Pramila Venkateswaran and Meena Chopra

Pramila Venkateswaran is ‘one of our finest diaspora poets’, declares Keki Daruwala. This collection enhances that point. The poet laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island from 2013 to 2015, Venkateswaran has already six collections of poems to her credit. The Singer of Alleppey creates a viewpoint on feminism for the readers. It avoids all pitfalls of direct winging and rhetoric in the true discipline of art.

Reviewed by: Yogesh Patel
Sadia Abbas

Sadia Abbas’s debut novel, The Empty Room, is a diligently crafted piece of work that details the intricacies of the life of a married woman in Pakistan. The character-driven story unfolds in Karachi between the years 1969 and 1979, a period of immense political tension in the country, and in the author’s own words, ‘one of the most turbulent times that the country witnessed.’ Four regimes came into power during this tumultuous time and the country was steeped in civil war.

Reviewed by: Aysha Iqbal Viswamohan Gopika Gurudas
Reham Khan

Even before its release, a leaked manuscript of Reham Khan’s book attracted legal notices in June from four persons featured in her narrative, and threats to sue her for defamation from Jemima Goldsmith, Imran Khan’s first wife. The book cover has the words ‘Reham Khan’ printed in large letters below a photograph of a striking woman, lightly made-up, her brown hair half-covered with a dupatta.

Reviewed by: Meena Menon
Freny Manecksha

It was in 1990 when Cynthia Enloe coined the one-word phrase ‘womenandchildren’ to bring forth how women always figured in war narratives as those needing protection, portrayed merely as victims. That women were equal participants in the society, equally navigating through the complex terrains of war and conflict, was something that male-centric discourses conveniently ignored. In case of the Kashmir conflict as well, the portrayal of women has largely been confined to that of victims.

Reviewed by: Samreen Mushtaq
Edited by Jayawati Shrivastava

In recent years, there is growing emphasis in feminist writing on looking at the relation between patriarchal control and women’s relationship with space. How women experience and negotiate physical spaces in everyday life has been shown to have a critical link with gender relations. Public spaces in India, specifically after incidents like the ‘Delhi Gang Rape’ of 2012, have been seen as inevitable sites of violence against women…

Reviewed by: Sonal Sharma
Anshu Malhotra and Siobhan Lambert-Hurley

It is a universally acknowledged fact that there is a discernible overt or covert ‘difference’ between the writing of men and that of women. Initially, after women became literate and thereafter educated, they began writing about their own lives as lived histories, recording the micro-politics of daily living in their memoirs, diaries and letters. That women would opt for life-writing or autobiographies as the preferred literary genre to any other was inevitable according to Virginia Woolf, as women’s lives were ones of confinement within the domestic.

Reviewed by: Sanjukta Dasgupta
Ruth Vanita

Here is a book that uses dance, very specifically the dance of the courtesan as presented by Hindi cinema to theorize and discuss a range of very important issues in contemporary India. It is an outstanding example of interdisciplinary scholarship. The book cuts across cinema studies, dance in Hindi films, Urdu and Hindi literature, gender and sexuality studies, politics, history and sociology to name just a few of the disciplinary locations that this book could easily occupy.

Reviewed by: Krishna Menon
Manjima Bhattacharjya

This is a stylish book, taking a leaf from the world it explores, the world of high fashion. The writer carried out research during 2003-07, specifically interviews with thirty models, fieldwork at the annual Lakme Fashion Week(s), and tracking the growth of the Indian glamour industry. She wrote her PhD, but for the book eschews sociological jargon in favour of a lucid, quasi-light tone.

Reviewed by: Deepti Priya Mehrotra
Brinda Bose

Female sexual desire and pleasure have been uncomfortable territories for writers, artists, activists and scholars. Instead, the tendency has been to focus on violence when it comes to sexuality, in urgent response to high levels of sexual violence against women in India. Although this frame of violence has been central to the women’s movement in India and has driven significant social change, it has overwhelmed any conversation on pleasurable sexuality.

Reviewed by: Manjima Bhattacharjya
Zaid Al Baset

Raj Rao’s book is a collection of essays that straddle the personal and the political as they narrate the evolving LGBT movement in India. The book is rewarding once the reader acknowledges its genre-bending ambitions. The introduction by Thomas Waugh, who claims intimate acquaintance with the author for a ‘quarter of a century’, sets the mood for the rest of the text. Waugh establishes Raj Rao as a pioneering novelist, theoretician and activist.

Reviewed by: Zaid Al Baset
Tutun Mukherjee and Niladri R. Chatterjee

At a time when interest around gender identity has accelerated due to the passage of the problematic ‘The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016’ in the Lok Sabha, the present collection of essays comes as a timely intervention. The book under review brings together twenty-one essays that attempt to bring together illustrations and biographical accounts of androgynous practices and female impersonation from several parts of India.

Reviewed by: Poonam Kakoti Borah
Aidan A Cronin

The book is an outcome of a national conference on Women-led Water Management organized by the SM Sehgal Foundation along with UNICEF India in 2012. Inequalities based on gender are present everywhere and at every level and in all aspects of social life. Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a human right that is key to improving gender equality.

Reviewed by: Seema Kulkarni
Dipa Sinha

A few months ago, in an unannounced visit to a government community health centre in rural Tamil Nadu, I found four doctors, several nurses and technicians, and a functional pharmacy attending to more than fifty patients, a majority of whom were women. As someone who works primarily in rural Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, I usually encounter closed government health centres, absent doctors, uncooperative staff, or struggling patients.

Maitrayee Chaudhuri

In October 2018, a couple of weeks after #MeToo Movement hit Indian social media and made its way into mainstream print and broadcast media, a young journalist called this reviewer to ask, ‘How did things come to such a pass in Indian media, where sexual harassment charges against senior editors were an open secret, and where silence meant complicity? Was the Indian media always so compromised?’

