Small Bodies of Water
Nina Mingya Powles
‘A remarkable book’ Robert Macfarlane
‘A distinctive new voice: attentive and tender’ Amy Liptrot
‘Elegant, understated, urgent and nourishing’ Jessica J. Lee
Home is many people and places and languages, some separated by oceans.
Nina Mingya Powles first learned to swim in Borneo – where her mother was born and her grandfather studied freshwater fish. There, the local swimming pool became her first body of water. Through her life there have been others that have meant different things, but have still been, in their own way, home: from the wild coastline of New Zealand to a pond in northwest London.
This lyrical collection of interconnected essays explores the bodies of water that separate and connect us, as well as everything from migration, food, family, earthquakes and the ancient lunisolar calendar to butterflies. In powerful prose, Small Bodies of Water weaves together personal memories, dreams and nature writing. It reflects on a girlhood spent growing up between two cultures, and explores what it means to belong.
A remarkable book . . . Its language trembles on the brink of poetry; these sentences have surety to their rhythms, subtlety to their weightings. Beautifully, dreamily, intricately, it explores movement, migration and memory. Identity, here, is experienced as liquid, as fluent. Small Bodies of Water was the winner of the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize, and it's my belief that Shepherd would have loved this book - and would have wanted to walk and swim with Nina, talking of all that her book brings to the surface -- ROBERT MACFARLANE Nina Mingya Powles is a distinctive new voice: attentive and tender. Her experience of belonging to many places is one that so many of us can relate to. This book is a beautiful personal journey through plants and sea creatures, food and language . . . A gorgeous read -- AMY LIPTROT Elegant, understated, urgent and nourishing, this is a book that gives shape to the many intimate waters that connect us, to languages loved, lost and longed for, to the lands that honour us by giving us a home. With poetic precision, Nina Mingya Powles shows us what nature writing can be, braiding place, food, family, migration and all their legacies. This is non-fiction at its most dynamic, its most transporting. I will keep this book close by and return to it often -- JESSICA J. LEE So cool and crystalline, but with deep currents of association shifting like tides beneath -- MELISSA HARRISON Small Bodies of Water gave me such a longing for travel. It is so full of texture and taste and different kinds of light . . . Nina Mingya Powles takes very small moments and details and skilfully imbues them with poignancy and meaning. It feels like a renewed form of nature writing, in which nature is not necessarily to the fore but nonetheless ever-present; in which nature is a medium for remembering and discovering -- SARA BAUME A tender and tactile meditation on the elements that hold us together and keep us apart, Small Bodies of Water is a luminous, flowing book. Nina Mingya Powles's mind shimmers -- SEAN HEWITT Evocative, poetic and frankly yummy, Small Bodies of Water is a genre-busting collection of essays by a woman who inhabits more than a single culture and who imaginatively and skilfully delves into this in-between space. Full of contrasting colours, textures and flavours, and carried by currents that ebb and flow, the book turns every nature-writing trope on its head. I loved it. Nina Mingya Powles is an enormously gifted writer -- JINI REDDY From public baths to forest pools, Hampstead ponds to tropical beaches, Powles revisits the waters that have shaped her. Small Bodies of Water invites the reader into a conversation of eloquent intimacy about a life spent thinking of longing and belonging, poetry and language, swimming and family. I read it in one sitting, in thrall of Powles's skilful, distilled prose, and the fearless way in which she examines her experience of homecoming, of racist injustice, the realities of migration, as well as the many paradoxical legacies of colonialism -- GAVIN FRANCIS A hauntingly beautiful work - as deep and varied as the bodies of water it explores - and just as affecting. Powles writes of the body, the self and the natural world in ways I've not experienced before; full of raw and glistening truth. This book is exquisite and perfectly formed and reflective and it leaves ripples on your insides like the sea. The writing is off the scale -- KERRI NI DOCHARTAIGH A book of beautiful and quiet intensity -- HELEN JUKES
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