Beyond the Bell Jar: ✿ Join the Doll Hospital Book Club ✿

Hello!

As our first issue begins to fall together, our heart fills up, burst balloon style, for all the love and support we’ve been given from you lovely people! ♥ ♥ 

As it’s September now, we’re feeling a back to school, earnest education vibes, sort of post. What do you think? Going back to classes can be an overwhelming time, teachers and classmates can be cruel, deadlines can swallow you. (This piece by Arabelle on common college nightmares is a wonderful resource if you ever need it.) So we wanted to create something that draws a bridge between the hopeful autumnal outlook of Rory Gilmore, hardback book and backpack in hand, and a soothing safe space, just for you. 

Which is where our little book club comes in! Who says we cannot heal our hearts and broaden our minds at the same time? And when did reading books, watching movies, all that fun stuff become so stressful? An endless cultural checklist of boring white dudes that you feel morally obligated to go though! Ick! An especially powerful guilt trip for those of us who aren’t neurotypical, who are dealing with ADHD or have learning difficulties. Like we feel bad enough already, we don’t need you to shame us for not reading an 1,000 page long historical drama in our spare time y’kno?!

As a result, we have prioritised books that are accessible and not like ridiculously long! Doll Hospital is a lot of things, but it certainly isn’t homework!

So without further ado, here is a selection of our fave books right now, if they are not already stocked in your local library why not have a chat to your librarian and see if they can order you in a copy? Or ask our very own Eline who has a secret superpower for finding books online. And hey, if you have a bit of spare cash, why not buy two copies? One for you, and one for a friend and start a little reading group of your own? That would be awesome! But yay! Let’s get to it! ^___^

  

The Red Tree, Shaun Tan

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[Image description: an illustration of a young girl in bed, leaves blow around her bedroom, as she stares emptily into the distance.]

Okay, so Shaun Tan is everything. He’s previously created a graphic novel epic on migrant identity and a brutal take down of colonisation told through the metaphor of bunny rabbits. Obviously he has a picture book on mental health. And obviously it is amazing. In bold pencil lines and paintbrush streaks, Tan explores the struggles of chronic depression, disassociation and overwhelming hopelessness. It is cathartic and comforting and real. Whilst this book may have been created for a younger audience, we’re not about bordering who should read what when, as that has gross ableist implications. If it brings you comfort it is meant for you. Simple as that. 

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

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[Image description: a young black girl holds a white, blonde hair doll, a single tear falls down the girl’s face]

We’ve previously talked about our interest in deconstructing archetypes of white girlhood, and when it comes to learning about how damaging, how alienating, this construct is we couldn’t think of a better place to start than The Bluest Eye. At around 150 pages long it is perfectly contained, the sort of book you could read in one sitting.

Drawing invisible threads between the ugly consequences of white beauty, the stolen innocence of black girls, and the alienating constructs of white vulnerability, of white suffering, constructs that are built to keep black bodies, black stories, out, it is actually one of the # 1 inspirations behind Doll Hospital. We think this extract on dolls, on Shirley Temple, is a perfect introduction:

“I hated Shirley. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Bojangles, who was my friend, my uncle, my Daddy, and who ought to have been soft-shoeing it and chuckling with me, instead he was enjoying, sharing, giving a lovely dance thing with one of those little white girls whose socks never slid down under their heels.

Younger than both Frieda and Pecola, I had not yet arrived at the turning point in the development of my psyche which would allow me to love her. What I felt at that time was unsullied hatred. But before that I had felt a stranger, more frightening thing than hatred for all the Shirley Temples of the world.

It had begun with Christmas and the gift of dolls. The big, the special, the loving gift was always a big, blue-eyed Baby Doll. ….Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs-all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. “Here,” they said, “this is beautiful, and if you are on this day ‘worthy’ you may have it.” I fingered the face, wondering at the single-stroke eyebrows; picked at the pearly teeth stuck like two piano keys between red bowline lips. Traced the turned-up nose, poked the glassy blue eyeballs, twisted the yellow hair. I could not love it. But I could examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable.”

