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Shobha Rao is a writer and a Hedgebrook alumna. We asked her about her work and about being a Woman Authoring Change.


What role has Hedgebrook played in enabling your voice and developing community?

I’m not sure I understood the meaning of community before Hedgebrook—certainly not one in which I felt that I belonged. Hedgebrook, for me, is a pebble thrown into a pond. I may be near, or I may be far, but the center always holds.

And voice. Cottage by cottage, tree by tree, bird by bird, Hedgebrook builds silence. And in that silence, you rise and find one day, is your own voice.


Your debut collection of short stories, An Unrestored Woman, takes place around the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. What is it about this particular historical moment that speaks to you, is haunting even, for your as a woman? 

Moments of conflict unacceptably, and always, mean that women are left the most vulnerable segment of the population. And that, to me, is a call to action. Why is the conquering of a nation tied to the sexual conquest of its women? To our brutalization? I want to know and I want outrage. I picked the historical moment of Partition to anchor the stories. But it could’ve been any moment, now, or since the beginning of war. Since the beginning of man.


In what ways do you see writing as a kind of activism?

Perhaps the greatest activism is to give utterance to our deepest selves. Our exquisite truths. Activism is a hunger to tell that truth, that self. When we lift a pen, when we have our fingers poised over a keyboard, when we open to a blank page, we are making that hunger known. We are giving it glory. We are saying: here are my tears and blood, falling onto paper, one drop at a time.


Can you describe the impact place and home have on your work and in the act of creating?

I don’t think literature is impacted by a thing; I think it is impacted by the search for that thing. So home, and place, only have meaning as elusive, beautiful, hidden hopes. As an immigrant, which I am, I am keenly aware that I will search, and the search alone must have meaning, because I will never find it.


Finally, tell me more about your love for Little House on the Prairie. What might your nine year-old author-self suggest are the small seeds or threads in those stories that your adult author-self still connects to, cherishes, and perhaps writes from today, as a writer or just as a person?

Laura Ingalls Wilder taught me to have courage. She taught me that every landscape, no matter how long you’ve sat at a window and stared at it, is still full of mystery. She taught me that to try to uncover that mystery, to hold that mystery close to your heart, is the greatest mark of being alive.


About Shobha Rao:

Shobha Rao is the author of the collection of short stories, An Unrestored Woman.  She is the winner of the 2014 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, awarded by Nimrod International Journal. She has been a resident at Hedgebrook and is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation fellowship. Her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by T.C. Boyle for inclusion in the Best American Short Stories 2015. She lives in San Francisco.



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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.


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1 Comment

  • SLM
    7:32 PM - 2 June, 2016

    Brava Shobha! You’ve written a great book.

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Shobha Rao: Women Authoring Change