Undoing The Patriarchs – “It wasn’t always this way” argues author Angela Saini
DESCRIBED in many quarters as a “game changer”, award-winning author and journalist Angela Saini was in London talking about her new book, ‘The Patriarchs’ this week.
Appearing at Second Home, the hub for small innovative organisations and enterprises in East London, Saini, who is based in New York, told the audience that the divisions between genders is a far more recent phenomena than is commonly thought.
“We often look at the society around us and we think about the physical differences we can see between men and women and believe this is somehow hardwired – but a lot of it is cultural,” Saini said in conversation with Joy Francis of Words of Colour, an arts development organisation, based at Second Home and hosting Saini, in partnership with bookshop Libreria.
Saini described how she went to a region of Turkey and Syria where the earliest human settlements have been excavated and there was evidence to suggest that there was little difference in gender roles. “There were women warriors and leaders.”
One of the main themes of the book is that the current state of gender relations has been determined by men for their own benefit and that science – in which Saini specialised later in her career after graduating with an engineering degree from Oxford University – has been far from neutral.
“The scientific academies of Europe banned women from membership and this was the gateway to becoming serious scientists.”
Her book is extensively researched and carries interviews with archaeologists, scientists and experts as she unearths “the roots of gendered oppression”.
Saini’s book aims to show that some societies further back in time were more equal and that power was “organised through seniority rather than gender. Patriarchy is not inevitable,” she told the audience on Wednesday evening (July 26).
Saini also briefly talked about her journalism career, starting out at ITN as a news trainee, before going to the BBC and quitting after she presented her own investigative report into bogus UK colleges and universities – these establishments were fleecing overseas students. She is also the author of three previous titles. ‘The Patriarchs’ was released this spring.
Anita Rani ushers ‘Baby Saul’ into the world
ANOTHER woman whose latest book is also causing quite the stir – is broadcaster Anita Rani. The BBC4 ‘Women’s Hour’ broadcaster has been talking about her debut novel, ‘Baby Does a Runner’.
Its main protagonist is Baby Saul, a woman who in Rani’s own words, is “fed up with just about everything – her job, her colleagues, her non-existent love life” and is still in a state of shock over the death of her beloved father. The fictional Bradford-based, mid-30s woman goes back to her family’s home in Punjab, India – prompted by a family secret and finds the love of her life (?) the book blurb teases.
The Independent is among those reviewers who were mightily impressed, giving the book a 10/10 and reminding everyone that Rani’s tale pays respect to the South Asian mothers whose stories were often lost with them when they passed.
The novel also partly came out of both her memoir, ‘The Right Sort of Girl’, published in 2021 and the popular BBC TV programme, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’. She was unable to travel to her grandfather’s home in Pakistan for the programme. She did, however, complete the journey in 2017 and travelled to Sahiwal in Pakistan and found out about what happened to the rest of her grandfather’s family during the carnage of Partition. How much of all this has been filtered into the fictional, ‘Baby Does a Runner?’ It’s an intriguing question…The book was officially released last Friday (Juy 21).
Arts supremo Sanjoy Roy talks JLF origins and controversies…
CHAMPIONING writers and artists in general has been at the heart of what Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) main producer Sanjoy Roy does.
The man behind the Indian company, Teamwork Arts, the festival production company, was on a stopover trip returning to Delhi from the US, and spoke in London about how he came to be involved in what is now popularly billed “as the greatest literary show on earth”.
“The city of Jaipur wanted to do something to attract people, and it was about building on the heritage there,” said Roy. JLF invites scores of authors to the popular tourist city every year.
There are now also several editions of JLF around the world, including London. JLF London was the first JLF outside India and marked its 10th edition here this June (see link below).
Roy has been working in the arts both in India and the UK for many years now and first entered into the world of production, through TV drama, having been involved in theatre in Delhi initially.
Teamwork Arts first worked internationally in Singapore helping to engage with theatre groups and put on an annual festival there.
He spoke too about the kerfuffle caused when Sir Salman Rushdie was set to attend in 2012 and when the festival invited two intellectuals from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), regarded as the champions of Hinduvta, to talk about their beliefs in 2017 at the festival. Roy said JLF was a festival principally of ideas and inclusive. He was in conversation with author Laline Paul at the India Club in The Strand and organised by thinktank Bridge India, on Wednesday July 19.