Every Book
is Celebrated

Urvashi Bhutalia, feminist publishing,
books by Kali for Women and its imprint Zubaan

Urvashi Butalia’s life is a life of books. A feminist, historian, writer, and publisher, she co-founded India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, with Ritu Menon during the women’s movement in 1984. Together, the two women published books on feminism, gender, activism, culture, history, and media—powerfully adding women’s voices where they’d been missing to the Indian literature stacks. For two decades, Kali for Women’s work helped educate and create conversations around the struggles faced by women in the country. After parting ways with Menon in 2003, Butalia set up her Zubaan imprint, which to this day continues to publish vital tomes on women studies, alongside titles for children and young adults.

Butalia has been fighting for women's rights with publishing for over 35 years. I first discovered Butalia’s work while researching Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society, India’s first feminist journal. While Butalia was only involved as part of the editorial collective in its early days, the journal went on to publish 157 issues, closing its door in 2006.

📖 Interview with Urvashi Bhutalia in the L.i.P Collective's zine.

Urvashi Bhutalia (Image source: Shenomics: Women leading from within, 17 June, 2016)

Some Celebrated Books

The History of Doing


The History of Doing: : An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women's Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990
by Radha Kumar

A a thematic history of the women's movement in India both before and after independence, this book covers the period from the nineteenth century to the present day. It looks at how women's issues were raised, initially by men and as part of the movements for social reform, and then with the involvement of women in the nationalist movement, by women themselves. Using photographs, old and new documents, excerpts from letters, books and informal writings, the author documents the growing involvement of women and the formation of the early women s organizations, she examines the foregrounding of the women's issue during the reform and nationalist movements and its subsequent disappearance from the agenda of public debate until the post independence period of the Sixties and Seventies when it surfaces again.

Shareer ki Jankari


Shareer ki Jaankari (Knowledge About the Body)
75 women from villages in Rajasthan

This is an interestingly structured book co-authored by 75 women from rural areas of India. Made through a series of health workshops as a part of a project called the Women’s Development Project. The book illustrates, through flaps (where you can see what’s inside a body part) and detailed diagrams, the various changes that a boy and a girl’s bodies go through from birth till death eg: mensuration, pregnancy, etc. It is written and drawn by hand, and has some DIY exercises that explore sexuality and puberty. Originally published in Hindi, the book has been translated in English, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Marathi.

A Life Less Ordinary


A Life Less Ordinary
by Baby Halder
Translated by Urvashi Bhutalia

This is the story of Baby Halder, a woman who overcame poverty, violence and a meagre education to write a book that would become an overnight literary sensation in India. Born in West Bengal, Baby is abandoned by her mother at the age of four, married at twelve to a violent man, and a mother herself at thirteen. When her husband's abuse escalates, Baby flees with her children and begins life as a domestic servant, only to find herself the victim of further abuse, this time at the hands of her various employers. But then Baby goes to work for Prabodh Kumar, a retired anthropology professor, who recognises Baby's love of words and books and, with infinite humanity, gives her the time, the tools and the encouragement to tell her tale.

The Other Side of Silence


The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India
by Urvashi Bhutalia

The partition of India in 1947 caused one of the most harrowing human convulsions in history: over twelve million people were displaced amidst a frenzy of murder, rape and abduction on a massive scale. For decades these violent realities remained buried in silence, even though the memories of brutality never faded. The Other Side of Silence was the first major work to exhume the personal trauma of the Partition. An undisputed classic, it meticulously locates the individual experiences and private pain at the heart of this cataclysmic event. Furthermore, Urvashi Butalia reveals how people on the margins of history—children, women, ordinary people, the lower castes, the untouchables—were affected by this upheaval. In a passionate and stimulating new introduction, Butalia examines not only recent developments in the expanding field of Partition studies but also the heart-breaking ways in which this colossal tragedy continues to impact our lives and what this means for the future of the Indian subcontinent.

Recasting Women


Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History
Edited by Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid

This collection of essays stands at an unarticulated conjuncture within the feminist movement and women’s studies that have emerged in India since the 1970s. The anthology attempts to explore the inter-relation of patriarchies with political economy, law, religion and culture and to suggest a different history of ‘reform’ movements, and of class and gender relations. The book seeks to uncover the dialectical relation of feminism and patriarchy both in the policies of the colonial State and the politics of anticolonial movements. The writers in this volume include scholars from various disciplines.

Seeing Like a Feminist


Seeing like a Feminist
by Nivedita Menon

Incisive, eclectic and politically engaged, Seeing like a Feminist is a bold and wide-ranging book that reorders contemporary society. For Nivedita Menon, feminism is not about a moment of final triumph over patriarchy but about the gradual transformation of the social field so decisively that old markers shift forever. From sexual harassment charges against international figures to the challenge that caste politics poses to feminism, from the ban on the veil in France to the attempt to impose skirts on international women badminton players, from queer politics to domestic servants’ unions to the Pink Chaddi campaign, Menon deftly illustrates how feminism complicates the field irrevocably.

Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon (Image source: Hindustan Times, Writing a new world, 9 March, 2019)

The word “Zubaan” comes from Hindustani and means literally, “tongue,” though it also carries other meanings, such as voice, speech and languages. In several Hindustani-speaking cultures, when women begin to speak up and claim speech as their own, a common saying is to note, critically and occasionally fearfully, that their “zubaan” has “opened up”.1

The Kali for Women logo was designed by Chandralekha Patel, a feminist, dancer and choreographer.2 The logomark with expressive eyes takes notes from Bharathanatam, a classical Indian dance.

Books by Kali for Women (Image source: Still from The Books we Made documentary)