Jessica Matthews –
What I am reading


Hear from Jessica Matthews – What I am reading

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Author: Jessica Matthews – Business Coordinator

What I'm reading…

Favourite reads from Jessica Matthews

As a lifelong, borderline obsessive reader nothing fills me with more happiness than a few hours wandering around a bookstore (long live Unity!), just following my nose and taking a punt here and there. It's amazing where you can end up, and I'm increasingly feeling like you can learn as much about yourself and the world at large through fictional writing as you can through factual - and two books on my 'recently read' pile are a testament to that.

Hawkes_Meat_Lovers__64298Meat Lovers by Rebecca Hawkes, Auckland University Press

Poetry is not something I've explored very deeply, so when my (also author) friend Emily Writes asked if I would like to go with her to the dual launch of Chris Tse and Rebecca Hawkes' new books earlier this year I was intrigued. Would it be revelatory? Challenging? Slightly uncomfortable? A bit weird? The answer to all of those was yes, but in the most excellent ways. Both poets read from their respective works and I think that was the clincher - hearing their inflection and intonation in real time opened up their work in a way that I don't think I was prepared for, but that I'm very grateful I was there to experience. 

Rebecca's reading of 'The Protagonists' in particular actually made me quite tearful, it was so personal, so relatable and yet so surprising all at the same time. I immediately went and bought both her and Chris' books and now Meat Lovers hangs out beside my bed, to be picked up whenever I have a few minutes to myself. Also a gifted visual artist, Rebecca has managed to intertwine the dual themes of Meat Lovers masterfully - love and death, farm style + youthful romance - with a healthy dark comedic streak. I see myself and I hear myself in this book and that's a wonderful thing.

By way of introduction during the event, we also heard from Rebecca's friend, Rebecca K Reilly. It was a timely reminder that I had had her book 'Greta and Valdin' on my must invest list for some time at that point . . .

Screen Shot 2023-11-23 at 3.16.58 PMGreta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Wai) Te Herenga Waka University Press

The hype was real; probably not a day has passed since I finished this book that I haven't thought about it. It's joyous and darkly funny, and sublimely written with queer relationships front and centre (how nice to not be relegated to a token aside). I had a magical moment reading a passage where a main character catches the number 7 bus to Brooklyn, while I was riding the number 7 bus to Brooklyn, and if that doesn't illustrate the magic that only local literature can deliver I don't know what ever will. It's astonishing to know that this is Rebecca's first book, how lucky to be living in a time where (I hope), it will be followed by many more.





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