Read the Resistance, January 2018: One Part Woman
For this month of Read the Resistance, an online book club that highlights written works of and about resistance, we asked Nina McConigley, author of Cowboys and East Indians, to recommend a book that exemplifies resistance to her. Her pick? One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan. Join McConigley for a discussion about the book on January 31.
“Perumal Murugan is a Tamil writer who lives in South India,” said McConigley. “I first encountered his work when I lived in Chennai, India. I was working at Tara Books, a small independent publishing house, and they published a few of his works. Murugan writes in Tamil, and only a handful of his books have been translated. Murugan writes about people who are on the margins, who are disenfranchised, and he has written widely about caste. Madhorubhagan, or One Part Woman, was written in 2010, but not translated into English till 2013.
“Soon after its publication, the book was banned. The book follows a childless couple desperate for a baby. As a last attempt, they consider going to a chariot festival at the Hindu temple of Ardhanareeswara, the half-female god, where for one night, it is said that consensual sex between any man and woman is allowed. The book examines caste and societal expectations, while going into the more interior landscape of a couple’s marriage. Soon after the English edition came out, various caste groups complained that One Part Woman insulted a Hindu deity, the temple, and women in general. They called for the book to be not only banned, but destroyed. There were burnings of the book, and Murugan retreated from public life, vowing to never write again. I chose this book as censorship is abhorrent, and Murugan tackles issues in Indian society that few authors touch. I admire his writing not only for the storytelling, but for the risks he is willing to take.”
Read Nina McConigley’s essay on One Part Woman, written for PEN America’s 2015 Banned Books Week feature »
About Nina McConigley
Nina McConigley is the author of the story collection Cowboys and East Indians, which was the winner of the 2014 PEN Open Book Award and winner of a High Plains Book Award. It also was on the longlist for the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She was born in Singapore and grew up in Wyoming. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, where she was an Inprint Brown Foundation Fellow. She also holds an MA in English from the University of Wyoming and a BA in Literature from Saint Olaf College. She is the winner of a Barthelme Memorial Fellowship in Nonfiction and served as the Nonfiction Editor of Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Her play, Owen Wister Considered, was one of five plays produced in 2005 for the Edward Albee New Playwrights Festival, in which Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Lanford Wilson was the producer. She has been awarded a work-study scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2005–2009, and received a full fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center. She was granted a Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Fiction at the 2010 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. In 2011, she was a Scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and in 2014 was a Fiction fellow.
About Perumal Murugan
Perumal Murugan is a well-known contemporary Tamil writer and poet. He has written six novels, four collections of short stories, and four anthologies of poetry. Three of his novels have been translated into English to wide acclaim: Seasons of the Palm, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Kiriyama Award in 2005; Current Show; and, most recently, One Part Woman. He has received awards from the Tamil Nadu government as well as from Katha Books.