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Writers celebrate the power of words to show us the world as others see it, raising funds for refugee and anti-hate charities.

Across the world, intolerance of otherness is growing: in Donald Trump’s America, in Brexit Britain and in a Europe seared by nationalistic resentment. Prejudice and hatred thrive in minds unwilling to entertain other points of view.

The craft of writing arguably depends on representing the experience of others. Poets and novelists make an art of giving voice to the voiceless, and of putting consciousness in places where we didn’t expect to find it. On literature’s springboard, we can all know the exhilarating leap into another worldview.

Others celebrates how words can take us out of the selves we inhabit and show us the world as others see it. Fiction writers and poets will make us look out through other pairs of eyes; essayists will probe the mental blocks that can make it hard to see the realities beyond the media bubbles. The contributors to Others will do nothing they don’t already do – make the homely strange and the exotic familiar – but they’ll do it with an unflinching eye on today’s social inequalities and the thirst for political change.

What can you expect from the book? Sometimes the theme will be the brutal consequences of intolerance and hatred, as in one shattering story of a racist hate crime. Other pieces will explore the quieter forms of otherness that go with deafness, disability, and mental distress. Our failure to stand in other pairs of shoes is most catastrophic when it goes with imbalances of power. But great writing can also illuminate ordinary kinds of otherness, by taking us into points of view we might not otherwise have been able to enter: those moments when, thanks to the magic of words, people are less strange to each other, or we glimpse something of the strangeness of our own selves.

It’s common to hear that now, of all times, literature matters. We hear less about why it matters, how books and reading can relieve minds that have come to despair at the world. Others will be much more than a worthy call for empathy. The greatest literature challenges us to recognise our own otherness; not just to understand how people out there are different to us, but how we are alien to them.

Others may not change the world, although it will be shaped by passions that could. At the very least, it might serve as a pocket device for keeping track of our humanity through what could be some rough years. Proceeds from the book will be donated to the charities Refugee Action and Stop Hate UK.

Current contributors include:

Leila Aboulela, Gillian Allnutt, Damien Barr, Noam Chomsky, Rishi Dastidar, Peter Ho Davies, Louise Doughty, Colin Grant, Matt Haig, Aamer Hussein, Anjali Joseph, A L Kennedy, Tiffany Murray, Sara Nović, Edward Platt, Alex Preston, Tom Shakespeare, Kamila Shamsie and Will Storr.

Charles Fernyhough is a writer and psychologist. His non-fiction book about his daughter’s psychological development, The Baby in the Mirror (Granta, 2008), was translated into eight languages. His book on autobiographical memory, Pieces of Light (Profile, 2012) was shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. His latest non-fiction book is The Voices Within (Profile/Wellcome Collection). He is the author of two novels, The Auctioneer (Fourth Estate, 1999) and A Box Of Birds (Unbound, 2013). He has written for the Guardian, Observer, Financial Times, Literary Review, Sunday Telegraph, Lancet, Los Angeles Times, TIME, Nature and New Scientist, and has made numerous radio and TV appearances in the UK and US, including Start the Week, Woman’s Hour, All in the Mind and Horizon. He is a part-time professor of psychology at Durham University. Further details are available at www.charlesfernyhough.com.

Excerpt from ‘The Ostrich’ by Leila Aboulela

I had forgotten how small the flat was, how thin the walls were. Student accommodation. The cleanliness comes as a surprise, this clean land free of dust and insects. Everywhere carpet and everything compact like boxes inside boxes, the houses stuck together defensively. September and it is already winter, already cold. The window, how many hours did I spend looking out of this window? For two years I looked out at strangers, unable to make stories about them, unable to tell who was rich, who was poor, who mended pipes and who healed the ill. And sometimes (this was particularly disturbing) not even knowing who was a man and who was a woman. Strangers I must respect, strangers who were better than me. This is what Majdy says. Every one of them is better than us. See the man who is collecting the rubbish, he is not ravaged by malaria, anaemia, bilharzia, he can read the newspaper, write a letter, he has a television in his house and his children go to a school where they get taught from glossy books. And if they are clever, if they show a talent in music or science, they will be encouraged and they might be important people one day. I look at the man who collects the rubbish and I am ashamed that he picks bags with our filth in them. When I pass him on the road I avert my eyes.

Read more...

‘We need a space for others to share their stories, a chance to be seen and heard on our terms.’

Friday, 16 June 2017

Damian barr

Thanks for supporting Others. We’re here to celebrate how books and writing can free us to imagine other points of view: whether it’s a novelist giving voice to the voiceless, a poet bringing alive a moment of consciousness we might not otherwise have experienced, or an essayist examining the many ways in which people can be strange to each other.

We’re crowdfunded, so we need you and all your…

‘To some people, at some points, in some places, everyone is an other.’

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Rishi dastidar

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be showcasing some of the writers who are already lined up to contribute to Others. First up is an outstanding voice in British poetry, Rishi Dastidar. Rishi has been described (by none other than Daljit Nagra) as ‘one of the most ingenious, modern, thrilling, hilarious and tender poets writing today’. With cool wit, exhilarating invention and sheer verbal brilliance…

Thanks for supporting Others!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Croppedimage680680 peter ho davies small

You’ll know what this is all about by now: a fantastic group of writers celebrating how words can help us to see the world as others see it.

You’ll also know that proceeds from the book will be going to two very worthy causes. Stop Hate UK works to challenge all forms of hate crime and discrimination, and runs a 24-hour helpline for reporting it. Refugee Action supports people fleeing from…

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