Sonora Jha: Women Authoring Change

By Hedgebrook Staff

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Sonora Jha is a journalist, fiction writer, Hedgebrook alumna and current board member. We asked her about her work as an activist and the connections with her most recent book of fiction.

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Tell us about your work as a writer—do you write in multiple genres/forms?

I started out as a journalist and still write Op-Eds in national and international newspapers. Then, there’s my writing as a scholar and university professor, which is research-based academic papers. But my latest passion is creative writing. My debut novel, Foreign, was published last year by Random House India. And I’m now writing a memoir, which I am terribly excited about.

 

Do you consider yourself an activist?

Yes. From the time I started writing as a child, I was drawn to writing about something that needed changing in the world. Writers, filmmakers, poets, artists of all sort are often drawn to the heady cocktail of art and social change, for activism. Activism is the highest form of love, after all.

 

Would you characterize your writing as activist? Why or why not?

Yes, I would. My novel is about the violence done to farming communities in India, where farmers are committing suicide because of the onslaught of poor government policy and GMO seeds. My journalism, my academic scholarship (which examines journalists’ coverage of social movements), and my personal essays are all based in political activism. Even my memoir is deeply political while being joyously personal. I may not march in the streets or work in the field, but I hope my writing feeds the work of those who do.

 

What impact do you hope your writing will have in the world?

I hope it inspires compassion. I hope it inspires activism. But most of all, I hope people find beauty in my writing and are moved to change something in their individual lives that may be creating inequities in the world.

 

What’s the best feedback you’ve received from a reader?

I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming sense of joy over getting letters and tweets from readers, but the best feedback I got was indirect. I was sitting in the audience at a theater adaptation of Foreign by the drama program of SRM University in Chennai, India. My book was a finalist for The Hindu Prize for Fiction and the organizers of The Hindu Literary Festival had asked local universities to enact plays based on the shortlisted books. At the end of the play, an audience member asked the students what they felt about the farmers’ suicides. One young actor replied and said that he hadn’t known that this was happening in his own country and he wanted to lead an activist group to lobby for farmers’ rights. It was all I could do to keep myself from crying, sitting there in the crowd.

 

About Sonora Jha:

Sonora Jha was born in India, where she had a successful career as a journalist in Mumbai and Bangalore before moving to Singapore and then the United States to earn a Ph.D. in Political Communication. She is now a professor of journalism and the Chair of the Department of Communication at Seattle University. Her first novel, Foreign, has sprung from her work as a journalist, an academic, and a creative writer. Sonora lives in Seattle. Learn more about Sonora and her work at sonorajha.com.

 


 

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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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