Chellammal's Journal: A Woman's Memoir of a Joint Family in Early Twentieth-Century India By Kanchana Viswanathan

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Chellammal’s Journal: A Woman’s Memoir of a Joint Family in Early Twentieth-Century India

Written by Kanchana Viswanathan
Translated by
August 5, 2022

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Chellammal’s Journal records the journey of a woman in an upper-caste joint family in early twentieth-century Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu. It excavates the complex familial relationships within the walls of the house, and the interplay of love, hurt, affection, disappointment, anger and control which thwart the aspirations of a young woman. In her memoir, Chellammal is especially sensitive to the treatment of young widows in Brahmanical Tamil society. She raises questions and concerns about a society that places its women under tremendous scrutiny, and the reader can feel her indignation at the oppressive social customs that suffocate a woman’s ability to have a more complete life. Written at a time when dissent or disagreement by women in Chellammal’s circumstances would have been frowned upon, the book provides the reader with a rare, contemporary look at the interior of an upper-caste twentieth-century Tamil household, even as her daughter’s translation brings the narrative to life for non-Tamil speaking readers for the first time. Kanchana Viswanathan is a physician by profession and is based in the US. Chellammal’s Journal is her first work of translation.

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