Women Writing About Global Poverty
Due to an array of causes, including unpaid maternity leave and lower wages, women are statistically more likely to struggle with poverty than men. This imbalance has driven many female authors to speak up about the issue through writing. The publication of material to inform readers of the realities of poverty is extremely beneficial to the cause. Fiction or nonfiction books can play a major hand in urging the world to take action against this social injustice. Here are five women writing about global poverty.

5 Women Writing About Global Poverty

  1. Katherine Boo is an American journalist, whose reports on disadvantaged populations earned her a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. People know her best for her book, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” a compilation of interviews and observations from Boo’s time in India. The book follows the stories of several different residents of Annawadi, a slum dwelling in close proximity to Mumbai. The village is home to roughly 3,000 people who experience a life of scavenging through airport waste and residing next to a sewage lake. Boo’s accounts of Annawadi provide a jarringly honest look at life inside of a community struggling to battle poverty within a developing nation. She believes that shedding light on underlying issues is imperative to initiate real change in impoverished communities, like Annawadi.
  2. Shobha Rao was merely 7-years-old when she moved to the United States from India. Her novel, “Girls Burn Brighter,” and her short story collection, titled “An Unrestored Woman,” have received critical acknowledgment for the representation of varying social issues, including poverty. “Girls Burn Brighter” centers on two young Indian women who attempt to escape slavery, sex trafficking and prostitution. The novel distinctly describes various aspects of poverty in Poornima and Savitha’s intertwined tales. Both girls’ families are extremely poor, forcing them to scavenge junkyards; the family sends the children to work the spinning wheel, where the two characters meet. As one of many women writing about global poverty, Rao’s writings demonstrate the dark and brutal effects poverty places on those who endure it.
  3. NoViolet Bulawayo is a native of Zimbabwe, now living in the United States, who uses childhood experiences as inspiration for her writings. The Man Booker Prize shortlisted her literary debut, “We Need New Names;” Bulawayo was the first black African woman and Zimbabwean to receive this award. “We Need New Names” follows a 10-year-old Zimbabwean girl on her journey to escape the impoverished, corrupt conditions of her homeland and seek refuge in America, which does not end up offering any solace to the young immigrant. Bulawayo’s compassion for human rights, particularly of her fellow Zimbabweans, has driven her to become one of the most prominent women writing about global poverty today.
  4. Tsitsi Dangarembga is also a native to Zimbabwe; born and raised in the nation, her creative voice has traveled across oceans to reach the hearts of people everywhere. One of her books, “Nervous Conditions,” earned a place on BBC’s list of 100 Stories that Shaped the World in 2018. Further, the novel’s debut was the first time that a book that a black Zimbabwean woman wrote received publication in English. This story follows a young Zimbabwe girl’s struggle for a better education after her brother’s death. In addition to the other women writing about global poverty, Dangarembga also utilizes this theme as a primary element throughout the novel. Dangarembga’s writing captures an authentic view of the life that impoverished Zimbabweans lead, resulting in a raw story that emphasizes the struggles that millions of women in developing nations face.
  5. Anne C. Bromley is an American poet and children’s book author. In 2010, she published “The Lunch Thief,” a children’s book about poverty. The story focuses on Rafael, a boy who plots revenge against the bully who has been stealing his lunch. Rafael soon discovers that local wildfires had recently impacted the thief and the thief’s family, pushing the family into poverty thus fueling the boy’s theft. In the end, Rafael and the thief become friends through him sharing his lunch. Bromley is one of the few women writing about global poverty in children’s books, which is an engaging and efficient way to introduce children to such issues and how to properly react to them.

Books have the ability to spread information, teach children literacy skills and send hope to a person dealing with social, physical or other circumstances. Further, one could argue that books are one of the world’s ultimate weapons against poverty. These five women writing about global poverty have proven that adversity can give rise to a powerful voice. In a world where women are statistically more impoverished than men, such a voice is essential to starting a movement for change.

