Perhaps overshadowed by the gigantic Waterstones in Piccadilly, it would be a mistake to overlook the Gower St. Waterstones in Bloomsbury. It boasts a picturesque brick exterior, dappled in different shades of red by sunlight through budding spring leaves. The inside is dizzying, a maze of shelves and little secluded rooms of books. It is my personal favourite Waterstones in London, and for good reason! This bookshop boasts a wealth of knowledge through these events upcoming in this month.
As Valentine’s approaches, Gower St. preempts the atmosphere with their first event on Thursday 9th February at 7 pm. Promising a ‘Celebration of Love’, hosts poets Nikita Gill, Leo Boix and Andrew McMillan discuss poetry written by women of the Heian court to Pablo Neruda to Shakespeare’s sonnets. All have been published this month as part of a Vintage Classics collection, with each speaker introducing the respective subjects. An exciting and varied constellation of conversation kickstarts the packed month ahead at Gower St. Waterstones. All books will be available to purchase at this event!
Up next on the evening of Thursday 16th February, writer Emmanuel Iduma, recipient of the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize, will discuss his new book titled I Am Still With You in conversation with William Atkins. The book, described by Margo Jefferson as “both epic and intimate” and by Chigozie Obioma as “powerful and transcendent” braids together a narrative of national and personal history – of an uncle lost in war. Iduma brings to light what has been buried for decades, and what has been lost with no recordings.
Gower Street New Voices this month have featured #Merky Books New Writers prize winner Jyoti Patel and Sara Jafari, who runs TOKEN magazine which aims to uplift underrepresented voices. Patel will be discussing her debut novel The Things That We Lost, a novel painting a portrait of what it means to be a person of colour in England. At the same time, it explores a family through the perspective of Nik, who yearns to know the history of his deceased father. Jafari’s novel, People Change is about the sudden reconnection of two ex-schoolmates whose mutual love was never admitted. Both books tenderly capture people caught between the past and present, all while discovering their places in their lives and in the world. This event will be on the night of Tuesday 21st February!
Adam Kuper, professor at LSE, through The Museum of Other People, tackles the large questions of cultural appropriation that loom at large in the context of anthropological museums. For example, what exactly does one do with the items in their collection? Namely, ones that depict people who are nonwhite, and/or prehistoric for the purpose of the colonial enterprise . . . what duties do a museum have – and what solutions are there, if any? Joining him in conversation is Megnaa Mehtta, an environmental anthropologist and lecturer of social anthropology at UCL on Wednesday 22nd February.
And on the very next night, Thursday 23rd, Gower St. shines its ‘Indie Spotlight’ on Does Snow Turn a Person White Inside. Author Max Lobe talks about his new novel with translator Ros Schwartz and Jane Link, the editorial assistant at Jonathan Cape. Lobe, born in Cameroon and residing now in Switzerland, is a recipient of the Ahdmadou Kourouma prize in 2017. His new novel is a moving narrative detailing the twofold viewpoint of immigrating to Switzerland from Bantuland and the experiences of both countries in relation to each other through Mwana, the central character. Joining Max Lobe and translator Ros Schwartz in conversation is founder of bigblackbooks, Jane Link.
Red Memory is an interesting and rare perspective on the Cultural Revolution written by journalist Tania Branigan stationed in Beijing for the Guardian for seven years, that explores the legacy of the Cultural Revolution in present-day China. Joining her is Professor Kerry Brown from King’s College London, a recent recipient of the China Cultural Exchange Person of the Year. Listen, on Wednesday 1st March, to the balancing of past and present in a conversation from a vast wealth of experience not be found elsewhere.
On Tuesday 7th March, Gower St presents a panel discussing Uncommon Wealth which reveals the aftermath of British colonial rule. With fresh insight by author Kojo Karam of the University of Birkbeck, his own experience of growing up in Britain and Ghana alongside his experience lecturing in Law provides a rigorous and renewed insight into de/colonisation. From Britain profiting off colonies to its own ghost that haunts modern Britain today. Joining him on this panel are Nels Abbey, Dalia Gebrial and Emmanuel Onapa for no doubt a radical evening of discussion.
And to round it off, on the 9th of March join medieval historian Eleanor Janega from LSE and Cat Jarman, a bioarcheologist, for the evening to hear a rigorous dive into medieval women and to emerge from this to challenge our ideas of womanhood to refashion them for a future. The Once and Future Sex traces women throughout history, like Hildegaard of Bingen and Eleanor of Aquitaine to bring the stories of their lives to the present day. Janega shows that women throughout history have been successful farmers, brewers, and artists and that notions of women are always subject to this change – the latter question of which can be freeing.
All in all, it is going to be a busy month at Gower Street. I hope to see some of you there!
Edited by Holly Cornall, Literature editor