front cover of Desire of the Moth
Desire of the Moth
a novel
Champa Bilwakesh
UpSet Press, 2017
A fifteen-year-old widow runs across a bridge to catch a train bound for Trichi. Sowmya is running away to make sense of the events that had seized her body and her mind, and had ripped apart her world. She is determined to flee her destiny of numbing isolation within her community, the Brahmins of the Thanjavur district in South India. Her plans pivot when she meets a devadasi--an aging dancer--in her compartment. When the woman Mallika opens her drawstring bag and buys Sowmya her dinner, Sowmya recognizes what she needs to overcome her own condition, that of a young woman in possession of a thin cotton sari, a head shorn clean, and little else. She asks Mallika how she too can achieve that kind of power--the power to open a bag and pull out money. Thus begins Sowmya's transformation in the city by the sea, Madras, which is in the grip of its own political and social changes while India is struggling to seize its independence from the imperial British raj. Here she learns the beauty of dance from Mallika, and the sweetness and agony of falling in love with a married man. The cinema brings unimagined opportunities and all the power and riches that she could desire, but it also consumes her relentlessly. When a letter arrives, Sowmya begins her quest to regain everything that had been lost when she once lived in that small village tucked into a little bend of the Kaveri River.

Hear Champa Bilwakesh reading from Desire of the Moth here:

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front cover of Insurgent Feminisms
Insurgent Feminisms
Women Write War
Bhakti Shringarpure
UpSet Press, 2023
Insurgent Feminisms: Women Write War brings together ten years of writing published on Warscapes magazine through the lens of gender. Since its founding in November 2011, Warscapes has urged an immersive reflection on war not as nationalist exercise but as an affective, traumatic and inevitable burden upon the victim, the witness, the artist and the ethicist.
In this collection, insurgency emerges in the raw and meticulous language of witnessing, and in the desire to render the space of conflict in radically different ways. There are no paeans to courageous soldiers here, nor pat nationalist rhetoric, nor bravado about saving lives. These perspectives on war come out of regions and positions that defy stereotypical war reportage or the expected war story. They disobey the rules of war writing and do not subordinate themselves to the usual themes and tropes that we have become so used to reading. Instead, Insurgent Feminisms advances a new paradigm of war writing. Truth rises to the top when these writers choose to dissent from the received wisdoms, styles and socio-political structures of violence that constantly put gendered bodies at risk.
Insurgent Feminisms comprises reportage, fiction, memoir, poetry and conversations from over sixty writers from thirty regions, primarily from the Global South, and includes contributions by Suchitra Vijayan, Chika Unigwe, Belen Fernandez, Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek, Nathalie, Handal Gaiutra Bahadur, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Sumana Roy and Lina Mounzer, as well as conversations with Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Lara Pawson, Panashe Chigumadzi and Annemarie Jacir, among several others.

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