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Small Bodies of Water

Powles, Nina Mingya

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Home is many people and places and languages, some separated by oceans.

Where is the place your body is anchored? Which body of water is yours? Is it that I’ve anchored myself in too many places at once, or nowhere at all? The answer lies somewhere between.

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 collection of 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 lyrical, 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.

Format: Hardback
Pages: 272
Imprint: Canongate UK
Publication date: 05/08/2021

Staff review

Small Bodies of Water
by Nina Mingya Powles
Review by Harriet

This book is so relaxing to read – despite the unsettlement that lurks beneath the pieces. It’s a collection of prose essays but the spacing and structure (the author’s previous collections are poetry) seemed designed to slow the reader into appreciating the rich, evocative language. The vivid descriptions of New Zealand’s coastal landscape and the Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond; the passages on Miyazaki films and the explanations of Chinese Hanzi as Powles learns Mandarin – it’s both sharply observed and dreamily moving.