Role Models For My Daughter: Arundhati Roy

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I hope you had a wonderful, healthy, and safe New Year! I’ll be kicking this year off with a fresh new blog post for the series “Role Models for My Daughter.” Today I’m featuring Indian author Arundhati Roy.

I first heard of and read Arundhati Roy whilst in college. A friend of mine was taking an English class in which this book was required reading, and I was intrigued because I had not yet read a novel written by an Indian author (can you believe that??? It took about 20 years!) I picked up Roy’s novel The God of Small Things, winner of the 1998 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and sped through it. It was sad and a bit confusing, but at this point I could not tell you much more about it. It is probably worth re-reading it (or listening to it on Audible) at this point in my life when I can garner some worthwhile lessons from it, unlike my college-aged self.

I had not thought of this author for many years until I was brainstorming influential Indian women who could serve as role models for my daughter. In doing some more research about Roy, it became clear that she is indeed influential and an advocate for many different groups of people, notably women. First, my daughter may relate to her since she is half Malayali, like the author. Roy, whose last name actually comes from her Christian mother who was also an activist who successfully fought for women’s equal property inheritance rights. Roy grew up in Kerala, and her novel is semi-autobiographical with details from her childhood.

Many of her advocacy efforts and writings surround highly controversial topics. She supported Naxalite insurgency groups (not totally shocking since Kerala had a communist government for several decades), favored Kashmiri independence, and opposed the Narmada dam construction. She has advocated for human rights and won several awards for her work including the Sydney Peace Prize in 2004. Recently, she met Edward Snowden with John Cusack and wrote a book about it.

After numerous works of nonfiction, Roy recently announced her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. It is set to be released in 2017, 20 years after her first novel.

Below are a few of my favorite quotations from a great interview by Elle India this year.

“I’m on the A-list of anti-nationals.”

“I eat beef. I eat pork. This food fascism in our country must stop.”

“No, I’m not religious in the normal sense…I believe that everything, even inanimate things, have a spirit. The closest I’ve come to prayer is writing fiction. Just being able to lavish my attention on something and feeling grateful that there is something, that I have something that I can completely concentrate on and adore, that’s like a prayer to a higher power.”

“I think caste is a cancer in Indian society. And unless we address it, we will remain a rotten society.”

“Every freedom we have today, we have because of feminists. Many women have fought and paid a huge price for where we are today! It didn’t all come to us only because of our own inherent talent or brilliance. Even the simple fact that women have the vote, who fought for that? The suffragettes. No freedom has come without a huge battle. If you’re not a feminist, go back to into your veil, sit in the kitchen and take instructions. You don’t want to do that? Thank the feminists.”

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