There wasn’t much traffic at a book fair I attended recently, but at least it gave me the opportunity to chat with other writers on nearby stalls. The discussion drifted to writing sex, but they thought I was joking when I moved the conversation to writing toilets. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that safe and hygienic toilets are no laughing matter (and now those other writers know too) and the foundation of women’s emancipation and girls’ education worldwide. So I’m proud to have marked World Toilet Day on this blog every year since I started in 2013. There’s more to discover about this year’s theme Where does our poo go? if you follow the link. As I did last year, for 19th November 2017, I’m celebrating the novels I’ve read in the last twelve months that acknowledge our dependence on toilets.
In contrast to the three women who shape her through childhood to early middle age, the female narrator of Zadie Smith’s fifth novel is so insipid, she doesn’t even bother to tell us her name. Her mother, a beautiful Jamaican-born feminist, autodidact and activist who resembles Nefertiti, delegates parenting to her less ambitious husband while she plots her escape from the confines of gender, race and class. She barely tolerates our narrator’s intense friendship with Tracey, the only other brown-skinned girl at their North London dancing class. With her doting, but foul-mouthed white English mother and absent African Caribbean father (whom the little girl claims is on tour with Michael Jackson, when he’s actually in prison), Tracey’s allotment of advantage and disadvantage mirrors hers. Their relationship pirouettes around a shared passion and a suppressed mutual envy: while Tracey has the skill and talent to make it to the stage, the narrator’s relative stability with a loving father provide some compensation for her flat feet.
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional.
Annecdotist is the blogging persona of Anne Goodwin:
slug-slayer, tramper of moors,
author of two novels.
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