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Telling the Tale
ed. Archana Thapa

मूल्यः US$ 8.45

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    This collection of Nepali women’s personal narratives is about being and writing as a woman in the context of modern Nepal. At its most basic, the collection gives the reader a sense of how women experience their femininity in a variety of ways and how their personal locations—economic, geographical, social, among thers—shape their multiple experiences of being a woman. The collection also raises important questions about the validity of so-called unchanging and stable feminine selves and shows how women (or women-as-writers) reflect upon their cultural identities as individual women. The aim of the collection is not to focus upon the gender differences between men and women, but to illustrate manifold differences among various women, differences that show how every woman is a unique individual. Sporadic masculine concerns are only touched upon in
    relation to feminine issues.

    This collection of women’s personal writing—bringing together writing styles and perspectives associated with literature, history, feminist writing, experimental writing, cultural studies, and even autobiographies—is an attempt to share women’s personal experiences in the public sphere. To place this book within a fixed literary category may not be apt because this collection does not follow the expectations of traditional literary genres. Rather, it explodes disciplinary boundaries to show that the individual identities of women are becoming increasingly varied and complex in the context of contemporary times, with its ambivalent mixture of tradition and modernity. This collection can be taken as a disruptive interdisciplinary text that does not follow the strict rules of traditional literary disciplines; instead, it attempts to articulate women’s feelings and emotions, including their desires, fears, and fantasies: subjective experiences that they passed through as girls and women in our society.

    Each one of the personal tales attempts to take a step toward an assertion of one’s individual identity, a step away from the feminine silence, to articulation. They reverberate with desires, fears, dreams, and difficult choices faced by individual women. ndirectly, they also challenge the monolithic cultural framework that has tied women’s tongues for a long time. Though women always had storytelling abilities, they had been telling stories that excluded them as the subject. They had been telling tales about the “world out there,” rather than the “world within,” the world made
    of their own subjective experiences. Each one of the tales of the collection— both subjective and reflective—emerges directly from the fabric of the narrators’ lives. The narrators try to come to terms with socially imposed silences in their lives; silences within which even educated
    women continue to live. In their writing process, they attempt to break the shackles of those culturally imposed silences and reveal the very personal experiences that are hidden underneath.

    Each tale reflects the specific cultural details forming the writer’s identity and her unique personal location. Such a focus on unique cultural locations of individual identities contradicts the general assumptions concerning the term “women,” a term that is often considered in a singular and monolithic manner. The general assumption is that all women are by nature passive, vulnerable, unambitious, dependent, irrational, selfsacrificing, tolerant, and so on. The tales in this collection contest such essentialist assumptions by revealing the multiplicity of feminine
    characteristics and by showing traces of rebellious desire challenging social expectations imposed upon them. These tales echo with the idea of personal independence, competence, and ambition; they also critique socially constructed gender roles by analyzing the authoritarian patriarchal
    norms forming our social settings. Undercutting the unitary identity of “women,” each tale demystifies the metaphysical and essential notion of the word “women” by showing the
    plurality marking the category. This is to say that these narrations fracture the singularity of the category “women” by rewriting it in terms of plurality and heterogeneity. Expressions of differing desires, fears, aspirations, and hopes not only confirm the diversity within the term “women” but also identify each woman as an individual, showing that diverse, often innumerable, characteristics of femininity (like those of masculinity) cannot be lumped into a monolithic category. In this sense, these personal tales make an indirect critique of the concept of the “universal femininity,” a misconception that continues to make many people believe that every woman is born with the same unique, non-masculine characteristics, and, for this reason, every woman is same as every other woman in terms of her essential femininity. The tales of this collection not only refute such universal assumptions, but also enable each writer/narrator to reveal her individual “truths”—truths about her body and subjectivity, truths concerning how she feels about being born and living as a girl in the Nepali society.

    The narrators included in this collection come from diverse educational and cultural backgrounds, class locations, social upbringings, and age brackets: a diversity that reflects their differing experiences as women. Such diversity not only challenges the concept of the “universal truth” of femininity, but also marks the term “women” as a plural and internally contradictory concept।

    - Archana Thapa

    (Editor)