In the latest installment of Bookmark, Seattle-born Shawna Scott of Dublin’s Sex Siopa selects and talks about her some of her all-time favourite books. Photos by Melanie Mullan.
Girl Trouble by Carol Dyhouse
This is the book I’m reading at the moment. I picked it up in the Wellcome Museum bookshop when I was in London last month. It’s brilliant! It’s a brief history of moral panics over the past 150 or so years. Not surprising, when there’s a moral panic, it’s almost always about women. From the suffragettes’ involvement in the “white slavery” panic to the post-war rise of the rebellious teenager. It’s so fascinating to me that despite how much we’ve progressed as a society, history has continually repeated itself when it comes to the distrust of women. We’re sadly often painted as devious and calculating man-haters or infantile, naive victims with not a whole lot in between.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Everyone needs to have a Roald Dahl book on their list and mine is Matilda. It’s a classic for a reason, and I think every child can relate to her a bit. Even if you don’t have a horrible family or school principal, there’s definitely a strong feeling of being underestimated and misunderstood as a child no matter who you are. It’s a terrible thing to instill in a child the feeling that they can’t do things, know things, or accomplish things simply because they’re a kid. And the book shows that with encouragement and love, anyone no matter their age can have great strength and achieve great things. I first read the book when I was 10 or 11, and it gave me a much greater appreciation for my teachers.
King Bidgood in the Bathtub by Audrey & Don Wood
When my sister and I were young our aunt, who was a primary school teacher, would buy us the most amazing children’s books for our birthdays and Christmas. King Bidgood was by far my favourite. The story goes that there is a jolly king who refuses to leave his big, comfy bathtub. Thus forcing all his kingly duties and social occasions like banquets and masquerade balls to be held in said bathtub. I remember being so enthralled by all these magical illustrations that fell somewhere between Renaissance masterpieces and Warner Brothers cartoons – heavenly light and colour with an astonishing amount of detail mixed with the most ridiculous action and facial expressions. It’s the best!
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
My dad was never that big into the arts, but some of my favourite childhood memories of him involved him either reading or reciting Shel Silverstein’s humorous poems. If I refused to do my chores, it was “The Tale of Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who Would Not Take the Garbage Out.” Or if my sister and I got in an argument, it was “Sister for Sale!” Last year for Christmas, my mother sent me the well-loved book all the way from Seattle.
Bare by Julianne Daly
I have to have Bare on the list as it’s the first book I have ever contributed to and I’m so proud of it. As a stand alone collection of smut, it’s wonderful. But it’s so much more than that as well! This marks the first time anyone has dared ask Irish women what they fantasise about, and I’m so grateful that I get to be part of that.
The Kid by Dan Savage
In The Kid, Dan Savage tells his very personal and touching story about going through the adoption process with is then boyfriend, now husband, Terry and being thrown in the deep end with a newborn only a number of weeks after filling out the necessary paperwork. I don’t plan on having kids myself, but I love this book so much. It gives so much insight into the adoption process – something I knew nothing about: what can go wrong, and all the unexpected emotional twists and turns that come along with adopting a child. Like his podcast and advice column, ‘Savage Love’, Dan is a very frank yet thoughtful author. He is incredibly candid about how he and Terry did not feel prepared for being dads, and I find that honest, “we’re just winging it” approach so refreshing! There’s one part, the day they brought their son home, that had me in floods of tears.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
If I had to pick one book that has fundamentally changed the way I look at our culture (not to mention, scared the absolute bejaysus out of me), it’s The Circle by Dave Eggers. I suppose technically it’s a fictional cautionary tale of how the Internet Age will bring the lack of privacy to it’s logical conclusion. Now I say that it’s a cautionary tale, but since reading the book, I’ve seen more and more companies do things and release products like the fictional company at the centre of the novel. The most terrifying product that is central to the plot looks a lot like a popular app that was launched over the summer. While I don’t think I’m ready to go live in an off-grid forest compound just yet, The Circle has definitely made me far more cynical and suspicious of the world than I was before. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Some might say this doesn’t count, because it’s a comic, but technically I have the first 10 issues in a book so take THAT, naysayers! I’ve never been hugely into comics, but Sex Criminals sort of changed my perception of the medium. The very basic premise is that a guy and girl can stop time when they have sex, so they use that power to rob banks. It’s obviously filled to the brim with cheesy, low-brow puns, which I love, but what makes Sex Criminals so special and surprising is that Matt and Chip have seamlessly interwoven that base comedy throughout a story that deals with loss, depression & anxiety, relationships, and family. It shouldn’t work, but it does in the most amazing way!
Before I started Sex Siopa, I worked as a photographer, and before that I was film & video student in Seattle. Apart from learning that I would never have a job in the film industry, the one thing I took away from college before dropping out was a love for Diane Arbus. She has always been my favourite photographer. While we’re taught to tell stories with our photographs, Arbus’s were mysterious. They piqued our curiosity and forced us to ask questions. They often featured non-conforming people on the fringes of society going about their day-to-day lives. As someone who is quite shy, I always admired her ability to build trust and relationships with her subjects.
Come As You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski
I think everyone needs to read this book. Absolutely everyone! For years we’ve all subscribed to a standard narrative about how our sex drives or desire is meant to work – that we suddenly crave sex out of nowhere and go seek it out. Dr. Emily Nagoski gathers up all the science from the past 20 years and shows that that is just one of the many healthy ways people experience desire, and for many women, we have what’s called “Responsive Desire” which means that we respond to sexual stimuli and get horny because of it rather than get horny and seek out sexual stimuli. I think what’s most important about Come as You Are is that it shows there is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to sex and how our bodies respond. Everyone has their own kinks and quirks and that’s what makes it so hot!