Women in America have Misread my Short Stories
About half of the women in America have misread my short stories entitled, INTRIGUING WOMEN. They have shown cussedness in looking away from the intended meanings of these stories. Not all readers, though. Robin Gregory, for instance, the novelist whose debut novel, The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, has won several awards, has been able to read the tales without seeing them as an attack on women. There are several other women who have read them sensibly and without labeling them ‘anti-woman’. But the response of this lot of women has come as a shock to me because I have always admired and loved women and have almost always sympathized with them. My first novel, The Tailor’s Needle, has a woman protagonist, Menaka, that virtually every reader has loved even though she is often found doing the wrong things. My second, as yet unpublished novel, Emancipation, is about two women, an American and a British, who come to India to change the way some women in India think. For an author who has virtually written for women and for their cause, it is disturbing indeed to see the reaction of some American women who have chosen to misread my stories. Of the twenty-three stories in the collection four or five do have devious women because my women needed variety and making them all good would be putting them in uniforms of an organization.
From the remarks of some woman-reviewers I have gathered that recently there has been a tendency in women to want fiction written only for them; something that they call “women’s fiction”. This is a fiction with a kind of reservation for women; in it women must ultimately win. This category of fiction comes up with a story for the woman, of the woman, and often by the woman. I have no objection to this kind of fiction because those that have tended to remain losers down the ages now need to exult in victory. Both men and women must, I feel, provide this category of fiction for the fair sex to celebrate their new roles in society. But this does not mean that there should be no other kind of fiction written. This expectation among women can lead to an impoverishment and denudation of fiction as a literary form. Writers will begin to write with the sole purpose of not annoying women. Their annoyance will result in fewer sales for writers (those who choose not to follow this demand) and it will also generate the depiction of an unrealistic account of life. This worries me.