My friends and readers (and I hope you’re all both!) may reasonably think: what is Linda doing running around the world when she’s supposedly working on another book? Where is book news among the travel adventures?

Well, travel is broadening (believe me, as my lifelong struggle with weight persists!) not just in body but in mind and now in mine as a relatively nouveau fiction writer. While the month+ in India might have looked like all fun and games, it made a huge impact on me as I AM trying to finish The Lost Torah of Shanghai, the next book. Really! Not only have I become personally even more invested in issues that have engaged me for years, but my writer’s voice will reflect that as the new story unfolds.

I speak in the broadest (OK–I’m fixated on broad) sense of women’s issues. But a defining experience was being in India during and in the aftermath of the horrific rape-murder of a young woman on an out-of-service bus used as a recreational vehicle for the perpetrators, who tricked the victim and her companion into thinking it was legitimately running as public transit. Accounts of this in the Indian media, conversations and an academic lecture we heard made for an unavoidable focus. During the (still unidentified) young woman’s multi-week struggle to live, some TV stations nauseatingly nicknamed her “Braveheart” as they followed the bulletins of her condition minute-by-minute. Politicians cried foul, first as to jurisdiction between local New Delhi and state police. Tens of thousands of Indians protested in the streets against the scourge of rape in Indian society. At the same time, back in the US, the tragedy of Newtown, CT, generated momentum for gun control. Since then, in India tough laws designed to deter rape have been passed, but shocking new cases raise doubts about enforcement and real societal will toward change. Here legislation to limit gun access is proposed, but muffled, compared to the most stringent proposals.

Photo from the Economic Times

So much for tragedies that seem to be penultimate wake-up calls or straws that break a camel’s back.

For those of us who have stood up for equal pay and reproductive choice, who have protested domestic violence and human trafficking, who have promoted empowerment for women through education, child care and health care, what happened in India in December, along with what happens all over the world every day, marks just another signpost on a long and possibly unending road. But I have to tell you that, beyond all my years of activism and advocacy (ask me about Milwaukee, summer of 1992…), this trip to India has made me question more than ever why women are so vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse. Sometimes, though this might sound crude, I think the age-old universal male power play simply boils down to anatomy. 

All this has reinvigorated my own commitment to causes that empower women (and families). I’m involved in a number of nonprofit organizations as a volunteer and/or donor. Some would say too many, but I truly believe there are so many worthwhile causes and groups working toward them from the local scene to the state to the national to the global. Now I’m pledging myself to focus where making the proverbial difference in people’s lives is at least a possibility. 

One way to do so is through writing, both future fiction and nonfiction/blogging formats.

If you thought that Lily Kovner, the protagonist/narrator of After the Auction, sounded like me in some ways (OK–the swimming!), look for her activist voice in The Lost Torah of Shanghai. 




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