Ruhani Khan's disturbing slide show, India's Invisible Women, gives me no excuse for griping that our entire clan wept when I was born. Yes, I was a third daughter in a sonless family, and my mother carried shame for decades, but neither of us faced anything like this:
When Kalpa got pregnant for the seventh time, her husband threw her out of the house on the grounds of her being a girl-bearing wretch. She gave birth to her seventh daughter on the streets, who died soon after. Kalpa now shares quarters with mentally unstable women at a short-stay shelter. Her husband has remarried since then.The novel I'm writing is set in India in the seventies. It's impossible for my protagonist to be the feisty, empowered heroine-archetype who is conventional in today's YA lit. Like the women in the slide show, Asha's goals are worth championing and her stakes are high -- two basic plotting prerequisites. The problem is that they're taken for granted by most book-loving North American young women, who usually don't worry about survival, dependency, or the struggle for education. And so I write on, trying to help my readers appreciate a totally different kind of feminine fight, and am grateful for other writers taking on this particular challenge.