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For those of you following our website, you would know that we are doing a #WomenReadWomen2019 reading theme for the entire year. For the first quarter of 2019, we are featuring warrior women or female voices and social justice in literature. This book I am sharing today is absolutely perfect given our first quarter reading theme.
Written by Tanya Lee Stone (in association with GirlRising)
Published by Wendy Lamb Books (2017)
ISBN: 0553511467 (ISBN13: 9780553511468). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
There are books that provide stark illumination to ugly truths that it compels the reader to make the world a better place. This is one such book. Inspired by the film documentary, Girl Rising, Tanya Lee Stone was left reeling with the information that she had seen for 90 minutes that she felt it was necessary for her to do what she does best: write narrative nonfiction like no other, and expand these young women’s voices a hundredfold, through this book.
As Tanya Lee Stone wrote in the introduction, the Girl Rising producers:
… shared more than forty-five hours of raw video interview footage from all the girls they met via organizations running successful girl-focused programs in the countries they visited. They also shared the field notes from the director, Richard Robbins, and the producers. With these astounding resources, combined with my own research, I began a journey to create a nonfiction narrative informed and inspired by their film. The product of that journey is this book; the process has been life-changing.
I am not unfamiliar with these narratives. In fact, the very first job that I was offered immediately after my college graduation was a research project that involved girl children or survivors of various forms of abuse from different parts of the Philippines – as funded by Save the Children in coordination with the University of the Philippines – Psychosocial Trauma branch. I’ve had the rare opportunity to listen to harrowing, firsthand accounts of young girls who have been raped by their own grandfathers or who have been sexually prostituted at age eight.
While Girl Rising featured voices from young people coming from Cambodia, India, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Egypt, Haiti, Nepal, Peru, Uganda, Ethiopia, among others – there were no stories from the Philippines or Malaysia or Indonesia.
This does not mean, however, that stories like these do not happen in our part of the world, because these are all-too-familiar tales that I grew up with – not just because of the research project that I have been a part of – but it happens to be an endemic and seemingly-integral part of daily life in Manila and some of the more remote provinces in the Philippines. In fact, when I showed the image below to my husband which broke my heart into a thousand shards:
… he told me in such a matter-of-fact manner that this is a fairly common sight in his province, and definitely not an uncommon one. Regardless, it still affected me deeply reading about the kamlari, and all the difficulties these young girls had to endure, so early on in life.
I also felt a surge of hope when I read about stories of young women being championed by their brothers or their fathers. They are few and far between, but they do exist, and it makes me hopeful about humanity. It is gratifying to learn that there are still people who stand for something, and can be unyielding when it comes to doing the right thing.
I also liked reading stories of triumph: the in-your-face joy of these girls who were not cowed, did not cower, were not defeated by their circumstances at all. They remained luminous throughout, as you can see from M’balu’s infectious smile in the image above.
More importantly, there were also stories of young girls making a difference, volunteering their time, efforts, and talent into making the world just a bit better, one girl at a time. I was especially moved by the fact that the filmmakers made sure that there were cultural brokers in each of the countries that they visited: female writers in diaspora such as Edwidge Danticat, Loung Ung, Aminatta Forna just to cite a few – who spoke with the girls and shared their impressions through their lyrical voice and powerful narratives. The writers allowed the young girls’ voices to shine through the cracks, never usurping their reality, but honouring it.
This is an unforgettable book, one that would remain with the reader for a long time. I am glad that this has been one of my first three reads in 2019. Here is the Girl Rising trailer that I was able to find on Youtube. This book will change you. I can not wait for you to find it.
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#WomenReadWomen2019: Tanya Lee Stone is from United States of America.