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Vagina

Winner of the Hearst Big Book Awards, 2019 – Women’s Health‘s Book of the Year
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Shocking, brilliant, important. A fine addition to the feminist canon. – Emma Jane Unsworth

For the first time I feel like I PROPERLY understand my vagina! I wish I had read this 23 years ago! – Scarlett Curtis
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From earliest childhood, girls are misled about their bodies, encouraged to describe their genitalia with cute and silly names rather than anatomically correct terms. In our schools and in our culture, we are coy about women while putting straight men’s sexuality front and centre. Girls grow up feeling ashamed about their periods, about the appearance of their vulvas, about their own desires. They grow up without a full and honest sex education, and this lack of knowledge has serious consequences: the number of women attending cervical screening appointments in the UK is at a 20-year low while labiaplasty is the fastest growing type of plastic surgery in the world.

Vagina provides girls and women with information they need about their own bodies – about the vagina, the hymen, the clitoris, the orgasm; about conditions like endometriosis and vulvodynia. It confronts taboos, such as abortion, miscarriage, infertility and masturbation. It tackles vital social issues like period poverty, female genital mutilation and the rights of transgender women. It is honest and moving as Lynn Enright shares her personal stories but this is about more than one woman – this is a book that will provoke thousands of conversations. We urgently need to talk about women’s sexual and reproductive health, about our experiences of sex and pregnancy and pain and pleasure. Vagina: A Re-Education will help us do just that.

Endell Street

A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK

When the First World War broke out, the suffragettes suspended their campaigning and joined the war effort. For pioneering suffragette doctors (and life partners) Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson that meant moving to France, where they set up two small military hospitals amidst fierce opposition.

Yet their medical and organisational skills were so impressive that in 1915 Flora and Louisa were asked by the War Ministry to return to London and establish a new military hospital in a vast and derelict old workhouse in Covent Garden’s Endell Street. That they did, creating a 573-bed hospital staffed from top to bottom by female surgeons, doctors and nurses, and developing entirely new techniques to deal with the horrific mortar and gas injuries suffered by British soldiers. Receiving 26,000 wounded men over the next four years, Flora and Louisa created such a caring atmosphere that soldiers begged to be sent to Endell Street. And then, following the end of the war and the Spanish Flu outbreak, the hospital was closed and Flora, Louisa and their staff were once again sidelined in the medical profession.

The story of Endell Street provides both a keyhole view into the horrors and thrills of wartime London and a long-overdue tribute to the brilliance and bravery of an extraordinary group of women.

Letters To My Weird Sisters

‘Limburg describes movingly her own struggles as a new mother and the pressure of society’s expectations…Through such delicately intertwined experiences, Limburg quietly shouts for change.’ Times Literary Supplement

It seemed to me that many of the moments when my autism had caused problems, or at least marked me out as different, were those moments when I had come up against some unspoken law about how a girl or a woman should be, and failed to meet it.

An autism diagnosis in midlife enabled Joanne Limburg to finally make sense of why her emotional expression, social discomfort and presentation had always marked her as an outsider. Eager to discover other women who had been misunderstood in their time, she writes a series of wide-ranging letters to four ‘weird sisters’ from history, addressing topics including autistic parenting, social isolation, feminism, the movement for disability rights and the appalling punishments that have been meted out over centuries to those deemed to fall short of the norm.

This heartfelt, deeply compassionate and wholly original work humanises women who have so often been dismissed for their differences, and will be celebrated by ‘weird sisters’ everywhere.