The Last of The Really Great Whangdoodles, Julie Edwards

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[Image description: three children and an older man run down a path surrounded by vividly coloured trees and plants, they are smiling]

Let me tell you something very important: Maria “Victor” Poppins-Renaldi (aka Dame Julie Andrews) knows the inside of our brain. Yeah! Did you know that yr fave angel-voiced nanny also wrote children’s books (multiple!) and also that they’re really good?! The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is, basically, a whimsical fairytale epic all about the ultimate sovereignty of the imagination, starring three intrepid siblings, a whole host of silly mythical creatures, and (to our recollection) one totally non-creepy eccentric old man/mentor. It’s about the flexibility and freedom of the minds of children. It’s about the magic of noticing, of bearing witness to the small tendernesses of life and letting them transport you. Whangdoodleland is a wonderful place to adventure in when you and the “real world” need to forget each other for a little while, imbued with gentle wonder (its ruler’s motto is Pax amor et lepos in iocando, or, “Peace, love, and a sense of fun”), and you need only your imagination and your scrappy caps to get there. 

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Hayao Miyazaki

[Image description: Nausicaä with her pet, Teto, on her shoulder fastening her helmet while her text bubble says: “If I stop moving, I’ll drown in grief. I have to keep moving forward…”]

When dealing with a bout of depression, lots of stress, or just generally feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard focussing on big blocks of text. That’s kind of a shitty thing, considering reading is a #1 method of calming down. So, reading lots of mangas, comix, graphic novels, comics, or whatever you want to name your genre of illustrated stories, is a great choice. Not only because there’s a lot less text but the visual narrative helps with following the story too. One of our absolute favourites this past year was Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, by Hayao Miyazaki! It’s also an amazing anime, a Doll Hospital favourite, but we think we might love the manga even more.

We love it so much because it’s an awesome sci-fi story about a girl that has a beautiful bond with nature and animals, a bond built up by mutual trust, interest and lots of time investment. Nausicaä has a connection with the insects (giant insects!) and nature of her world that is really soothing. There is something very calming in connecting to nature; taking care of plants, watching bugs crawl around, it’s slow and without weird and unexpected roundabouts that slap you in your face when you least expect it, like life can do sometimes. Miyazaki transferred this feeling perfectly in Nausicaä’s story, supported by its beautiful drawn world, filled with weird looking plants that border on looking poisonous and parasitic but truly wonderful and fantastic, gigantic insects with thousands of eyes; a world that draws you in its own fantasy.

In the beginning you can read it as a pessimistic story about humans not caring for nature, but by the end it’s a positive tale about saving humanity via a love and understanding of nature, the latter is the bit that we loved so much and that gave us new air to breathe when in a depressive slump. The above image sums up this entire vibe perfectly.

Short and Sweet, Dan Lepard

[Image description: two inside pages of the book ‘Short and Sweet’, the pages are decorated in pink and yellow polkadots and the text read ‘Doughnuts, batters & babas’]

Baking can be a great part of your self-care routine; there’s a quiet luxury in setting aside the best part of a day to spend time in your own company (especially if you’re a bit of an introvert) and it works out to be quite cheap if you have a few bits in the cupboard.

Although it’s magical when you finally pull that tray of biscuits out of the oven, the rest of the ritual can be just as comforting, the simple act of putting on a tatty old apron and pulling down a favorite cookery book. For us it’s Short & Sweet, a collection of Dan Lepard’s recipes. His writing is down to earth and homely, from the story of the first cake he ever dreamed about to the serving suggestion for his honey loaf (“[eat] hungrily: thickly sliced and toasted in the morning”). He clearly loves baking and gets why we do too, so a lot of the recipes are speedy and/or very satisfying to make. It’s a pleasure to leaf through too; you don’t even have to make anything, you can just enjoy the book.

