Daughters of Papua, Anindita S. Thayf, 2009
- Indonesia, #18
- Borrowed from SF public library (via Link+)
- Read August 2017
- Rating: 2.5/5
- Recommended for: People who found Bambi just a bit too lighthearted
So this is a novel narrated by a pig, a dog, and a child, and through their eyes we see the experience of poor women in the Indonesian province of West Papua (the other half of the island containing Papua New Guinea), which I will condense for you here: it pretty much sucks.
Everyone in this book is downtrodden, beaten, and/or raped, and generally abandoned while pregnant or with young children. They are betrayed by their husbands, their friends, their government, and the Dutch. Politicians are untrustworthy, and try to buy votes with cool tee-shirts and empty promises. Corporations are also bad (more broken promises and double-crossing, fewer tee-shirts). And soldiers are the worst of all (see above re: rape and beating). Resistance gets you kidnapped and imprisoned and (you guessed it) beaten and raped.
In these circumstances you could be forgiven for wondering why anyone bothers to resist, but Mabel, the central character and matriarch, never stops sticking up for herself, her daughter, her granddaughter, and her neighbors, even when the effort is doomed. It’s depressing, but admirable, and Mabel is a character you want to root for.
But, you know, life sucks and the game is rigged, and really there’s no point in rooting for anyone, because the foregone conclusion is failure, suffering, and ultimately, death. Go team.