Fabulous Female: Arundhati Roy

Every Friday I want to introduce you to an amazing woman, who makes a real difference in the world. This Friday’s Fabulous Female is Arundhati Roy, as suggested by one of my readers.

Roy, who describes herself as a natural-born feminist, is the author of The God of Small Things, which became an international bestseller, is translated into more than 40 languages and won the Booker Prize in 1997. She has chosen not to publish another novel and instead use her fame to fight for democracy in India and to shine a spotlight on those who are impoverished.

“The prize,” she says now, “was actually responsible in many ways for my political activism. I won this thing and I was suddenly the darling of the new emerging Indian middle class – they needed a princess. They had the wrong woman. I had this light shining on me at the time, and I knew that I had the stage to say something about what was happening in my country. What is exciting about what I have done since is that writing has become a weapon, some kind of ammunition.” – The Observer

Born to a Bengali Hindu tea planter and a Malayali Syrian Christian women’s rights activist, she grew up all over India, but finally settled in New Delhi. Before her success with The God of Small Things she did various jobs, but since becoming financially secure she has focused on her activism.

The political opinions of Roy has seen her in the middle of some controversy, for example concerning her support of Kashmiri separatism, criticism of Indian nuclear weaponisation plans, campaigning against the Narmada Dam Project which would displace half a million people, criticism of the foreign policy of the US – specifically concerning the war in Afghanistan, as well as criticism of Israel.

She has said, that she feels that her more playful and personal voice, which she used for her fiction writing, has been hidden away, because of the non-fiction she feels she must write, uses a flatter, more angry voice to get the message across, that there are things which are not okay. Roy has published four collections of essays so far: Walking with the Comrades, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, The Cost of Living and Algebra of Infinite Justice.

She has won several awards, in addition to the Booker Prize she has also won the Lannan Foundation‘s Cultural Freedom Award in 2002, because of her work “about civil societies that are adversely affected by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations,” in order” to celebrate her life and her ongoing work in the struggle for freedom, justice and cultural diversity.”, the special recognition as a Woman of Peace at the Global Exchange Human Rights Awards in 2003, the Sydney Peace Price in 2004 and the Norman Mailer Prize in 2011 for Distinguished Writing.

Winning these awards hasn’t pacified Roy however: “For the past decade or so they have tried both ways to keep me quiet,” she says, smiling.” They have tried putting me in prison and they have tried giving me awards. In the run up to these elections the home minister LK Advani was mentioning me by name at rallies, you know, denouncing me as an anti-national …” – The Observer She continues her work against neo-imperialism and against capitalism.

Had you heard about Arundhati Roy? Have you read The God of Small Things, if so, what did you think of it? What do you think of the work she does?
Do you have any other suggestions for brilliant ladies I can feature as a Fabulous Female? 

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