If you are in the baking mood we recommend the cherry and oatmeal cookies, which take almost no time to make, or the lemon poppy seed cake.

FRUiTS, Shoichi Aoki

[Image description: photograph of the books FRUiTS and Fresh FRUiTS laid on a table, each of the cover images show street fashion photos of teenagers dressed in colourful, multi-patterned clothes.]

Image by Audio Helkuik

FRUiTS (2001) and Fresh FRUiTS (2005) collect images from the legendary Japanese street style magazine’s first 8 years. We’ve owned these books forever and never tire from flipping through and noticing new things. Based primarily in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, FRUiTS captures the creative and rebellious style of the city’s teenagers, and the ingenious ways they work with their clothes. Goths, lolitas, punks, brightly-coloured Hello Kitty fans, and everyone else in-between and beyond pop up to pose for the camera.

Each revisit provides new things to notice about people’s outfits (these books are seriously great if you’re a fan of accessorising). What is so soothing about FRUiTS goes beyond style inspiration though, as the richness of each image becomes more apparent each time you look at them. If you look beyond the subject of the photo you can lose yourself getting a glimpse into shops and buildings, or looking at the people in the background of each shot, imagining their lives in one of the world’s most dynamic cities.

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Okies, so these are the books we are into but what about you? What passages do you find yourself returning to, quotes you can’t help but reblog, books you reread each year? Whether its specifically on mental health (we’re always looking for new mental health books to read!) or just something cute or silly (you know how much we love cute things!) we’d love to hear from you 

                                              

hello! i wanted to send a quick message - firstly, i am very excited about this project and am looking forward to supporting it in any way i can! i think it’s a very important thing to do and i am so pleased that you have had submissions and interest and i am honestly really excited to see what happens. however i felt inclined to write to you, as a white female with mental health issues, that your description felt a little excluding of people like myself. i am not saying that i am ‘loved not despite of, but because of, [my] ‘illness” - and i completely understand the point you are making with this - but as someone who has experienced a relatively standard ‘white girlhood’ upbringing i felt slightly insecure about my involvement with the project. i know this is not how you wish to portray yourself, and i completely agree that media and popular culture often glamorise illnesses - which needs to change. however, i feel that coming to this site in the midst of a depressive period and seeing that my white girlhood illness is excluding others isn’t exactly the most positive thing to see! i hope i am not coming across angry or anything because, like i said, i think this is going to be brilliant! 

Hi!

Firstly thank you for your kind words of support!

In regards to your concerns, as we say in the description we are not speaking of white women themselves, or suggesting that white people should not submit, of course not. 

We are not speaking of individuals we are speaking of archetypes, that live in literature, art and popular culture, and these archetypes are damaging to both white women and to women of colour. It is this romanticised archetype that has stopped white women such as Zelda Fitzgerald thriving in their creative practice. Kate Zambreno’s study of mental health and modernism ‘Heroines’ is an excellent study of how these romanticised portraits of white girlhood exclude actual white women.

But in terms of white girlhood in general, yes it does exclude people! That is the point of the construct of whiteness: to keep people out, to police innocence (quite literally in some cases). This is not a personal attack on any individual white woman or girl, it is a simple fact. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is an excellent study of this if you are interested. 

Doll Hospital does decentre whiteness, girls of colour, particularly black girls are always going to take priority with us as they are the most neglected in mainstream media. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate and cherish the work of great artists who are white also. 

If you still don’t feel comfortable about this project that’s okay! But I hope you understand our motives a little better now!

Thanks so much for your sharing your thoughts and I hope everything is good with you!

August 31 2014, 07:31 AM   •   1 note
I just wanted to say this tumblr is so amazing, and your explanation of the name resonates with me so deeply. Anyway, all I'm really trying to say is thank you <3
Anonymous Asked

Um oh my gosh, thank you for this beautiful message?? 

But don’t thank us, it’s not about us, it was never about us, it’s about you bb!

And I am so honoured that it resonates with you, and I’m so excited for you to see what we were are working on in the journal right now, I hope you’ll love it as much as we do!

Wishing you all the love and good vibes wrapped up in imaginary parcel paper and sent from me to you <3

xox

favourite illustrator/artist?

Hiya! Reaching out to you again, this time we’d like to know who your favourite illustrator or visual artist is, that could fit into our project and/or cute aesthetics! Let us know via our submit or ask functon, or simply answer here!

August 20 2014, 06:56 AM   •   5 notes

Little Self Care Acts

Lauren sent us this list of ‘little self care acts’ and was kind enough to let us share it with you lovely people, enjoy! :)

-Whenever Anxiety is really high, the smallest things like washing myself seems like enormous tasks. I can end up not taking a bath/brushing my teeth/combing my hair for up to a week, how gross that may sound. To make sure I take care of my hygienic needs, I try to attach something fun or relaxing to bathing time. My favourites are Dreamtime Bath Melt by Lush, an amazing melt that not only helps me sleep in, it also covers my body in this amazing butter and I just feel so soft and cuddly when I come out of bath afterwards. Also amazing (and also Lush) is the Comforter Bubble Bar. You break off a little piece, throw it in a stocking and let it hang under the faucet while the water is running. The result is a ton of pink bubbles that smell likes blackberries, and from one bubble bar I get out 8 uses. A facial mask also does the trick for me, and simple drugstores sell masks from 1 euro.

- lordemusic is the best music for me. The minimalistic trip-hop/ambient fills the room with this certain mood, and her voice takes me even deeper within. Especially her song “Ribs” from the album Pure Heroine is amazing.


Also amazing is the soundtrack from Moonrise Kingdom by Alexandre Desplat. Moonrise Kingdom is my favourite movie, Alexandre Desplat my favourite composer so the combination is amazing.

-The ocean is so calming to me, I started a Tumblr with images full of ocean/beach related pictures. Whenever I get stressed, I go to my blog and calm down. http://ocean-aesthetics.tumblr.com is the link if anyone is interested!

August 17 2014, 12:36 PM   •   3 notes
Whenever I feel ugly or stressed or worthless I take a long shower and deep condition my hair, exfoliate, use a face mask, paint my nails, etc. Going out of my way to take care of myself like that reminds me I'm worth being cared for! Also I watch old musicals and sing along!
Anonymous Asked

Omg yes!! :’) And yay for old musicals! Which ones are your faves? xox

August 17 2014, 12:21 PM   •   1 note
for me self care involves making jewelry for myself, dyeing my hair, drawing things on my body, wearing clothes that make me happy, masturbating a few times a week, making my room a cosy place, eating lots of fruit, listening to records, painting my nails, taking a bath with lavender and flowers, watching cartoons, cuddling my pets. These things all make me feel happy or good about myself, i try to set aside time for these things as often as possible because they make life a lot easier for me
Anonymous Asked

Ah this is such a good list, thank you for sharing! <3

August 16 2014, 12:32 PM   •   15 notes

let’s self care

Hello!

We are so over joyed all of you have taken an interest in our project! As we edit and sift through every wonderful submission we’d also like to hear from you and interact! Give us any and all criticisms, ideas and, of course, do not ever be afraid to submit! We’ve gotten a few wonderful submissions from people who were insecure their message or writing wasn’t what we were looking for but ended up being perfect, so don’t be shy! And we are always willing to edit you and help you in your writing!

Now, this week has been overwhelming, filled with death and trauma. So we’d like to reach out to you and ask you about your favourite self care (and get back to you with a compilation of what we’ve been given):

  • self care lists
  • self care books
  • self care acts
  • self care playlists
  • self care anything

Personally, I just finished reading ‘Methods of Self Care’ by Babe Vibes and found it a good read, especially the first essay ‘Take Care (of Yourself), by Kara. (I’m less into the riot grrrl inspired models of self care, as this simply isn’t a viable option for all of us and that rhetoric is alienating.) It’s a good reminder of what self care, really is; getting to know who you are and taking care of what you specifically need. And it’s not about buying shit to make you feel good for one split second.

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Highlighted text from the mentioned ‘Methods of Self Care’ that reads: “Self care, and the methods that facilitate it, are unique to every person. Self care is a practice, just like art-making or athleticism, it has to be excercised and it has to be customized.”

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Text from the mentioned ‘Methods of Self Care’ that reads: “It means looking at the things that break you down and counteract them with things that build you up. [start of highlight] It means looking at the truest essence of yourself and seeing what they need.

- First quote from Kara on page 4, second quote from Jodie, page 6.

Furthermore, in light of recent events I’d like to remind you that it is not necessary to keep up with news 24/7. You can block certain keywords surfing the web via Google Chrome’s Block Site app, you can use Tumblr Savior for Chrome or Firefox (let us know of some more tools that help you!), and check the news when you feel safe enough to follow it. It’s good that the news of such horrendous events is spreading and making people aware, but to continually follow it can drain you, especially if you are dealing with mental health issues. It is okay if you cannot keep up with it. We are limited beings.

I’d like to offer you a news source you can check on when you feel up for it, but I cannot so if anyone can point me to one, especially one that has no triggering imagery, I will put it up. For now, I found this round-up of the Ferguson events & Micheal Brown’s tragic death informative. This list of articles also seems good and safe enough. And this step by step account is clear, to the point and might be updated, too. And “I feel so useless sitting here. What can I do to help Ferguson??" In light of tumblr user layouts, I’d like to recommend another Google Chrome app that can be helpful: Clearly, especially if you’re dealing with ADHD, aren’t neurotypical, or just plain can’t deal with anything other than simple layouts!

Remember to take care of yourself.

Introducing Doll Hospital

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illustration by eline

We are getting serious and antsy for more. We are tired of being spoken of, spoken for. We are dolls, dehumanised, objectified, fragmented, and our publication will be a caring hospital. Let us explain.

Doll Hospital is a free art and literature journal. It will be available both in print and online in different forms and content. Our aim is to create an accessible platform for artists and writers to share their lived experiences of mental health. We publish short stories, poetry, cultural musings, comic art and everything in between. We prioritize work that takes an intersectional focus. Doll Hospital looks to move beyond the two archetypes of ‘mental illness’: the tortured white man genius, and the delicate, white girl, loved not despite of, but because of, her ‘illness’. We need to do better.

We are particularly interested in work that emphasises the multiplicity of experiences, prioritising marginalised stories that may otherwise go ignored by so called ‘mainstream’ media.

To speak of your struggles is not a privilege; in our publication it is a right. We want to challenge the idea that in order to speak authoritatively on ‘mental illness’ you need to be a college educated white dude. If you’re dealing with mental health problems and have a story to tell, we don’t care about your clips, we’d be honoured to have you.

All mediums are welcome, though we’re particularly into poetry, fiction, personal essays, pop culture essays, illustration and comics. Oh, and nurse chansey fan art. For more info check out our submission page.  

We also welcome all criticisms, ideas and more, because, to be truly intersectional and inclusive we need as many voices as possible. Message us via tumblr or shoot us a mail at dollhospitaljournal@gmail.com.

This is a small publication (like one girl with a laptop answering emails in her lunch break for no pay small) but we aim to pay each and every contributor for their hard work, and are currently applying to funding and seeking donations in order to make this a reality.

Follow us on tumblr so we can interact together, improve ourselves and keep us company on our journey towards making this publication a reality and a true success.

August 06 2014, 02:25 PM   •   176 notes