Indian literature has a rich history of feminist writings. Women writers have presented thought-provoking works that have explored female sexuality, smashed patriarchy, and were often political critiques. Contemporary authors have continued to raise issues with fresh perspectives.
I picked the topic of Feminism & India for the first mini-series on Gender Talks as a part of Blogchatter’s Cause A Chatter campaign. I have shared non-fiction book recommendations to better understand feminism in India and must-read feminist translated literature. As the final part of the series, I share some feminist fiction book recommendations.
Mitro Marjani / To Hell With You Mitro by Krishna Sobti
When I think of Indian feminist fiction, Krishna Sobti’s books are the first ones that come to my mind. An author who wrote about women with agency at a time when it was unheard of. An author who questioned archaic social and cultural norms through her writings and ruffled a few feathers in the bargain.
Mitro Marjani by Krishna Sobti is the story of Sumitravanti, the daughter-in-law of the Gurudas household. A woman who is outspoken, frank, and one who is unapologetic about her sexual desires. It is a story that normalizes female sexuality and desires. When it was first published in 1966, it caused quite an uproar. And it is one that resonates even today.
I highly recommend you pick the Hindi version if you can. It is available on Kindle Unlimited and not to be missed.
When I Hit You: A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
Brutal. Raw. Powerful. It is difficult to label When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy as a fiction or a memoir/autobiography.
A well-educated writer married to a respected college professor. Outward appearances hide an abusive marriage. A husband’s resolve to turn his wife into an “ideal woman”. Using rape as a tool to not just discipline, but to disable. A woman fighting back, gaining back the ownership of her body and life.
It is a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock and toxic Indian masculinity. The story of quite a few Indian women. Although it might be a difficult read, I highly recommended the book.
That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande
Don’t question. Keep silent to maintain the peace. A silence that is damaging and stifling. Every Indian woman at some point in life has received this “well-meaning advice”.
That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande is a book that would resonate with every Indian woman. It is the story of Jaya, a married middle-aged woman whose family faces a rough patch seventeen years into her marriage. It is the trigger that makes her question her identity, muse over her failed dreams.
True to its name, it is Jaya’s attempt to end the long silence and her journey to self-discovery. Realizing the futility of remaining silent all these years. Winner of the 1990 Sahitya Akademi Award, it is also a stark look at the mechanizations of middle-class families.
Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya
Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live.
Based in a remote south Indian village in the 1950s, Nectar In A Sieve by Kamala Markandaya is the story of Rukmani. Moving between two timelines, it is about her battle for survival in the face of poverty, flood, and famine. A stark look at how the intense urban development post-independence affected the common farmer. The plight of women in rural India. Society’s disregard of women’s labour. Cultural norms and beliefs that haven’t really changed over the decades (the book was published in 1954).
But it is also about a woman who seeks equality with men. A woman who protests against the repressive practices. If you enjoyed reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, do pick up this book. It may be a bit grim but is well worth it.
I hope you enjoyed this mini-series. I would be back with another one next month sharing my book recommendations. Stay tuned!Feminism & India: Fiction Book Recommendations @blogchatter #CauseAChatter #GenderTalks #BookChatter #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet