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Monthly Archives: September 2017

5 #Reasonstoread Dear Mrs. Naidu: Reprint Edition

We’re delighted to announce the reprint of Dear Mrs. Naidu (2014) from our Young Zubaan collection! Written by the brilliant Mathangi Subramanian, this children’s novel has received acclaim as an innovative tale about complex issues. Here are our top five favourite things about the book, that’ll make any reader fall in love with it.

Dear Mrs Naidu coverDear Mrs. Naidu is an Indian epistolary children’s novel in English, which makes it a rare work of fiction. Epistolary novels can be narrated through newspaper clippings, notes or diary entries. In this case, the story is narrated entirely in letters, from the 12-year-old Sarojini to the Indian freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu. Drawing parallels between the struggles of the two Sarojinis, the book tells us much more about Sarojini Naidu than our history books ever did!

Set in the slums of Bangalore, the novel delves into the lives and relationships of people from marginalized communities. With well-rounded multidimensional characters, the book shows that inequality is not just about being rich and poor, or going to a better school. It talks about the Right to Education Act, simplifying it enough to be understood by children, and yet showing the obstacles in making quality education accessible to all children.

“Deepti is a fighter… Like Amma, like Vimala Madam, like you Mrs Naidu.”

With a single mother resiliently protecting her daughter and community, two young girls fighting for their right to quality education, and a successful human rights lawyer using her privilege to help the community, this book has no dearth of strong female characters. Likening them to Sarojini Naidu shows that women (and girls) can be strong and powerful.

These are just some of the things that make Dear Mrs Naidu an exceptional read, for kids and adults alike. But don’t just take our word for it! You can hear all about it from Sarojini, in her latest letter to Mrs. Naidu.


Dear Mrs. Naidu,

I just found out that during your lifetime, you wrote a lot of letters. You wrote to family, friends, freedom fighters – even famous people. After you died passed on stopped writing, all of your letters were published in a book. Now, if people want to get to know you, they can read about you in your own words.

Guess what? My letters were published too! This is something else we have in common, besides or first names.

The only letters I’ve ever written have been to you, and the only story I have so far is how I fought to change my school so I could keep Amir as my best friend. It’s a story you already know because even though you never once wrote back to me, you helped me figure out what to do along the way.

Here is why other people like my story: it’s about friendship, but it’s also about growing up. It’s about becoming a fighter, even if you are only a twelve-year-old girl who lives in a house without a proper roof and goes to a school without a proper compound. It’s about making friends with people you never thought you’d be friends with – like dead passed on former freedom fighters, or girls who live at construction sites, or Aunties who make so much noise that sometimes it’s hard to hear when they actually make sense. (Which is more of the time than you would think, Mrs. Naidu.)

Lots of kids are reading my our letters. Lots of grownups are too. Some of them want to learn about the Right to Education Act, or about what it’s like to grow up in a slum, or about what it’s like to be a twelve-year-old girl. But most of them are reading our letters because they like a really good story.

Our story is a really good story, Mrs. Naidu. You know why?

Because it’s a story about changing the world.

All the Best,

Sarojini

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY | EAT THE SKY, DRINK THE OCEAN

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Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday, a new series where we will revisit backlist titles one Thursday every month. This October we’re looking at Young Zubaan title Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, edited Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar and Anita Roy.


About the book

EatTheSky_roughsBe transported into dystopian cities and alternate universes. Hang out with unicorns, cyborgs and pixies. Learn how to waltz in outer space. Be amazed and beguiled by a fairy tale with an unexpected twist, a futuristic take on a TV cooking show, and a playscript with tentacles.

 In other words, get ready for a wild ride!

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean This is a collection of sci-fi and fantasy writing, including six graphic stories that showcase twenty writers and artists from India and Australia, in an all-female, all-star line-up!

Contributors include: Samhita Arni, Kuzhali Manickavel, Manjula Padmanabhan, Vandana Singh, Payal Dhar, Anita Roy, Annie Zaidi, Penni Russon, Kate Constable, Isobelle Carmody, Justine Larbalestier, Alyssa Brugman, Kirsty Murray, Margo Lanagan, Priya Kuriyan, Prabha Mallya, Amruta Pail, Lily Mae Martin, Nicki Greenberg and Mandy Ord.


About the editors

Kirsty Murray is an Australian author. She writes children's fiction with a focus on Australian history, and is well known for her novel series, Children of the Wind. 

Payal Dhar is an author and freelance editor. She has written books for children, young adults, and adults, as well as numerous short stories. She also writes about various topics like technology, books and games.

Anita Roy is a writer, editor and publisher. Her stories and non-fiction essays have appeared in a number of anthologies. She is also the editor of 21 Under 40 and co-editor of Women Changing India, <101 Indian Children's Books We Love and Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean.


Quotes from readers

The tapestry of Eat The Sky is essentially feminist, but it weaves in issues of food security, environmental destruction, class barriers, social justice, consumerism and human rights to create lustrous narratives. In our patriarchy-dominated country, the anthology stands out for its plucky writing and bold imagery. - Bijal Vaccharajan, Livemint

If the title gives you a sense of freedom and discovery, you can imagine how powerful the stories are. The collection of six graphic stories, one play script and ten short stories pulls the reader into a world of limitless possibilities, pushing the boundaries of creativity. - Sravasti Datta, The Hindu

E-ESSAYS FROM ZUBAAN | 11 SEPTEMBER, HEALTH

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE!

Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase. To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here! 

Our previous sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movementssexual violencedomestic space and kinshipreligion and conflictstate crimes and impunity and trauma.

The deaths of almost 300 children last month in a hospital in Gorakhpur have again brought to the forefront the apathy of the Indian establishment towards the health and well being of its citizens. Among those who bear the biggest brunt of this indifference are women, who are made especially vulnerable both within healthcare structures and society at large, which expects them to not only be caregivers to the men but, in doing so, also ignore their own well being. The essays on health we bring to you this time outline the hardships women face in both private and public healthcare systems not only due to their gender, but also because of their socioeconomic, caste and professional backgrounds. The unique vulnerabilities that women encounter when they live in an area mired in political conflict are also examined.

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1. 'Medical Negligence' by Aloysius Irudayam S. J., Jayshree Mangubhai and Joel G Lee from Dalit Women Speak Out: Caste, Class and Gender Violence in India (2011)

This essay puts forward a study conducted across four states that brings out the challenges faced by Dalit women when availing health services in government and/or private medical institutions. These accounts are placed next to interrelated and essential elements of the right to health, highlighting different forms of medical negligence faced by these women. The authors show that both private and public health-care systems position Dalit women at the periphery for reasons of caste, class, and gender, noting that these narratives are a telling comment on the way government medical staff treats Dalit women patients in contrast to non-Dalit patients. This negligence has had consequences on other spheres of these women’s lives: economic, psychological, and personal (their identities as Dalits and women), and making them more vulnerable to discrimination. 16 pp. Read more.

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Aloysius Irudayam S. J. is currently the Program Director for Advocacy Research and Human Rights Education at the Institute of Development Education, Action and Studies (IDEAS), located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Jayshree Mangubhai is a Senior Human Rights Adviser with the Pacific Community (SPC), a regional organisation that provides technical and scientific advice to Pacific Island governments, based in Fiji. Joel G Lee is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA. He teaches and conducts research on caste and religion in South Asia. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

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2. 'HIV and Women in the Northeast' by Shyamala Shiveshwarkar from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast (2010)

'HIV and Women in the Northeast' explores the feminization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the northeastern states of India. Shyamala Shiveshwarkar establishes and elaborates on the critical linkages between drugs, violence, and gender inequalities at the individual, family, and societal levels to establish women’s increasing vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. She asserts that regardless of whether they are affected or infected, women are being forced to take on a greater share of the socio-economic and psychological burden of stigma and discrimination, violence, caring for the sick and providing for their families. The author takes care to outline the intersection of these vulnerabilities with the political insurgency in these states and explores the problems with existing treatment and care of HIV/AIDS—focusing primarily on its inadequacy and male-centricism, which severely limits women’s access to prevention and care. 11pp. Read more.

