The power of pen

11th October is being observed as the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child every year to celebrate young women who have shown courage to take charge of their future in adverse situations. The them for the year 2018 was “With Her – A Skilled Girl Force” with an objective to promote women empowerment with focus on the challenges such as access to education and gender pay gap.

The literary world has also been contributing to the cause with the pen as a powerful tool. A few books recently published have tried to highlight the challenges faced by girls and women alike. If Isma, the central character of the novel titled Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, battles with the troubles of being an ambitious, career women, seventeen-year-old Evelyn fights for her right to education over an early marriage in the novel Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholas.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celestial Ng is of a single mother standing up for what she thinks right and Artemis by Andy Weir explores the struggles in the backdrop of Science Fiction. The point being that perhaps, it is not about how we progress in science or technology but in mindset that sees equality as the principal norm of life.
Stories of women oppression date back to the periods of wars and pirates where women were forced into flesh trade and slavery. The Sealwoman’s gift by Sally Magnusson is set in 1627 where a victim of slavery takes to storytelling as a coping mechanism while Manhattan Beach by Jeniffer Egan, longlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, explores the protagonist’s journey during the Great Depression through finding out the reasons for her father’s death and her daily struggle of being the sole bread winner for her family.

If all that glitter is not gold, so is all that is pink is not rose. The novel Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa explores the under currents of apartheid in 1994 long after its abolishment in South Africa and The Hate you Give by Angie Thomas, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, centres a girl’s story who sees her friend being shot. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas traces the modern elements of oppression in the US where the characters of the novel fight their way through illegal abortion and banned IVF. Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel My Absolute Darling captures the struggle of Turtle Alveston and her relationship with her abusive father.

If women oppression is a seed for these novels, empowerment is a blanket of courage and hope of survival for which these novels have been chosen by the Reading Agency in the UK as some of the significant works of fiction. If ‘Survival of the fittest’ was coined by Einstein for evolution of life then why should women be left behind!

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