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10 Books That I Recommend As Must-Reads Of 2015: Make Space On Your Shelves!

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By Shamvabee Chakraborty

2015 was an eventful year, filled with bizarre happenings. We saw Jon Snow’s death, the never-ending debate about whether the color of the dress was blue or gold; we heard the breathtaking single by Adele and also saw princess baby Charlotte’s gooey photographs. Apart from such amazingly entertaining components, 2015 also awarded us with some great books. Let us take a stride down the memory lane to churn 10 of those books that all the book lovers read and criticized with pleasure.

the buried giant1. The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro

The seventh novel by the British writer Kazuo Ishiguro, it revolves around a surreal effect of time where people cannot remember well about their past. The story circles around the couple Axl and Beatrice and the mysterious Saxon warrior named Wistan. The novel received mixed responses. While James Wood for The New Yorker perceived it negatively, Alex Preston for The Guardian was less of a pessimist.

the nightingale2. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

Rated 4.5 out of 5 by Good reads, the novel is set in the quite village of Carriveau, France 1939, and it upholds an unseen compartment of the Second World War, that is, the woman’s war. Kristin Hannah narrates to her readers the story of two sisters, separated by years and experience and each moving towards her own path of existing accompanied by love and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France. The novel celebrates the durability and resistance of human spirit, especially women.

a spool of blue thread3. A Spool Of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

The receiver of 4 out of 5 by The Telegraph, it is the 20th novel of Anne Tyler. Though it was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize of 2015, the veteran reviewer of New York Times, Michiko Kakutani had viewed this book to be substandard. The story revolves around the three generations of the Whitshank family, moving back and forth over 7 decades of the 20th century. Anecdotes and the domestic rifts enhance the vivid prose of the narrative.

satin island4. Satin Island: A Novel – Tom McCarthy

From the author of ‘Remainder and C’ comes this heart-wrenching novel. Tom McCarthy in this novel records the way we sense the world around us, to decode the meaning of our futile existence and the constantly flowing narrative that we regard as our lives. The novel has been well received. Duncan White, for The Telegraph has praised the novel’s conclusion. It has also been included in the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize 2015.

a little life5. A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Written in duration of 18 months by the American novelist, the novel has become a bestseller and is also nominated for Man Booker Prize and National Book Award for Fiction. The novel received a positive response from The New Yorker and Wall Street Journal. The long awaited ‘gay novel’, it involves melodrama, sentimentalism and highly exaggerated emotions which in turn break all the canons of current literary state.

the argonauts6. The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson

A genre-bending memoir, a work of ‘auto theory’, Maggie Nelson’s novel provides her readers with a renewed definition of love and its language. It offers a new and different edge to the concept of desire. Romance being the theme of the novel, it circles around her relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. She takes her readers to the journey of different sects of her life, which includes the complexities and simplistic joys of building a family. She follows the spirit of Sontag and Barthes in her narrative.

grey as told by christian grey7. Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian – E.L. James

Also referred as Grey, the fourth installment of the Fifty Shades series by the British author was devoured by 1 million buyers within the first week of release. Whereas the previous novels were written from a female’s point of view, Grey is written from the male protagonist, that is, from Christian Grey’s point of view. An erotic romance smeared with edgy and wild sexual concepts such as sadomasochism, the critical reception of the novel has been generally negative. As The Guardian remarked, instead of incorporating mild hearted S&M, the ‘“love affair” is now the twisted work of an utter psychopath.’

Go_Set_a_Watchman8. Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee

Written by the Pulitzer Prize winner for the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, this book is the “most pre-ordered book” on Amazon after ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ in 2007. Clearly the most anticipated book, it has a theme of disillusionment and deals with the racial tension that was brewing in the South in 1950s and also incorporates the complicated relationship between the father, Atticus Finch and his daughter, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Though the publisher had promoted this novel as the sequel of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Go Set a Watchman’ is actually the novel’s first draft. In an early review by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, Atticus’ representation has been described as “shocking”.

between the world and me9. Between The World And Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

The winner of National Book Award for Nonfiction, 2015, Ta-Nehisi Coates was inspired to write this novel after his meeting with the U.S President Barack Obama in 2013. During the same time, he was reading James Baldwin’s ‘The Fire Next Time’ which aggravated his inspiration. The novel is written in an epistolary form. It is a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, realities and symbolism that is attached to being black in the United States. The novel is an unabridged, autobiographical account of his experiences in youth when he stayed in Baltimore. The theme of the novel is the fear of physical harm which is generated as Coates recapitulates the American history of horror against the black people. Editors of The New Yorker and The New York Times have described the novel to be an exceptional. Novelist Toni Morrison wrote that Coates fulfilled ‘the intellectual void’ left by Baldwin’s death.

rogue lawyer10. Rogue Lawyer – John Grisham

Another legal thriller by Grisham, it tells a tale about an unconventional street lawyer named Sebastian Rudd who fights the case of a drug-addled kid who is rumored to be a part of a satanic cult. Rudd defends such ‘wayward’ people because he believes in fair trial and justice. In November 2015, the novel was at the top of the New York Times Fiction Best Seller for two weeks.

These are the few phenomenal books that have soothed book-loving souls this year. If you haven’t gone through these above-mentioned books, it’s never too late to start reading! Hope you all have a wonderful, ‘shelves-full-of-good-books’ 2016.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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