Reviewed by: Geeta Seshu
Mary Beard

Of all the visuals contained in Mary Beard’s monograph Women & Power: A Manifesto, it is Medusa’s disembodied head that remains in the mind long after you have finished reading. The figure from Greek mythology frequently represented as grotesque and monstrous is the figure of a woman subjected to hatred by male gods, and stripped of her power in unimaginably violent ways.

Reviewed by: Sucharita Sengupta
Debasree De

In this remarkable book, Debasree De breaks the stereotypes that the Adivasi women have gender equality and are largely free from Brahmanical patriarchy in their society. This study has explicitly brought out how the Adivasi women are being subjected to a double burden inside and outside their society. That the Adivasi women are bold and actively participate in agricultural and other means of livelihood, however, does not save them from patriarchal domination.

Reviewed by: Dipanjali Barman
Kavita Panjabi

Animating the past and reflecting on its political resonance in the present has been a central preoccupation of feminist scholarship in South Asia. Kavita Panjabi’s Unclaimed Harvest makes a significant contribution to this corpus of work. This book is a nuanced and thought-provoking account of the Tebhaga Movement that was launched in undivided Bengal in 1946 by landless peasants and entered a phase of armed struggle from 1948-1951 after Partition.

Reviewed by: Navaneetha Mokkil
Debarati Sen

The scholarship on postcolonial feminism is a growing field of knowledge production and South Asian feminist works have emerged as an important part of this scholarship in the last couple of decades. The rich and diverse social and cultural anthropological studies have contributed to this field by successfully interrogating and often re-defining the relationship amongst feminist politics, ethnographic writing and the ethicality of representation.

Reviewed by: Mallarika Sinha Roy
Ania Loomba

What desires do revolutionary women nurture? Are political actions and commitments of women political actors ‘driven by their romantic desires’? Did revolutionary women find a fulfillment of their ‘personal and political desires’ in the Communist Party of India (CPI)? Can their desires at all be separated from the political worlds that they inhabit or were they uniquely integrated?

Reviewed by: Albertina Almeida
Ipshita Chanda

Feminist migration scholars have long argued that available quantitative data in India deny women economic agency by classifying their migration as secondary or associated with men. Thus, although women constitute more than eighty percent of all migrants, they have been considered unimportant for two related reasons: women migrate because they marry, so their migration is a social, rather than an economic phenomenon; surveys collect only one reason as the motivation to migrate and with women, marriage is often cited as the predominant reason.

Reviewed by: Swathi Shivanand
Asha Hans

Disability, Gender and the Trajectories of Power is a collection of articles written by authors and activists working on the larger issues of disability and gender. The volume makes a valid argument for considering rights of disabled women from an intersecting lens and advocates for a two-pronged action to be taken up both in terms of inclusion in policy and eradication of exclusion and stigma from the lives of women with disabilities.

Reviewed by: Nandini Ghosh
Jyoti Atwal

A very well researched book, the basic premise of Jyoti Atwal’s Real and Imagined Widows is located in the ‘absence’ of a single dominant cultural practice that could shape and determine the question of widow remarriage in the vast and diverse region of the United Provinces. The author closely maps the castes/tribes in different geo-economic regions of this province to define the variations existing among widows ranging from Sati, to prohibition of remarriage, the remarriage and the sale of widows, etc.

Reviewed by: Prem Chowdhry
Ratna M. Sudarshan and Rajib Nandi

This edited volume by Ratna M Sudarshan and Rajib Nandi is a collection of ten contributions by Ranjani K Murthy, Pallavi Gupta, Srinidhi Raghavan, Sonal Zaveri, Shubh Sharma, Renu Khanna, Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, Venu Arora, Seema Kulkarni, Sneha Bhat, Vasundhara Kaul, Neha Sanwal and the editors themselves, who are feminist researchers, practitioners and evaluators associated with the four-year research and capacity building programme…

Reviewed by: Shaila Desouza
Malavika Rajkotia

Never before has family law come under such a heightened discourse in India and immense global scrutiny. Judgments delivered by the higher judiciary and law/policy changes have recently informed, shaped and re-drawn the contours of family law on a wide range of issues including physical and mental cruelty within marriage, adultery, child custody, adoption, surrogacy, financial arrangements within marriage and upon divorce, succession, inheritance and property rights.

Reviewed by: Saumya Uma
Mengia Hong Tschalaer

With Muslim Women’s Quest for Justice, Mengia Hong Tschalaer  enters the complex world of rights of Muslim women guided by very pertinent research questions. She examines this world through the lens of three leaders of women’s organizations in Lucknow. For Muslim women, it is a world fraught with hostility in family and community on questions of rights within marriage, and its breakdown.

Reviewed by: Vahida Nainar
Anupama Rao

The volume Gender, Caste and the Imagination of Equality edited by Anupama Rao reverberates with conversations on several tracks that speak of the complexity of cultural politics in a deeply patriarchal society structured by Hindu majoritarianism and caste. In the context of a Hindu majoritarian caste order, Khalid Anis Ansari examines the pasmanda critique of the majority-minority and its pursuit of transformative constitutionalism and democratic symbolism

Reviewed by: Kalpana Kannabiran
Radha Kumar

Ensuring gender equality has been an articulated commitment, and the goals for gender equality have been defined, redefined and refined over time. Affirmative policies and programmes have facilitated important changes with crucial implications for the status of women. However, it has been difficult to arrive at definite conclusions on the impact of these interventions towards the attainment of a gender-equitable social, economic and political order due to contradictory trends and patterns.

Reviewed by: Neetha N