Over the past couple of years, I’ve been highlighting an interesting, lesser-known woman on this particular day. Why? Mostly for the same reason that we mark this particular day: to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. The 2017 theme for IWD is #BeBoldForChange. So, this year, I’d like to share the story of Noor Inayat Khan — a bold, badass woman I read about last year. She was also featured on Public Radio International earlier this year as the “Indian spy princess who died fighting the Nazis.” She was a Muslim. A refugee. A princess. A guerrilla fighter, trained in bomb-making, sabotage and secret communications. But above all, she was a war hero. Continue reading International Women’s Day 2017: #BeBoldforChange
Susan B Anthony, women’s rights activist, slavery abolition activist, and educational reformer, was born today in 1820. If it wasn’t for her and her many cohorts, we women today, across the world, would not be enjoying the many freedoms we take for granted. Having grown up in a patriarchal world, I constantly remind myself of these words of hers: “. . .many young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.” Continue reading #Bornonthisday: Susan B Anthony (and her ‘Homes of Single Women’ speech)
Author, Mavis Gallant, passed away at age 91 yesterday. Born in Canada, she decided, very early on, that she wanted to do two things: live in Paris and earn a living from writing. She managed both of those in trailblazing ways and in the face of many obstacles for a woman of her time. Her stories are sharply-observant, unsentimental and, definitely, ahead of her times. She had inspired many writers, particularly those who have also focused on themes of displacement, like Michael Ondaatje and Jhumpa Lahiri. Gallant’s death is a great loss to the literary world, even though she was rather under-appreciated by the wider reading public throughout most of her life. Continue reading Mavis Gallant (RIP): Author, Storyteller, Trailblazer
Doris Lessing, a literary lioness, died on the 17th of November (yesterday) at age 94. Known for her strong, independent female characters, she was branded a feminist — a term she wasn’t particularly fond of because it pigeonholed her as an author when she wrote about many other themes like racism, colonialism, independence, sex, etc. She wasn’t perfect, having abandoned her marriage and children to pursue a free life, controversially speaking out about communism, 9/11, etc. But her fierce intelligence and her prolific authorial output won her many admirers among both her fellow writers and generations of readers. Continue reading Doris Lessing (RIP): Author, Visionary, Free Spirit
In September this year, during the terrorist attack by the al-Shabaab militants at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, among the many killed, was a 78-year-old Ghanian poet, novelist, dramatist, professor, diplomat and activist, Kofi Awoonor. He was in Nairobi for the 2013 Storymoja Hay Festival, a 4-day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling.
His nephew and fellow poet, Kwame Dawes, who was in Nairobi with him for the same festival, wrote about him in the Wall Street Journal. Over in The New Yorker, Teju Cole, another writer who was in Nairobi for the same festival and knew Awoonor, also wrote a touching essay about him. And, there are a couple of obituaries in The Guardian and at BBC News. Continue reading “Weekend Poem: Across a New Dawn by Kofi Awoonor (RIP)”