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___"There have been no women in our part of the country whose names posterity found it worthwhile to cherish," writes Lalithambika Antherjanam in "Come Back", her fictional account of an Indian woman activist's life. In Cast Me Out If You Will, however, Antherjanam's stories bring to life the experiences of women living at all levels of Indian society. From the faithful and devoted nanny of "Wooden Cradles" to the lonely young bride of "In the Moonlight", Antherjanam's characters are keenly observed and faithfully rendered. This unique collection of short stories and personal memoirs-a compilation representing half a century of writing and activism-is the ideal introduction to one of India's best-loved and foremost feminist authors.
___Antherjanam's stories emerge from her own experience as a member of the namboodiri caste, a powerful and influential brahmin community. Born in 1909 in Kerala, India, Antherjanam soon defied her privilege upbringing and turned her pen to documenting the ills of her society, particularly the plight of its women. Inspired by the nationalist and social reform movements sweeping India in the 1920s and 1930s, Antherjanam wrote of the terrible oppression faced by namboodiri girls and women, known as anterjanams, or "those who live inside." Namboodiri girls and women were frequently given in arranged or forced marriages, often to men who already had wives. Once married, women were restriced to the home and required to observe strict rituals of modesty and purity. Women who were widowed were not permitted to remarry, Any infraction of namboodiri law could expose a woman to trial by the smartavicharam, or court, which had the power to remove her human identity, declare her dead to the community, and cast her out.
___Antherjanam's stories offer clear-eyes and chilling testimony to the brutal oppression suffered by the namboodiri women, but also celebrate their resistance, endurance, and vision. The six memoir pieces included in the collection document not only her own early years but also some of the first moments of India's feminist movement. Taken together, Antherjanam's fiction and memoirs tell of the gradual awakening of a woman, a community, and a country. Available for the first time in English translation and in the United States, Cast Me Out If You Will is vital and engaging reading for anyone interested in the lives of women around the world.