Speaking and Being

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A SPECTATOR BOOK OF THE YEAR ‘I can’t stop talking about this book’ Jamie Klingler, co-founder #ReclaimTheseStreets ‘What a gem. … Makes you look at the world, and yourself, afresh.’ Minna Salami, author of Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone ‘A generous combination of passion and practicality that is not easily resisted. A rare book that might actually change our minds’ Daniel Hahn OBE ‘A book at once vigorous and generous, pleasurable and galvanising’ Sophie Hughes, International Booker Prize-shortlisted translator What does it really mean to speak freely? A wise, beautifully written book that explores the way language shapes our lives and how we see the world – and what happens when we learn new words, and new ways of speaking to each other. Language opens up our world, and in the same instant, limits it. What does it mean to exist in a language that was never meant for you to speak? Why are we missing certain words? How can we talk about our communal problems without fuelling them? What does it actually mean to speak freely? As a writer and activist fighting for equality, Kubra Gumusay has been thinking about these questions for many years. In this book she explores how language shapes our thinking and determines our politics. She shows how people become invisible as individuals when they are always seen as part of a group, and the way those in the minority often have to expend energy cleaning up the messy thinking of others. But she also points to how we might shape conversations to allow for greater ambiguity and individuality, how arguments might happen in a space of learning and vulnerability without sacrificing principles – how we might all be able to speak freely.