The Principal Girl Feminist Tales from Asia (2019) edited by Sharifah Aishah Osman and Tutu Dutta
Genre: Short story collection/ Local Myths and Folklores retold and reimagined
The Principal Girl is a collection of stories that aim to put girls at the centre of the story, where they were traditionally not placed. The tales also put at the forefront issues that concern Malaysian girls and women: issues such as sexual harassment of a schoolgirl, domestic abuse and arranged marriages.
For instance, The Girl on the Mountain is loosely based on Puteri Gunung Ledang where the princess gives the King a piece of her mind that later becomes the kernel for his own change in attitude. Operation Rescue: Pris has a girl offer a hand of friendship to the giantess Gedembai that has existed shunned by society for being different and turning people into stone. Maybe she was just lonely? In Gamble, a girl whose close friends are boys discovers how tricky it is to navigate teenhood when hormones are raging and eventually finds a way to speak up. In An Epic Misunderstanding, a well meaning mother conditioned by the patriarchy prevents her daughter’s happiness so that she can marry a more ‘suitable’ boy. In the end the daughter had to take matters into her own hands when she found herself pregnant with a girl.
The stories might not necessarily paint all women in a favourable light but it puts the female narrative centre-stage and this, when it comes to books, is important as the first step in framing newer and more inclusive narratives. We have plenty of male centric stories (just look at our classics list!), thus we need more female-centric ones too so that young readers have representation on both sides and are able to read widely and more inclusively.
Books like this are great for would-be writers amongst students to see through a different lens how they can frame their stories differently or choose a female protagonist for their own fiction.