Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen, together known as Bait Theatre, effectively wield experimental drama to tear through the fanciful tropes of traditional fairy-tale femininity.
by Rob Harding
I stay hidden while Adil opens up again, rates the police on their app, and sends them packing. Once that’s done, Adil’s daughter nods to me. ‘You’re welcome.’ She says. ‘Now, if you don’t mind?’
I stammer my thanks and head out the front again. Adil nods to me and lets me duck under a shutter, and back out onto the street.
There’s no sign of the police, or the hijacked DeepGrey workers, or anything particular. A Community Security bot has rolled into place at the far end of the street, but if I don’t go near it it won’t ID me and do the digital equivalent of the staring-eyed pod person screech. I’ve long since resigned to having to work around the damn things, and these days I only vaguely keep track of the forum posters who fight a constant arms race with their glassy-eyed developers out in San Francisco or Vientiane, or wherever the fuck has the most reliably gullible investors this week.
by Zoe Harding
The woman on the street is making those noises as the shouting starts again, the raw-throat all-out hate that only hysterical men can shriek. I barely recognise what they’re saying.
The woman coughs and sobs again, and I hear a fleshy impact, like the sound of a shoe hitting a stomach.
And then there’s the wail of a siren, right around the corner, and the burglar-alarm scream of an LRAD blots out all other sound. A huge armoured police car with tires as tall as I am comes grinding down the street, a pair of armed officers walking alongside it. The turret on top is swinging to bring a grenade launcher to bear against the fight. Hopefully they won’t fire it. I like this jacket, and the stink of chemical riot dispersant is designed with a half-life of about fifty years.
by Hannah Rose
Outside Selfridges on Oxford street at 5am Boxing Day morning, a queue had already formed. The sales could not start soon enough for some shoppers. At the same time, Aleksander’s father was waking his son up. He handed him a pile of thermal underwear and a hard hat and told him to get ready so they could go and ‘explore’ the site.
“Can I really see where you are working, dad!?”
“Of course, but you will have to stay in the cabin for a while as I have some large girders to move with the crane. If you stay in there you can watch out of the window. Bring your tablet and learn some English words while you wait, ok?”
by Hannah Rose
Later that night after Aleksander and his father had eaten too much food and watched a few films, and when Aleksander was asleep on the sofa, his father switched on the tablet and opened his emails. One was from his boss, the ops manager, and had an attachment. Do I need to read this now? He thought. Better to know what that tool has to say now, than worry about it all night. The email read: