Monday, 10 August 2015

On Jump Stories of Life, Love and Fear by Paula Kelly-Ince, justice & quiche.

In university, where Paula & I met (studying creative writing), each semester we had an assignment entitled 'Reading as a Writer'. And sometimes, when I wasn't too busy protesting or talking about representation, I did the assignment. We analysed the work of playwrights, poets, screen writers, novelists and memoirists. We discussed their form their structure, what themes we would apply to our own work and how, if the work was effective and (audible gasp) what we would improve. 
Now, it's one thing telling your classmates their time travelling-rapping-werewolf-romance novel would be a more consistent read if the dialogue was tighter, but comrades, it is an entirely different bag of fish to critique a "real" writer.  A "real" writer with that elusive published masterpiece (following film adaptation, cult classic t shirt references). Yes, obviously I chose George Orwell.

Believe me. I am picky. I may not be Judy Blume myself but I can sniff out holes in stories at the speed a quiche disappears at a family buffet (dead quick). I guess the reason I'm saying this is that when I read Jump I felt that I was reading as a writer, reading the work of an established and effective writer. Paula writes beautiful and delicate stories of people (mainly women, woop woop feminism) at their extremes. These circumstances that life pushes up to live through, documented in such a grounded style. 
And that's the point. Paula's work is effective because it's written about women I could know. Working class situations we recognise, grief, crushes and money problems, community. Struggle, really. How often is it that we see our own experiences played out on the page interspersed with magic realism and hilarious dialogue? Never. 
On reading Mr Phillips I  was transported to my own teenage years. And with Paula's gentle, yet uncompromising humour I began to recognise the hilarity of youth. The story plays out before you and after all you can do is think God, do you remember -. Even now I spend time too wrapped up in social justice causes (arguing with Tories on the internet) to consider the relationship between activism and fiction. But I believe healing is part of justice and Paula's work was, for me, healing. 
Jump is a story that rings with heartbreak and shines light on an area so often wrought with shame and secrecy.  Tara is a story that twinkles with promise and the unsaid. The fact that these three stories can sit side by side in unison is a testament to Paula’s skill, precision and bravery. It is brave to speak out, to construct these voices that whisper truths to us, in a world that seeks to scare us into silence. 
Seeing the stories of working class people, especially women written down, it's transformative. Sometimes, just existing in a world where you are abhorred and tested is radical in itself. Depicting the stories we are too scared or embarrassed to tell is one step further. If doing so with elegance & care is not justice I don't know what is. 

  • To buy Jump (for less than £1!) click here Content note for still birth and child death in Jump, slut shaming in Mr Phillips. 
  • For weekly updates on Paula's hilarious life and musings on feminism and parening you can follow Paula's blog.
  • To keep up to date with Paula's writing you can like her on facebook or follow her on twitter @paulakellyince.

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