Several books have been written about the position of women in India’s patriarchal society. This collection of twelve narratives, however, focuses not so much on women’s subservient position vis-à-vis men, but on women’s relations with each other. With the authors locating their personal struggles within those of three generations of women in their families, these narratives span a period of over 100 years, and intersect both the private and public domains.
Reflecting on the emotional lines of matriliny within the social structure of patriliny, each narrative in A Space of Her Own
is a tale of how the author fought to establish her own personhood and create a sphere of autonomy where she is able to make decisions to nurture herself and those around her. Four themes emerge prominently from these narratives:
- The role of renegade predecessors in the family who set out a pattern of independence that paved the way for, or inspired, the author.
- The presence of mothers or grandmothers who came forward in situations of stress to exhibit unforeseen strengths; and mothers whose demand for personal space remained unfulfilled, but which became a source of determination for the author.
- The stories of obstacles overcome—the biggest of which is being born female in a culture that denigrates, distrusts, and ultimately fears women.
- The effects of external social change which, along with internal family dynamics, made the authors who they are today.
It is stories such as these, the editors argue, which when repeated over generations will inspire women to live with dignity and to create and defend lives for themselves, their families, and the women who follow them. Powerful and moving, these narratives will interest students and scholars in the fields of women’s studies and cultural studies, while being widely welcomed by feminists, activists and anyone interested in the status of women in India.