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The Fabulous Feminist: A Suniti Namjoshi Reader introduces us to this wonderful writer’s works and is a must-read for any Indian feminist.
Review by Unmana Datta
I feel my education has been incomplete all these years, because I had never heard of Suniti Namjoshi. A feminist with Indian roots, she has explored issues of gender and sexual orientation in her writing, and The Fabulous Feminist presents excerpts from her many works.
Namjoshi has dabbled in various literary forms: this book contains fables, poems, short stories, and excerpts from novels. This might be a strange combination – for most writers, such an assortment of works would be sure to disappoint the reader. But not this one; it succeeded in satisfying my palate and whetting my appetite at the same time, leaving me determined to seek out more complete versions of her work.
The book begins with selections from Namjoshi’s Feminist Fables, and this was, for me, the most enjoyable section of the book. It entertains and shocks and thoroughly succeeds in using popular fairy tales and fables to convey subversive, feminist messages. I especially loved the retelling of The Monkey and the Crocodiles, and Broadcast Live, an account of a woman superhero, reproduced here in its entirety:
The Incredible Woman raged through the skies, lassoed a planet, set it in orbit, rescued a starship, flattened a mountain, straightened a building, smiled at a child, caught a few thieves, all in one morning, and then, took a long time off to visit her psychiatrist, since she is at heart a really womanly woman and all she wants is a normal life.
Most of her creations contain a similar mix of ironic, poignant humour. Apart from the fables, I was especially intrigued by The Mothers of Maya Diip, a novel about a matriarchal society. The three chapters here provided a narrow glimpse of how such a country might work, how men are oppressed in such a society, and how little it takes to upset the peace.
Namjoshi wrestles not only with issues of gender but also with class and race, all with a wonderfully light touch that balances social justice with the self-deprecation of a brown lesbian feminist (thrice-oppressed, as a less-oppressed white woman once informed her). Fabulous feminist, she definitely is.
Publishers: Zubaan Books
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