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Shyamala Shiveshwarkar was with The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, from 1972 to 2000. During this period she was attached to the Overseas Hindustan Times and subsequently with magazine section of the paper for fifteen years. She has since worked with the Centre for Advocacy & Research, New Delhi, as a Documentation Consultant. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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3. 'From Pity to Power: Musings of a Health Rights Activist' by Adrienne Germain from The Business of Sex (2013)

In this essay, Adrienne Germain details how action around sex workers is often centred on “rehabilitation” and “relocation” as though all women in sex work had been “forced” into it, a position that deprives these women of their agency. She explores debates between feminists over whether sex work  is or can be an autonomous choice by women, or is always and only a form of violence and exploitation of women. Describing her work with several NGOs in India, Germain discusses the effects of these attitudes on various healthcare programmes and on AIDS prevention interventions that see sex workers only as vectors of diseases, not as agents of change in themselves. Deconstructing her own positionality, the author points out that both, feminist and sex workers’ movement are founded on the commitment to women’s autonomy especially control of their bodies, calling thus for the need to establish and implement sex workers' labour rights. 8pp. Read more.

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Adrienne Germain is President Emerita of the International Women’s Health Coalition, and worked worldwide for women's health and human rights for 50 years. Her works have been published in several edited volumes and journals. In 2012, she received the United Nations Population Award in recognition of her work in the field. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

FREE IN SEPTEMBER, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:

21_Health and Torture_cover'Health and Torture' by P Ngully from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast (2010)

This essay traces the detrimental effects on the health of the people of Nagaland due to excessive militarisation in the region. Ngully puts the idea of 'health' into perspective and examines the implications of the WHO definition, which cites not just physical, but also mental and social well-being as criteria. This is done with regard to the torture, murder, and rape that the Naga people have been subject to in the past years by the security forces, justified under the cover of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). By placing the psychological trauma that the Naga people have faced within a broader context of disorders resulting from large-scale manufactured disasters, Ngully lays emphasis on the scale of tragedy in his homeland. 4pp. Read more.

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P. Ngully is a practicing psychiatrist and social activist based in Kohima who has worked on the history of trauma and PTSD in Naga society. He is the Chairman of the Council of Kohima Educational Trust, and has recently also worked on HIV/AIDS sensitisation programmes with the Kripa Foundation. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. Ten new essays are released each month (on the 1st, 11th, and the 21st), each set curated to a theme; subscribers receive each curated set in their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we've therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have accordingly standardised all our essays in PDF files.
If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our mailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post. Happy Reading!
On Topic: The August Review

From protests by Anganwadi workers in Delhi over low wages, conversations around the draft surrogacy bill, celebrating #WomeninTranslation Month to PV Sindhu’s success at the 2017 BWF Championships, On Topic reviews major events and conversations around gender and women in India in August.

Activism and Advocacy

- August saw the continuation of protests by the Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DSAWHU) over demands of a pay hike and the implementation of an agreement which was signed between the workers and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in July 2015 but has not yet been put into action. Surprisingly the incredible show of strength of thousands of workers drew little visibility. In Delhi alone, the union is a collective of twenty-two thousand women; growing numbers of women participating in the dharna led to the closure of increasing numbers of Anganwadi centres. The union called off the protest after fifty two days when a Gazette notification on the increase in honorarium was issued. Though they have achieved a victory, it is important to critically examine the government's stance that these workers are ‘voluntary’ workers and therefore they are paid only an honorarium, considering that they perform some of the most important services at the frontline level.

- The Supreme Court in its landmark verdict on 22nd August ruled that the practice of triple talaq is void and illegal, with the five-judge bench setting aside triple talaq by a 3-2 majority.  It has been a long haul for the campaigners: since it was first set up in 2007, the Muslim women’s rights group Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) have been fighting to get rid of triple talaq. Unfortunately, a close reading of the ruling reveals that the court has missed a historic opportunity to render an informed, clearly reasoned and potentially landmark decision on women’s rights. Instead, the 395-page rambling and unwieldy decision offers little sound jurisprudential grounds to advance women’s rights, and women remain framed within a protectionist discourse to be recuperated through male or state protection. The onus is now on Parliament to format a bill and see to it that a law comes into effect. The next six sessions of Parliament before the country goes in for the next General Election are ones to watch and pressure the government into acting in favour of gender equality.

- Students of Hindu College, University of Delhi organized a series of protests at the college's administrative block for over two weeks in August against the discriminatory hostel fees for the girls’ hostel, which was constructed 117 years after the college was founded. The matter was taken up by Pinjra Tod, an autonomous women’s movement operating at the university, who intimated the matter to the Delhi Commission for Women, which later summoned the principal and asked the college to address the discriminatory nature of regulations and fee structure that was made binding on women. A report from 29th August indicates that the University Grants Commission (UGC) has told the Delhi Commission for Women that Hindu College authorities have to resolve on their own the issue of charging of higher fee at the girls’ hostel.

Employment and Livelihood

- The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a think tank, observed that in the first four months of 2017, while jobs for men in India increased by 0.9 million, 2.4 million women fell off the employment map. The trend for this year points to a continuing story of Indian women increasingly clocking out of the workplace. The logical link that education should lead to jobs is broken in India. Ongoing research suggests a complex web of constraints that keep women away from the workplace with the chief among these is the issue of women’s agency. Social norms about appropriate behaviour for women and the enforcement of these norms by parents, in-laws and husbands dictates their ability to seek employment.

Google’s Internet Saathi programme, in partnership with Tata Trust, has been present in over 100,000 Indian villages with the aim to help rural women go online. The programme will now be rolled out in Bihar and Haryana. Google’s own research has also shown that women who were exposed to the programme have seen improvements to their socio-economic conditions, compared to villages where the Internet Saathi programme was not launched. Sapna Chadha, the marketing head, in a previous interview clarified that it is Google's mission to reduce India' s digital gender gap, which is one of the worst digital gender gaps anywhere in the world—this in a country with the second largest internet population.

Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Rights

- Calling the draft surrogacy bill ‘narrow’, the parliamentary committee has recommended allowing live-in couples, divorced women and widows to use surrogates, adding that a surrogate should not have to belong to the parent’s family. The original bill wanted to do away with commercial surrogacy and instead base it on ‘altruism’, with the surrogate having to be a close relative of the married couple in question. The committee has said in its report that this cannot work in a patriarchal structure. The surrogate is likely to be coerced and will get nothing out of this arrangement, while everyone else will benefit, reinforcing the idea that a woman’s body is not her own. However, the compensated surrogacy model offered as an alternative by the committee is not without problems. The report describes this compensation as the “the lost wages for the duration of pregnancy, medical screening and psychological counselling of surrogate; child care support or psychological counselling for surrogate mother’s own child/ children, dietary supplements and medication, maternity clothing and post delivery care”. Considering that surrogate mothers are mostly from socio-economically marginalised communities and are part of the informal labour force, the calculation of compensation based on loss of wages does not assure fair conditions of employment.

- This August, the Supreme Court ruled that Indians have a constitutional right to privacy, a verdict that could have wide-reaching implications on broader civil rights issues, including homosexuality. At least three of the five separate but concurring judgments that made up the Supreme Court’s privacy ruling—the four-judge judgment authored by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on behalf of the Chief Justice, Justice R.K. Agarwal, himself and Justice Nazeer, and the judgment of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul—explicitly tackled the implications of privacy as a fundamental right on Section 377, or the sexual orientation of a citizen. In dealing with the legal definition of ‘privacy’, it also delved rather extensively into how a flawed interpretation was applied to the Naz Foundation case in 2013. The Supreme Court in no uncertain words said: “The rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population cannot be construed as ‘so called’ rights. The expression ‘so called’ seems to suggest that the exercise of a liberty in the garb of a right that is illusory. This is an inappropriate construction of the privacy based on the claims of the LGBT population.”

The Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) held a national convention in August to discuss the significance and contributions of Women’s Studies centres over the last three decades and talk about how the attempts to dilute these centres could be stopped. This convention was prompted by a UGC notice expressing uncertainty about continued funding for 163 women’s studies centres and schools across the country. In 2003, there was an attempt to rename the centres in different universities as women and family studies centres which would have moved focus away from that of gender equality and the questioning of patriarchal gender roles. However, since the convention, in a recent PTI report, the UGC secretary stated that "There is no such proposal to cut or stop support to women study centres being funded by the UGC.”

Documentaries, Literature and Paintings

- Launched in 2014, the observation of August as Women in Translation Month or #WITMonth in online literary spaces is a response to the lesser attention received by works by women in translation. In 2016, The Guardian reported that only 26% of English translations in the US-UK market are female-authored books. Last year, we published a list of some of Zubaan’s translated books on our blog. This year we decided to go a bit further by highlighting some of the novels, short stories and memoirs recently translated from Indian languages to English, across publishers. We hope you find your next book to read from this list!

- Print and TV journalist Nupur Basu’s 2017 documentary Velvet Revolution produced by the International Association for Women in Radio and Television is a moving depiction of female journalists in conflict and war zones. The documentary goes beyond factual data and percentages to understand what ails and helps these journalists’ progress on the field through interviews with female journalists across geographies. After a recent screening, in a conversation with The Hindu, Nupur Basu detailed the different ways conflict plays out for a female journalist, from having to use spouses as unpaid male bodyguards, being trolled, caste discrimination to being attacked.

- Indian-origin UK artist Kanwal Dhaliwal has created a series of paintings in oils and acrylics, titled 'The Partition' to show the suffering of women who were victims of the Partition. Dhaliwal, who taught art at a school in Chamba for seven years before moving to the UK, says that his works have been influenced by the writings of Saadat Hasan Manto and Ishtiaq Ahmed. Some of the paintings from this collection can be viewed here.

Sports

- In what was the longest match of the Badminton World Championships, which lasted for 110 minutes, PV Sindhu faced Japan’s Nozomi Okuhura to bag the silver medal. It is a historic occasion since for the first time India bags two medals at the championship with Saina Nehwal winning a bronze medal after losing her semifinal.

-Of the seventeen Arjuna Awards given this year, only five have been conferred on female sportspersons: Jyothi Surekha Vennam for archery, Khushbir Kaur for athletics, Prashanthi Singh for basketball, Harmanpreet Kaur for cricket and Oinam Bembem Devi for football. The award, however, has not been without controversies over the years, from Milkha Singh turning down a belated Arjuna Award for lifetime contribution,  to the controversial point system adopted in 2002 that was later dropped, and to Bobby Aloysius quitting after she was rejected thrice despite her sporting credentials. This year too, despite them being the federation and Tamil Nadu government’s official entry for the award, the Arjuna Award evades basketball player Anitha Pauldurai yet again. Vidya Pillai, a snooker player who has won numerous national and international titles is yet to win an Arjuna Award despite having filed applications for five years now.

August at Zubaan

Our e-Essays project has been making individual essays available in e-formats for a reasonable fee. This month, we released collections curated to the themes of religion & conflict, state crimes & impunity, and legislation.

Translations and bibliodiversity have been talked about much this last month, with LiveMint featuring a conversation between six publishing 'thought leaders' (including head-Zubaani Urvashi) on "the Indian translation story."

#ThrowbackThursdays on our blog this month brought back a 2015 title, our first graphic anthology of stories: Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back. We also have back in print this month: Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? (Batool et al, 2016), Dear Mrs. Naidu (Mathangi Subramanian, 2015), Tales in Colour (Kunzang Choden, 2009).

Our monthly feminist book club will next be discussing Issa Rae's web-series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl on 17 September, 11 AM. If you’d like to join, shoot us  an email (contact@zubaanbooks.com).

That’s it for August, but On Topic will be back next month with more conversations, news and stories!

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