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Women Writing in India


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v. 1. 600 B.C. to the early twentieth century.


Thorough and challenging, this collection of fiction, poetry, drama and autobiography examines both continuities and departures in the writing of India's expanding class of women of letters during the period 1905 to present. The editors also provide extensive background on this century's literary movements and political and social upheavals and developments and their impact on the evolution of the emerging Indian feminist literary voice. Hajira Shakoor's tale charts the recent changes in families that have resulted from the spread of ideas through the mass media, particularly movies. Women's yearning for growth as a part of and counterpart to India's flowering as an independent nation-state is demonstrated in a chapter from a novel by Kundanika Kapadia in which a young wife dreams of transcending the traditional barriers of distrust that divide her from her husband's aunt, who lives with the young couple. However, the plight of Indian women is succinctly stated by a character in a short story by Veena Shanteshwar: ``Our country has been free . . . yet we find ourselves bound in slavery. The causes: 25% tradition, another 25% circumstances, and the remaining 50% men.'' (Apr.)

This remarkable second volume includes over 140 representative autobiographies, dramas, poems, and short stories from 73 writers born after 1905, along with well-researched criticism, biographies, bibliographies, and helpful glosses. (The exceptionally perceptive editors were assisted by 12 regional editors.) After overcoming unusual text-location difficulties, editors Tharu and Lalita also surmounted stereotypical cultural/political/conceptual attitudes and judgments. Like Volume 1 ( LJ 5/15/91), Volume 2 is a treasure-trove, a triumphant achievement that is long overdue and vitally needed to give women writers their rightful place in India's rich literary history.-- Glenn O. Carey, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond

"A book that is revolutionary and presents a view of Indian life and history never coherently put together before and which it will be impossible ever again to ignore. It will be considered a landmark." --New York Review of Books

"Susie Tharu and K. Lalita have given the English-speaking world a special gift by compiling this marvelously rich, intelligent collection. . . . Tharu and Lalita offer brilliant interpretations of how Western historians have read the history of India either as an allegory of 'Western man's soul' or translated into 'something that was accessible, familiar, and above all structured for intervention and control.' Tharu and Lalita also show how women's literature around the world has until now been largely understood through the narrow Euro-American lens." --New Directions of Women

"This splendid anthology makes visible for the first time the contours of a veritable subcontinent of women writing. The selections are wise and revealing; the introduction, meticulous and seminal. It should establish once and for all that in the study of Indian cultural history the importance of gender, far from being marginal, is profoundly structural." --C.M. Naim, founding editor of Journal of South Asian Literature

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