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7 Indonesian Novels in Translation That Push Boundaries

Book Review / Recos

Dias Novita Wuri, author of "Birth Canal" recommends Nusantara fiction that shines a light on the taboo.

Growing up as a Javanese daughter, there was one word that was drilled deep into my head by my mother: malu, which means “shame.” I had a huge list of things that I shouldn’t do or say because they could bring shame to my parents. I still hear the word often even today, in my mother’s voice, at the back of my head. Safe to say, I learned the concept of taboo pretty early in life.

I was a good kid, but as a grown-up, I am shameless. Writing shamelessly liberates me, and I hope it might help liberating my readers too.  

My novella, Birth Canal, opens with an abortion. Indonesia is a Muslim majority country, and while polygamy is legal, abortion is not. For me, there is an urgency to write about abortion not as an exceptional phenomenon, but as a daily occurrence. Just because nobody talks about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. The abortion is described in minute details; the procedure, the pain, and the dangers of doing it in secrecy. In writing the book, I didn’t hold back. Female bodies, sexuality, infertility, marriage, motherhood, even suicide—these are the issues that we women have to deal in life. “Shame” is a word that very often haunts women, more than it does men.

Read the full article here.

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