Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Embodiment, Voice and Literature: From 'Women Doing Literary Things'

 'Women Doing Literary Things' is a fantastic new blog dedicated to exploring the role of women in the literary world. This week's featured essay was mine. I'm so proud and humbled to be adding my thoughts to this collective space honoring women writers, readers, teachers, publishers, editors, and activists.



What is the connection between voice and the body?

As a daughter of Indian immigrants to the U.S., it was novels, essays, plays and poems – the ‘literary things’ of this blog’s title – which introduced me to myself. I remember reading Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones for the first time and thinking, “This is what it is to be a young brown girl in America. This is what it is to be me.” Marshall’s words were not my exact experience, to be sure, but they gave me a space, a recognition, a permission to be.

From Rabindranath Tagore to Sharon Olds, from Alice Walker to Salman Rushdie – authors of various personal, political and national bodies all taught me to better understand my own. Like looking in a mirror – or use an image from Rushdie – like peering into a stream of stories, the voices of these writers taught me how to live within my own skin. They introduced me to my own face.

In my academic work – teaching illness and disability memoirs, thinking about the connections between narration, health, and social justice – I often make the connection between voice and body for my students. In particular, I am interested in the political act of speaking from, about and through marginalized bodies. Ill bodies, disabled bodies, female bodies, immigrant bodies, bodies of color, working bodies, queer bodies, trans bodies – we are all told to be quiet, and in so doing, uphold the tyranny of the ‘normal’ and ‘normative.’

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4 comments:

  1. What a great piece! Congrats!

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  2. Thanks Anjali - proud to be in great company!

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  3. This is a fabulous complement to my morning coffee! Inspirational too.
    Thank you for sharing it!

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  4. thanks megan - and thanks for the visit! do stay a while! :)

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