– Harley Goebel
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Russia
From extravagant ballrooms to bloody battlefields, the world of Russian literature tells a tale about one of the greatest nations on earth. But away from the elegance and high life looms another world full of poverty, not ignored by the great artists who witnessed it. In fact, many of the great Russian authors chose to write about poverty in Russia.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The great novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, one of the few Russian authors to be born into a middle-class family and who lived in poverty himself for a number of years, highlighted poverty in Russia throughout his career. In his book, “Crime and Punishment,” Dostoevsky tells a story about an impoverished student who murders a pawnbroker for money. The reader soon learns, however, that money was not his whole motivation, nor did it benefit the main character.

In the tome, Dostoevsky writes, “In poverty, you may still retain your innate nobility of soul, but in beggary — never — no one. For beggary, a man is not chased out of human society with a stick, he is swept out with a broom, so as to make it as humiliating as possible; and quite right, too, forasmuch as in beggary as I am ready to be the first to humiliate myself.”

As the story goes on, Dostoevsky fills the reader in with details about the main character’s impoverished life. Dostoevsky’s solution to poverty in Russia boils down to his religious beliefs. He thought that one should be charitable, in a Christian manner, to help out those in need.

Nikolai Chernyshevsky

Dostoevsky’s contemporary and rival, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, had a much different view of the situation in Russia. Chernyshevsky, a radical communist and revolutionary, believed that instating a communist system of government would free the Russian people from the grasp of impoverishment. Chernyshevsky’s magnum opus, “What Is to Be Done?,” went on to influence a number of communist revolutionaries, including Vladimir Lenin.

Dostoevsky would battle communist ideals throughout his life, but most notably in his book, “Notes From Underground,” which was a response to, “What Is to Be Done?”. In rebuttal to Chernyshevsky’s proposals, Dostoevsky writes, “But man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic.”

“Notes From Underground” was largely an argument against Chernyshevsky’s ideas, but this argument is a great example of the ideas that battled each other in nineteenth-century Russia. Many saw communism as a way of repairing the broken state of the Russian people, particularly the ones living in poverty. Others thought reform in farming would bring prosperity to the Russian lower-class.

From Turgenev to Tolstoy, Russian authors in the nineteenth century all battled with the economic problems of the lower-class. Some ignored them, some wrote about them, but it was clear that literature had an impact on poverty in Russian. In events leading up to the communist revolution in 1917, revolutionaries would praise or criticize certain authors for their views on the economic situation in Russian; undoubtedly, writers had a great impact on the problem of poverty in Russia.

– Tristan Gaebler

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction and short story writer sets the stage for African literature and young women everywhere. She is both a prominent feminist and one of the most prominent authors of African Literature, as reported by Vogue and The Times Literary Supplement.

Ten Facts About Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. Adichie was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie.
  2. Adichie’s father, who is now retired, worked at the University of Nigeria, located in Nsukka. He was Nigeria’s first professor of statistics, and later became Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University. Her mother was the first female registrar at the same institution.
  3. At the age of nineteen, Adichie left for the United States. She received a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University.
  4. Adichie completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, as reported by Harvard.
  5. During her senior year at Eastern, Adichie started working on her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was released in October 2003. The book has received wide critical acclaim; according to Adichie’s personal site, it was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.
  6. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in August 2006 in the United Kingdom and in September 2006 in the United States.
  7. Adichie’s third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of short stories.
  8. Her latest Novel Americanhah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named on of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.
  9. Adichie’s 2009 TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” has had more than eight million views.
  10. Reported in Vogue, Adichie loves teaching, and claims, “I want to make it valid, to dream about books and writing. Because in Nigeria it’s very hard; people will say to you, what do you mean, ‘writing’? Nigerians are a very, very practical people. And while I admire practicality, I feel we need to make a space for dreaminess.”

Megan Hadley

Photo: Flickr