Friday, 6 September 2019

We Need New Stories by Nesrine Malik

We Need New Stories: Challenging the Toxic Myths Behind Our Age of Discontent by Nesrine Malik
Published in the UK by Weidenfeld and Nicolson yesterday the 5th September 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads and my Book Of The Month for September 2019

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is becoming clear that the old frames of reference are not working, that the narratives used for decades to stave off progressive causes are being exposed as falsehoods. Six myths have taken hold, ones which are at odds with our lived experience and in urgent need of revision.

Has freedom of speech become a cover for promoting prejudice? Has the concept of political correctness been weaponised to avoid ceding space to those excluded from power? Does white identity politics pose an urgent danger? These are some of the questions at the centre of Nesrine Malik's radical and compelling analysis that challenges us to find new narrators whose stories can fill the void and unite us behind a shared vision.

I loved reading We Need New Stories! This is a book which reflects exactly how I feel about the way in which ideas such as political correctness and free speech are being corrupted and manipulated away from their original meanings, and Nesrine Malik encapsulates her investigations and arguments in such a way that I can point directly to We Need New Stories and say 'read this' and 'this is what I want to say'. I no longer have to feel isolated as I try to wrangle my thoughts into coherence! Instead I am inspired to feel part of the journey towards a fairer society which doesn't put only straight white male identity at its centre.

Malik looks back through history to illustrate how movements towards greater equality have historically been dismissed and subdued through the use of the same tired arguments. Surely X isn't needed because the situation is already so much better than it used to be or so much better than somewhere else? Isn't X going to be a step too far? Having read Malik's revelations of these phrases being repeatedly rolled out over the past century and beyond, I giggled to spot a 'taking feminism too far' clickbait headline on Twitter the very same afternoon. Her clear explanations of how we are manipulated into submitting to the old status quo have allowed me to now easily recognise this all around me. It's so endemic to as to have become almost invisible, but a simple awareness of the machinery not only renders it obvious, but also somewhat ludicrous.

To have everyone's sense of their own identity negated by a fictional idea of what we all 'should' aspire to is, when I really think about it, a very strange state of affairs. Especially when the main attributes for power such as the 'right' gender, skin colour or sexuality can't be put on at will so most people will find themselves excluded. We Need New Stories showed me another way to view my society and is a great complement to other books I have recently read including How To Lose A Country by Ece Temelkuran and Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba. Right now does feel like the right time for another great social advance and I feel that telling new identity stories has to be at the centre of the movement in order for it to succeed.

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  1. That sounds like a thought provoking book.

    1. It's an amazing book which really helped me to understand my anger at social unfairness and at how social groups can be manipulated into working against their own interests

  2. Really important book which also revealed to me my own unconscious biases

    1. There were so many times when Malik clearly explained ideas I'd vaguely been aware of, but hadn't realised just how pervasive my social conditioning is

  3. I have seen this one around a lot and I was aware it was nonfiction, but I wasn't very sure what it was about? I am glad this was so relatable and clearly articulated your thoughts on fake news and all the chaos happening right now. I feel like this might be quite relieving for me to try as well.

    1. I think you would get a lot out of reading We Need New Stories, like I did. I'm now consciously looking for memoirs and novels which fit with Malik's ideas so you'll see several links back here from relevant reads over the next few months