Iban Woman by Golda Mowe (2018)
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Adventure
In Golda Mowe’s Iban Woman we meet Ratai, a young girl who lives the traditional Iban hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Ratai is good at hunting and longs to seek adventure beyond their tribal territories, both traits that mark her as tomboyish to others in her tribe. But feminine arts such as planting a bountiful rice harvest, or weaving skirts and mats don’t come easily to her. When Ratai’s love interest turns away from her because of her “unwomanly” ways, her determination to show she is everyone she is every bit a woman curses her to ill health. It takes an encounter with Kumang, the goddess of weavers and headhunters to show Ratai that there isn’t one way to be a perfect woman, but embracing one’s uniqueness is the path to self realisation and greatness.
In our discussion we will talk about life in contemporary society where the pressure to conform to unrealistic and non-inclusive ideals of how we should look, how we should act, what we should strive for and aim for in life. How are girls affected by mass and social media ideals of beauty and markers of success? And how can girls reclaim the meaning of being a ‘perfect girl’?
Content Warnings: These are stories of headhunters so there are descriptions of a battle and how to make shrunken heads in case there are some that are squeamish.