I am a writer and editor working across the non-fiction landscape, taking in journalism, essay-writing, family history and memoir. In recent years my work has been fuelled by a desire to explore midlife and its particular – sometimes unsettling, sometimes transformative – energies. Two books into this project I find I’m sorely tempted to aim for a trilogy…We’ll see. I’ve just edited a collection of lockdown writings, Garden Among Fires, published by the wonderful Dodo Ink Press, which brings together 40+ writers to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. All proceeds from sales of the e-book will go to Refuge, a UK charity working with women and children who’ve suffered domestic violence.
I’ve written five books. Living at the End of the World (1998) explored our obsession with endings, putting historical and modernday end-time cults under the searchlight. Rocket Dreams (2003) is an offbeat elegy to the Space Age and an ideas-led tour of growing up in the 1970s. Last Days in Babylon (2007) is a family memoir in which I novelised the life and times of my Baghdad-born grandmother. And The Middlepause (2016) is an open and open-hearted personal account of the years leading up to my turning 50; it’s where I mine the depths my myriad losses – of youth, reproductive life, energy, libido, our figures, our parents, any sense of a protracted future – before emerging into light and a new definition of the self.
My latest memoir Insomnia (2018) is an unsettling account of an everyday and yet deeply troubling state of lack and longing. A journey into darkness, it dares to peer into the abyss – the dark night of the soul! Yet it also trips lightly through the lucid experiences of being sleepless, from its edgy highs to the lightning glimpses insomnia gives us into the complexities of longtime love and the sources of creativity.
In another life, or so it often seems, I edited two books of women’s history, Science & Sensibility (1991) and A Question of Identity (1993), and contributed essays to The Medical Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century (1990), Cultural Babbage (1996) and Zero Gravity (2005) – all of them books taking an oblique, left-field view of key moments in scientific history.
A former arts editor of the New Statesman and deputy arts editor of the Evening Standard, I’ve written and reviewed extensively for many newspapers. I’m now working as a Senior Editor at Aeon magazine. I’m also a Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and a regular creative writing tutor at Arvon. Along with screenwriter Tina Pepler and novelist Anna Barker, I run True North – an enterprise that works with academic writers to find the narrative and voice in their work.