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Anandibai Joshee: A Life in Poems is a collection of poems written in the imagined voice of India’s first female medical doctor and the first Indian woman to come to the United States and study medicine in 1883. Anandibai Joshee’s life story (1865-1887) is a brief yet compelling one of struggle, empowerment, and allyship in the 19th century. Challenging gender expectations and crossing waters considered impure/taboo, Anandibai fought her family and society to get an education in India and then against much protest, went to America, alone, to study medicine. Anandibai dazzled the Western world with her intelligence, grace, and determination, piercing through misconceptions about the East, while opening doors for Indian women who were otherwise confined to domestic duties within the home.
The poems in Shikha Malaviya’s book are a chronological rendering of Anandibai’s life-from her birth and childhood in the bustling town of Kalyan in Maharashtra and her marriage to an eccentric man sixteen years older, to early childbirth and the loss of her infant, from which her desire to become a doctor was born.
Drawing from extensive research and told in a variety of poetic forms-sonnet, epistolary, prose, pantoum, ghazal, ekphrastic, duplex, etc., the author captures and conveys Anandibai’s voice, culled from her life and letters. Anandibai Joshee: A Life in Poems isn’t just poetry, but biography and history as well.
In this session, author Shikha Malaviya will be in conversation with Sohini Basak. A Q&A with the audience will follow.
Shikha Malaviya was born in the United Kingdom but grew up in the United States and India. Her family originally hails from Uttarakhand. Shikha’s first book of poems, Geography of Tongues, was published to acclaim in 2014. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and featured in Catamaran, PLUME, Prairie Schooner and other fine publications. Shikha has been a featured TEDx speaker and was selected as Poet Laureate of San Ramon, California, 2016. She is co-founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship-model literary press and is currently a Mosaic America Fellow. Shikha graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in liberal studies, creative writing, and mass communications. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her family, where she is a poetry mentor, publisher, and workshop facilitator.
Sohini Basak is a writer of fiction, poetry, and the in-between. Her first poetry collection We Live in the Newness of Small Differences was awarded the inaugural International Beverly Manuscript Prize and published in 2018. Her poems have been anthologized widely, most recently by Penguin Press, Red Hen Press, Emma Press, and Math Paper Press. Her work has been honoured by a Malcolm Bradbury poetry grant, a Toto Funds the Arts writing award and a Vijay Nambisan fellowship at Sangam House. She is currently an independent editor, based out of Bangalore.