Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chandra Prasad

In Chandra Prasad's novel On Borrowed Wings, a quarryman's daughter enrolls in 1930s Yale having adopted the identity and gender of her recently deceased brother.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Women have long posed as men in order to gain access to restricted opportunities. Are there any particular stories, fictional or otherwise, that inspired you in the writing of this book? What has your own experience taught you about such social boundaries as race, class, and gender, and what did you hope to explore in this book with regard to these issues?

Since childhood I've been intrigued by women who utterly defy rules and expectations. The more drastic the story, the more fascinated I am. Anne Bonny and Mary Read are two women who successfully posed as male pirates in the 1700s. Both were known to be fiery, fierce, and quite terrifying. In 1916 Adeline and Augusta Van Buren became the first women to motorcycle their way across America. Several times along their journey, they were arrested for wearing men's clothing, which seems absurd now. Then there was Katie Sandwina, a spectacularly powerful circus strongwoman who was born in the late 1880s. She could carry her husband above her head using only one hand. These are just a handful of examples. There are so many extraordinary women who have tread radically into male territory. They make me realize that once certain boundaries are crossed, they fade, even disappear. Again, I don't really want to impose this notion on the reader. But I do hope that Adele's experience offers food for thought on how far women have come.

Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue