|Photo credit Krista Edwards 2013.|
I begin my essay with a simple question:
Why do male writers seem to dominate the literary world? Even Joanne Rowling, famed author of the Harry Potter series, took on two male pseudonyms to publish her work: J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith. In this essay, I explore why male writers have more success with feminist issues than female writers, especially in Middle Eastern literature.
Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of two Afghani women in 1980’s Afghanistan to present-day Afghanistan. Khaled Hosseini had previously published The Kite Runner, a novel about the relationship between fathers and sons, something that would appeal to a Middle Eastern male audience. After becoming a worldwide best-selling authors, he publishes A Thousand Splendid Suns, which tackles more serious topics such as how the law in the Islamic countries (that follow Shari’a law) treat women. Hosseini does this because he knows that he is one of the few people in the world with the power to bring this to the world’s attention. In Islamic countries that currently practice Shari’a law, women have no power. For example, in Iran, a fourteen year old girl named Malala Yoosuf was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting women’s education. Khaled Hosseini is perfectly aware of the problems surrounding women if they speak out; it is why he, as a feminist, feels it is necessary to write for the feminist cause.
Why then, is it necessary that this happen in nearly every society and every era? It would make sense that the Brontë sisters would use male pseudonyms to publish their books in Victorian England (feminism hadn’t quite progressed so far then). Why does J.K. Rowling need to hide behind an androgynous initialized pseudonym and a completely male pseudonym (Robert Galbraith) to publish her books? The Brontë sisters are to Lewis Carroll what JK Rowling is to Khaled Hosseini: two examples of female authors masquerading as male authors to publish their works, two examples of male authors breaking societal norms by writing about female characters that break societal norms. Why is it this dynamic? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?—female authors writing about feminist issues, with male authors writing as male pseudonyms?
These are the questions I’m trying to answer as I explore A Thousand Splendid Suns’ tale about two women trying to break free of oppressive Islamic Shari’a law.