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Sowmya Rajendran

Edited by Kirsty Murray , Payal Dhar and Anita Roy
Young Zubaan, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 225, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean is an anthology of feminist fiction from Australia and India, some of them collaborations between writers and artists from both nations. It’s an interesting mix of graphic stories, short stories, and plays. The Introduction is a sort of story too—why and how this book was made. And it is important to begin by reading this piece because it contextualizes the rest of the book and tells us why these stories were imagined and written. Living in South Asia where gender-based violence (GBV) is so common and accepted even, it is easy to kid ourselves that women elsewhere have it better. That the more ‘liberated’ and more ‘civilized’ nations have got it right. This belief, as anyone who has engaged with gender politics will tell you, is naïve. GBV exists across cultures and it will be apparent to any reader picking up this book that these fears and challenges are common to women all over the world; they are universal in how they stop women from claiming what is rightfully theirs. The anthology, however, does not limit itself to talking about GBV though it is two such specific instances from real life, one in India and the other in Australia, which inspired the editors to get this project rolling. Instead, the tales speak of capitalism, corporate greed, colonization, the destruction of nature and so on, all of them concerns and themes that are important to the feminist movement which sees parallels between the exploitation of natural resources and women’s bodies in the ‘civilized’ world. The stories, though vastly different in genre (science fiction, reworked historical legends, reimagined fairytales, dystopian fiction, fantasy—to name a few), share the common theme of a certain anguish and sense of loss for the worlds that humanity has squandered because of its lust to have more without caring about the consequences. The location of these stories in such premises encourages the reader to see that the acts of violence that s/he reads about in the newspaper do not happen in a vacuum. They happen in a space where hierarchies, power structures, and patriarchal exploitation are the celebrated norm. The stories are of many moods, too. Some are grey, heavy, potent with grief and some are funny in spite of the horrors they talk about (Weft by Alyssa Brugman and The Wednesday Room by Kuzhali Manickavel ...

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