Language and Literature -- Blood into Ink: South Asian and Middle Eastern Women Write War Edited by Miriam Cooke and Roshni Rustomji-Kerns

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Blood into Ink: South Asian and Middle Eastern Women Write War, ed. by Miriam Cooke and Roshni Rustomji-Kerns. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994. xxvi + 237 pages. Bibl. Note to p. 238. $59.95 cloth; $19.95 paper.

The editors of this anthology remark that "in South Asia and the Middle East, women live battles and violence not as a constant state of alert and destruction, but as a charged normality" (p. 8). These stories, memoirs, poems, and excerpts of novels by women from a wide range of Asian societies, inscribe war not as a far-off front but as daily life, as something that must be both lived and resisted. Translated from Arabic and Hebrew; Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu; Farsi and Pushto; and in some cases written originally in English, the texts are organized by the editors into sections on "Remembering" and on "Waging Peace."

Yet, as Cooke and Rustomji-Kerns note, acts of recollection and the work of reconciliation overlap. Moreover, either may entail an acceptance of involvement in violent exchanges. Women recognize that if their part in armed conflict is to be acknowledged and if new understandings are to challenge "the cohesion of male-dominated war myths" (p. 8), their participation in war calls for their own writing of war experience. In those heretofore dominant myths, women look on in I silence and children are invisible. But the writings in Blood into Ink subvert, even as they invoke the old mythologies of male heroism and presence, female invisibility and acquiescence. In Palestinian writer Nuha Samaral's short story--"Two Faces, One Woman"--a woman whose husband heads for Paris in the thick of war fashions a new identity to survive: "Now that the man had gone she could stop lying" (p. 126). In Krishna Sob's Hindi story--"Where is my Mother?"--a child's understanding of war confounds a soldier's lone attempts to make amends for his participation in war.

Breaking the taboo of silence and demolishing the conventional wartime gender ascription of roles, the selections in this anthology also question literary genre boundaries, as the editors' choices confront issues of canonicity, conventional academically defined "area studies" boundaries, and closed circles of identity politics. …