Finding a Voice – Asian Women in Britain published in 1978 and winner of the Martin Luther King award, was, and remains, an influential feminist book. Based on interviews, discussions and intimate one-to- one conversations with South Asian women, conducted often in Urdu, Hindi or Bengali (if they were most at ease in these languages) and sensitively translated, the book explores what it was like to be a migrant, a worker, and a woman straddled between two cultures in late 1970s Britain. Through women’s experiences, feelings and analysis of their own lives it examines family relationships, growing militancy at work, experiences of racist and misogynistic immigration policies, school life and also friendship and love.
Some of the iconic anti-racist and working-class struggles and other key events of the 1970s which have a powerful resonance today are described here from the point of view of the Asian women who participated in them. Among them is the strike at the Grunwick photo processing plant, which was led by the indomitable Jayaben Desai and drew support from thousands of trade unionists and feminists from all over Britain and is today once again an inspiration for many low-paid workers in Britain’s gig economy. The book also examines, again through South Asian women’s voices, the horrors of the first immigration detention centres and so-called ‘virginity testing’; issues of mental health and isolation.
This edition of the book includes a remarkable new chapter titled ‘Reflecting on Finding a Voice in 2018’ in which young South Asian women in Britain describe what the book means to them today and in what ways their lives are different, and similar, to those of the women in the book. In this context they write, among other things, about organising against violence against women, Islamophobia, racism of the white middle-classes, struggles against heteronormativity, the battles for justice at Yarlswood detention centre, commemorating the Grunwick strike and the ups and downs of mother-daughter relationships in South Asian families
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