TRUTH TALES: Contemporary Stories by Women Writers of India by Kali for Women--Eds. of

TRUTH TALES: Contemporary Stories by Women Writers of India

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Translated from languages as varied as Tamil, Urdu, and Gujurati, and representing regions just as diverse, these stories are affecting portraits of women's lives in India today. They are also testaments to the nature and limits of feminine power in a country still influenced by traditional notions of a woman's role. Their lives are lived in backyards, family compounds, and small shops rather than in the rarefied world of the Raj or the fantastic landscape of Rushdie's allegories. There are no maharanees, no members of the urbane classes, only wet-nurses, mothers-in-law, beggars, and fishmongers. In the first and longest story (""The Wet-Nurse""), Jashoda, a young woman of great and fecund beauty, maintains her family by becoming the wet-nurse to the family of a rich merchant. She bears 20 children, and nurses her own and those of the family's, but that merchant family slowly declines; there are no more children to nurse and consequently no food for Jashoda's family. Destitute, abandoned by her husband, Jashoda is finally betrayed by the breasts that had been her great pride. She had nursed the whole world, but dying of cancer she bitterly realizes she will die alone. Other notable pieces describe the determination of an old beggarwoman to survive, despite endless humiliations and the loss of all her family; a young widow doomed to loneliness by her protective in-laws; and a doll-maker who has never married but feels obliged to help her lovers and their families, realizing that it is their dependence on her generosity that gives her life meaning. Sometimes uneven in execution, and sometimes obvious in their message, the stories--sensitively translated--nonetheless evoke a vibrant society and people worth the encounter. A welcome addition to our knowledge of the subcontinent.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1990
Publisher: Feminist Press--dist. by Talman (150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011)