Oppression to emancipation: British-Indian author launches gripping debut novel, “THE GRANDDAUGHTER PROJECT”
A modern visionary and one of the newest authors of British-Indian heritage, Shaheen Chishti has written a deeply emotional and raw story, poignantly telling the shared experience of three, very different women, who collectively use their voices to improve societal attitudes for their granddaughters. The men around these women, who play prominent roles in their lives, put them into desperate situations. Young and alone, they fight to overcome their experiences. The result is a masterful original fiction novel, as profound as it is awe-inspiring.
“The Granddaughter Project” grips the reader, as the complex past lives of the women are revealed and their connection to one another deepens.
These warrior women tell their stories for the first time to their granddaughters, hoping that they can succeed where they failed and that they feel empowered, inspired and supported to do what is best for themselves.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Shaheen and know more about his project. Here is our exclusive interview with Shaheen Chishti for all of you.
What prompted you to write The Granddaughter Project?
As society has historically been unjust to women, they have lived their lives in fear of the consequences of existing in a marginalized gender. I wrote The Granddaughter Project in hopes of creating an environment and a potential future in which my daughters, granddaughters, and women everywhere were respected and treated with equality and fairness.
The journey towards this goal has begun through the first waves of equality activists and, while we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. To fully understand the struggles of women in society, we must create an environment that allows them to speak up about their experiences without holding them back or harboring a fear of judgment. Only through providing this will we be able to allow women to reach their full potential in society.
By writing this book, I want to encourage women to find their voices and obtain power over their narratives. As many women have carried their secrets to their graves, we must ensure that this does not continue moving forward and that the same experiences are not repeated by empowering women to speak up.
What lessons did you learn when writing the book?
Through the research I have done while writing the book, I have been enlightened about women’s strength and appalled at the suffering and abuse they have gone through, specifically in times of war, famine, and poverty. While we are vaguely aware that such atrocities happen; however, it is essential to read up on these incidents to be thoroughly familiar with the extent of the abuse which has gone down in history.
While it is easy to blame such abuse on the enemy, it is unfortunately quite common for this to be instigated amongst families and friends. Learning about that and the trauma that has affected women worldwide by those closest to them, has been an eye-opener for me. It has led me to realize the need for additional light that needs to be shined on this topic.
Were the characters inspired by real people? If yes, why did you write about them and are their experiences real?
While the stories might not have been taken word for word from various girls and women, these characters are inspired by the collective of women who have gone through the same suffering and horrors. Each of these stories echoes the experiences of thousands and millions of women who suffered similar fates.
The characters themselves have been based on women that I know with inspiring stories, which has prompted me to share them with the world to focus on this societal issue. In addition, the various characters have been based on life-changing events which have taken place in the last 130 years, including the Bengal Famine of 1943, the Holocaust, and the 1958 Notting Hill race riots.
What was your biggest fear about publishing The Granddaughter Project?
My biggest fear, both when writing and publishing The Granddaughter Project, was not doing the women of my book and the ones who have inspired it the justice that they deserve. So, as the women in my life have opened up to me about their experiences of abuse and suffering, I made sure to write the book taking their perspectives, thoughts, and feelings into account as accurately as possible to portray their experiences with honor and respect.
Another fear that rose was the reception of this book. Writing this book has always been about spreading awareness of the cause in the truest form possible. This book might be uncomfortable to some. However, it is only through discomfort that change can arise.
What would you say is men’s role in the journey towards female empowerment?
Unfortunately, we live in a society that remains unequal and unjust, favoring men over women in the majority of the different parts of the world. To balance the scales, the effort must not only come from women, as that is not the issue in achieving equality. Men must also advocate for the cause for true justice and understanding to be accomplished.
For women to be comfortable sharing their stories, men must also create a favorable and safe space for them to do so.