Editor’s note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and-founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore.
Women and their vocations
Come March, and we are inundated with Women’s Day messages. This makes us wonder, what makes a woman truly happy? Is it love, sexual liberation, financial independence or simply the agency to do all of the above? Among the many things common between splainer and Champaca is the passion for our vocation. So this week we have rounded up a pile of memoirs, novels, and nonfiction about women in their workplace.
Did you know that the beauty and modelling industry contributes a huge chunk to India’s GDP? Manjima Bhattacharya’s remarkable study traces the rise of the modelling and beauty industry from the 1960s to the present through the perspective of the visible yet voiceless women that it employs. At the heart of this study is a difficult question: is the industry objectifying women or acknowledging their agency? ‘Mannequin’ is also a personal exploration of the changing relationship between fashion and feminism.
How does a woman fit into the male-dominated bastion of technology? Lured by the aspirations of the Silicon Valley bubble, author Anna Weiner leaves her job at a publishing firm in New York and moves to San Francisco. ‘Uncanny Valley’ is a witty, absorbing account of her days working with ‘tech-bros’, the dubious glamour of start-up culture, and unchecked ambition.
When ISIS, the much-feared terrorist organisation swept through swathes of the Middle East, the first casualty was women and their rights. Many women were maimed and many more were sold into slavery and prostitution. It was at this juncture that some women took up arms and marched to the front lines. Based on ground reporting and investigative journalism, author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon chronicles the story of Kurdish women who fought the war against ISIS, not just to free their land but to change the status quo of women in the Middle-East. ‘The Daughters of Kobani’ is a thrilling account of a female militia and their fight to extinguish all forms of terror.
Can one sleuth in a sari? Kaveri certainly thinks so. When a quiet dinner turns into a crime scene, the headstrong Kaveri launches a private investigation to not just uncover the killer but also protect a vulnerable woman. ‘Bangalore Detectives Club’ by Bangalore’s very own Harini Nagendra is a delightful crime thriller set in the 1920s.
Women often find themselves at the heart of many fairy tales—as trapped queens, princesses who need rescuing, and saintly mothers. But what if their fates were changed? Angela Carter’s short story collection gives popular characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast an exhilarating, dark and sensual new lease of life. Macabre, gothic and fun, ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is an unusual retelling of fairy tales.
Through immersive photography and candid interviews of women across Australia, the United States, and Sri Lanka, ‘Women Making Waves’ is a celebration of 25 women surfers by Lara Einzig. It captures their lives, their role in environmental protection, sports, and dawn patrol.
A hero is associated with physical strength and valour. But who is a heroine? A woman’s heroism is not easily defined. Historian and writer Ira Mukhoty explores this notion through women in history and mythology—Draupadi, Radha, Ambapali, Raziya Sultan, Meerabai, Jahanara, Laxmibai, and Hazrat Mahal. ‘Heroines’ is a fascinating narration of these women, their fight against patriarchy, and their willingness to die for a cause
Madhu is a middle school student who loves coding, aka a geek. Her app School Santhe, for trading stuff in school, became viral. But when some miscreants use the app to share school test papers, Madhu feels the pinch of her passion. Should she shut down the app? ‘Misfit Madhu’ by Divya Anand is a favourite among many children and is also a distinguished pick of the 2023 Parag Honour List.
Life at Champaca: It's been a very busy time at Champaca! We spent Sunday mornings listening to storytelling and going for a walk to Cubbon park with Roopa Pai. We had invigorating conversations centred around two books and two women authors we absolutely love, Black River by Nilanajana Roy and The Book of Everlasting Things by Aanchal Malhotra. It was heartening to see our store packed with curious readers and their questions that made for insightful conversations. Summer is here and the Jacaranda tree outside our window has exploded into a beautiful mauve and our avocado tree is looking lovely too with a bounty of flowers. If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store and browse through our shelves with a warm cup of coffee.