As I am set to quit blogging for sometime and do a little bit of reading, I came across this article of Shikha Gupta on youthkiawaz.com which makes a good list of female indian writers to consider. Happy reading!
In 2011, I made a New Year resolution. I resolved to only read books written by women for the whole year. I managed to read 85 books that year, all written by women. I read fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, poetry. I read across genres, across continents, acting on every good and nasty book recommendation that came my way.
To be clear, I didn’t have a lofty aim or moral end goal in mind when I decided to make this resolution. In fact, my idea was pretty simple. I was just thinking to myself, “As a woman who loves to write, I’d like to read and know more about the work of other women writers.” But, I ended up learning a lot that year, not only about previously unread writers, but about women’s place in India’s literary scene.
I realized that at times the literary world tends to get so heavily dominated by male voices that it is easy to neglect female voices that inhabit it. And while this felt true for the entire world over, the reality cut a little too close for comfort when I thought about female Indian authors.
This neglect still exists today and is worrying, not only because it distorts our sense of India’s critical literary landscape, but also because it deprives us of the rich range of work by women authors that exists out there, impoverishing our literary appetites. It has a real impact on women’s lives too – in the way women’s stories are silenced by a popular culture that prioritizes male narratives. This silencing obviously sends out a message, a message that says women’s stories aren’t as worthwhile. Male stories are the norm. Women’s stories are the other.
This list is an attempt to disrupt this status quo. Here’s an exhaustive list of Indian women writers, in no particular order of preference or genre who have contributed immensely to the country’s literary scene, and who deserve to be recognized for their vision, their fearlessness, their originality, and the barriers they broke in the literary world and beyond.
1. Meena Kandasamy
Ilavenil Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, activist and currently one of India’s boldest and most badass young voices. Most of her works are centered on feminism and the Caste Annihilation Movement of the contemporary Indian milieu. She holds a PhD in sociolinguistics and has published two anthology of poems, “Touch” and “Ms Militancy”, and a novel “The Gypsy Goddess”. Her most recent work -“When I Hit You Or A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife” is a dazzling and provocative novel of an abusive marriage.
2. Nayantara Sehgal
Sahgal is the niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, and a noted novelist and political columnist. Her close association with India’s power center reflects in her work, a lot of which deals with India’s elite and how they responded to political changes around them. Sahgal won the Sahitya Akademi award for “Rich Like Us”, set between 1932 to the mid 1970’s, a time of great political unrest in India.
3. Kamala Das
One of India’s finest confession poets, Kamala Das wrote beautiful prose in Malayalam and English. Her writing reflected her strong feminist ideology, portraying female sensibility with a rare honesty and sensitivity. Her poems, have for long served as an inspiration to women looking to break the shackles of sexual and domestic oppression, and therefore find relevance with women even today.
4. Anita Nair
Anita Nair is a prolific writer in English, who has written everything from crime fiction to short stories, poems, and even children’s stories. She is best known for her novels “The Ladies Coupe” and “The Better Man”. Through works like “Mistress: A Novel”, that highlighted the changing relationship between a woman and her husband, Nair also brought to life the experiences of the everyday Indian woman in fiction.
5. Jhumpa Lahiri
A Pulitzer prize winning novelist, Lahiri is one of the most widely recognized contemporary writers of world literature. An Indian- American by birth, her stories usually discuss sensitive dilemmas faced by Indians, particularly touching upon the diasporic reality of migrant Indians. Sometimes, also hidden in the plot are also stories of women confronting difficult choices in life. Her work in Italian called “In Other Words”, for example, gives a platform to a female voice that has been crushed by the burden of obligations to others.
6. Arundhati Roy
One of India’s most noted authors and human rights activist, Roy was awarded the Man Booker Prize for “The God Of Small Things”, her debut fiction novel. Since she won the Booker, Roy has published a wide range of non-fiction, covering topics from the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to a condemnation of India’s nuclear tests. “The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness” released in June 2017 marked her return to fiction after a 20-year-long hiatus.
7. Kiran Desai
Winner of the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award, Desai’s marries magic realism with socio-political realism beautifully in her work. What makes her work so fascinating is the way she presents the vast canvas of our contemporary society in the broad perspective of globalization, through themes like alienation, cultural clashes, displacement and exile. Her award-winning book “The Inheritance Of Loss” is a testament to this enduring quality of her work.
8. Manju Kapur
A novelist and professor, Kapur’s first novel “Difficult Daughters” won the 1999 Commonwealth Prize for First Novels (Eurasia Section). In 2011, her name was shortlisted for DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and many television sitcoms have been inspired by her writing. She currently teaches at Delhi University.
9. Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
A blogger and a writer, Madhavan writes under the pseudonym eM on her blog which is called the The Compulsive Confessor. Her first book was a semi-autobiographical piece of work titled “You Are Here”. She is the daughter of N S Madhavan, the famous Malayalam writer. Madhavan is also a regular columnist at Youth Ki Awaaz as Aunty Feminist.
10. Kamla Bhasin
Kamla Bhasin is a well known developmental feminist activist, poet, author and social scientist. Bhasin’s work spans 35 years and focuses on issues like gender, education, human development and the media.She is best known for her work on the NGO Sangat, a South Asian network of feminists, and for her poem Kyunki main ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hai.
Continue on Youth ki Awaaz…