Akil Kumarasay

Akil Kumarasay: Writing Women Into the Narrative

Reflecting on Women's History Month

The last year has been full of contradictions. Women have made significant gains as officeholders at all levels of government, making it possible to shape the agenda of the future. Kamala Harris shattered a glass ceiling when she became the first woman and first person of color to serve as vice president. But the pandemic has taken a great toll on working women, in conjunction with the economic recession, forcing many from their jobs as schools shifted to remote learning and the burden of educating children fell largely on mothers' shoulders.

At this time, which includes moments of celebration tempered with crushing setbacks for women throughout the United States and the world, writer Akil Kumarasamy, Assistant Professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing to shares her thoughts about the time we are living in and reflects on the past, present and future.

 

In my writing, I have always been interested in exploring the messiness of identity and history, especially the fictional nature of borders. What does it mean to be Indian or Sri Lankan when those national borders were carved haphazardly from a colonial imagination without much thought but with bloody consequences? Some of my favorite writers like Arundhati Roy and Octavia Butler challenge us to wrestle with history to see where we are headed. 

At this specific moment of history, we are rediscovering women who have been left out of the archive of our collective consciousness. While this unearthing is long overdue, I wonder how we will reprogram our minds. Albert Einstein’s wife, Mileva Marić, was a brilliant physicist who worked with him on his theories but never received credit. The list goes on and I think part of my desire to write stems from those stories that are not told, all those lost dreams.

As much of the world feels like it’s on fire, I am reminded of the words of Grace Lee Boggs, “History is not the past. It is the stories we tell about the past. How we tell these stories—triumphantly or self-critically, metaphysically or dialectically — has a lot to do with whether we cut short or advance our evolution as human beings.”

Across the globe, women are actively trying to bend the future narrative toward justice. Across India, women have been protesting against the deregulation of agricultural markets and Tamil mothers in Sri Lanka have been protesting and seeking answers for the disappearance of their loved ones. These stories are not isolated instances of resistance but part of a larger narrative of women reclaiming public spaces and demanding that we listen.

 

This originally appeared as part of a Rutgerswide story featuring faculty from across the university reflecting on Women's History Month.  Read the full story here