cover image The Brass Notebook: A Memoir of Feminism and Freedom

The Brass Notebook: A Memoir of Feminism and Freedom

Devaki Jain. New Press, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-620-97794-1

Jain debuts with a stirring account of her coming-of-age in southern India and her career as a feminist economist. Jain’s childhood in 1940s Mysore was shaped by her Brahmin civil servant father, who encouraged such pursuits as horseback riding, and her nurturing maternal relatives. At age 22, Jain moved to England for university studies, and later defied her father’s expectations by secretly marrying an anticolonial activist from an “inconvenient” caste. By the ’80s, Jain had published a study that challenged the idea that men were the main breadwinners of their households. As well, her field research about the sexual and economic exploitation of women laborers in rural India informed Women’s Quest for Power: Five Indian Case Studies, a book about the collective organizations of “poor and previously disempowered women,” which Jain and her coauthors presented to economists and such policymaking bodies as the United Nations. Throughout this rousing account, Jain champions a world free of “the stark inequalities of power that currently prevail” and remains humble despite her achievements (“I was never an influential academic economist”). Readers will be enlightened. (Mar.)