Weekly Round Up: Akwaeke Emezi, Fleabag, and HIV Treatment

Non-binary Author Nominated for Women’s Prize for Fiction

Non-binary author Akwaeke Emezi has been nominated for the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for their first novel, Freshwater. Controversially, it is the first time in the twenty-seven year history of the award that a person who does not identify as either male or female has been selected for the longlist. The Prize’s website states that its inspiration came from the 1991 Booker Prize, which failed to nominate a woman despite sixty percent of the published fiction of that year being by women. While some see this as a sign of increasing inclusivity in the literary sphere, the circumstances surrounding the nomination are cloudy. The longlist is drawn up by a panel of five women, the chair of which has since said that the panelists were careful to not research the authors while judging. While potentially accidental, Emezi’s nomination marks a welcome continuation of the Prize’s commitment to celebrating quality fiction and creating conversations surrounding gender. You can find more analysis here and here.

Stem Cell Transplant and a Possible HIV Cure

Following a recent stem cell transplant conducted in London, a UK patient’s HIV has become undetectable. Whilst researchers stress that it is too early to say whether or not the patient’s HIV has been ‘cured’, the transplant marks a crucial step in developing a cure for HIV and AIDS. Current HIV treatments allow patients to live long and healthy lives, but this case represent an important development in experts’ attempts to develop a permanent cure to the disease. More analysis here. – Mack

UKIP Members Shifting Party to Far Right

A Guardian investigation has revealed how a surge in UKIP membership has pushed the party further towards the far-right. Its new leader, Gerard Batten, is an ally of Tommy Robinson and has said some abhorrent things about Islam. Many of the 8,000+ new members of the party are thought to be younger and more radical than it’s traditional base. – Jade

Shamima Begum’s Baby

Jarrah, the three-week-old baby of Shamim Begum, died this week in a Syrian Refugee camp. Earlier this month Begum was told that she would be made stateless by Sajid Javid, in a decision which can only be viewed as kowtowing to the right-wing press. Sajid Javed’s decision not only violates the ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights), but also contravenes the rule of law, which should give everyone the right to a fair trial. It was International Women’s Day on Friday; yet (as Diane Abbott reminded us) the government has removed the citizenship of a woman who was groomed as a minor, whilst letting hundreds of men return from Syria and Iraq in similar circumstances. – Jade

R. Kelly Interview

This week CBS aired an 80-minute interview (cut for YouTube) between journalist Gayle King and singer-songwriter R. Kelly. In the interview, Kelly was distraught and out of control, repeatedly pacing, punching the air, and shouting “You’re killing me, man!” whilst King sat composed, calmly and firmly attempting to keep Kelly engaged. The interview came just over a month after the release of the six-part show “Surviving R. Kelly”, a docu-series investigating accusations of sexual assault and pedophilia against the singer. Kelly was charged last month with ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims (to which he plead not guilty), and, if convicted, faces seven years in prison for each charge. – Mack

Free Tampons

On Wednesday (13th March), the government is set to announce a free sanitary product scheme for secondary schools in the UK. The move is a huge step for #FreePeriods, a campaign which aims to end period poverty in the UK. The movement was created by eighteen-year-old student Amika George, who described the decision as a “huge step forward for gender equality” and “a victory for everyone who has been campaigning to eradicate period poverty in schools”. Earlier, in 2017, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide women in schools, colleges, and universities with free sanitary products, and whilst Oxford University doesn’t currently provide free tampons, Student Unions at many other UK universities already offer free sanitary products for students. You can find FreePeriods’ website here. – Mack

New Series of Fleabag

Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who also wrote the runaway BBC success, Killing Eve), we see the return of our darkly funny, self-loathing anti-Heroine ‘Fleabag’, played by Waller-Bridge herself. This series, it looks like she falls in love with a priest (wholesome!). It’s genius. – Jade

Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – FOALS

As eighth week drew to a close, Oxford-based band FOALS returned with Part One of a two part album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. Following a tide of heavy hitters, which starts with the aggressive debut Antidotes (2008), and builds through Total Life Forever (2010), Holy Fire (2013), before the feral What Went Down (2015), the latest release enters an arena already saturated with titans. The past four years, however, have seen the band adopt an atmosphere of ominous silence – the quintet lost bassist Walter Gervers, and frontman Yannis Philippakis embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage to the spartan monasteries nestled within northeastern Greece’s Mount Athos. The album itself moves between the sweaty riffs of tracks like White Onions and In Degrees, while still finding space for rousing, guttural instrumentals such as Surf, Pt.1 and the unassuming Sunday. Ultimately, the album is a provocative statement of intent, and seems to delight in the discomfort of its darkly crafted lyricism. It also revels in what’s left unsaid, and as the work draws to a close with the tender I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me), leaves us begging for more.  – Philip

Artwork by Emily Reed. Words by Dan Brooks, Mack Willett, Jade Spencer, and Phillip Olney.