Wednesday, November 28, 2007

India's Invisible Women

Ruhani Khan's disturbing slide show, India's Invisible Women, gives me no excuse for griping that our entire clan wept when I was born. Yes, I was a third daughter in a sonless family, and my mother carried shame for decades, but neither of us faced anything like this:
When Kalpa got pregnant for the seventh time, her husband threw her out of the house on the grounds of her being a girl-bearing wretch. She gave birth to her seventh daughter on the streets, who died soon after. Kalpa now shares quarters with mentally unstable women at a short-stay shelter. Her husband has remarried since then.
The novel I'm writing is set in India in the seventies. It's impossible for my protagonist to be the feisty, empowered heroine-archetype who is conventional in today's YA lit. Like the women in the slide show, Asha's goals are worth championing and her stakes are high -- two basic plotting prerequisites. The problem is that they're taken for granted by most book-loving North American young women, who usually don't worry about survival, dependency, or the struggle for education. And so I write on, trying to help my readers appreciate a totally different kind of feminine fight, and am grateful for other writers taking on this particular challenge.

3 comments:

Pooja said...

I thought AMH was set in the U.S.?

Anyhow, I think that RICKSHAW GIRL presents goals that are worth championing and features a protagonist that doesn't fit the "heroine-archetype who is conventional in today's YA lit." It was mightly successful, I might add.

Another successful novel about about "survival, dependency, or the struggle for education" is Kashmira Sheth's latest, KEEPING CORNER. I *highly* recommend it.

TadMack said...

WOW.
Parents who want sons isn't limited to South Asian families (my friend Stephanie's father threw the camera across the hall when she was born -- the third girl -- and my Dad just left the hospital), but definitely the point of view that you'd better hush or possibly get thrown out is different. I'm very interested in how your heroine figures out a way to BE, when she must act out empowerment in smaller ways. Good luck with that.


(P.S. -- Blogger swallowed my post on your blog yesterday, and I can't yank it all back from memory, but I was saying that you should keep looking with your cultural bifocals -- we need to keep bearing witness to what isn't right with the status quo, so we'll be there reminding others to look when the time is right to apply a bit of change...)

Mitali Perkins said...

Thanks for your encouragement, TadMack. Pooja, I can't WAIT to read Kashmira's new novel. Starred review in PW!