Backshadow is a story of fiction, but the issues faced by the three main characters are not. In fact, they are disturbingly prevalent in modern society.
According to the United Nations, 1 of every 3 women in our world today has been beaten, coerced into sex, or subjected to some form of abuse. And you recognize her: from the bus or the train on your daily commute, from the library or the bookstore, from your workplace, from the café where you get your morning coffee or tea. And yet, you don't know her at all. You have no idea of her story, the kinds of secrets she keeps, the secrets that live in the silence of her shadows.
The international bestseller Half the Sky, by Pulitzer Prize winning husband and wife team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, calls women's rights the foremost moral issue of the 21st century.
So why this story?
I grew up in a richly textured, multicultural society. But when I married into a family with origins in India, multi-racial relationships weren't yet as common or as accepted as they are today. It made me acutely aware of being judged; fingers pointed and whispers speculated. What has stayed with me as mixed race couples have become more prevalent and less conspicuous, is that we as human beings tend to make assumptions based purely on what the eye can see. My belief is that the surface level kinds of things that define our attitudes toward one another are truly such a limited part of who we really are.
Over the course of my own life and through my research for this story, what has really grabbed me on a very visceral level is that we, as women and as human beings, are more alike than we are different. I think that the very essence of our similarity lies in the fact that we feel in the same way, that is to say we all share a capacity for emotion, for feeling. Good and bad. Joy or pain. Across the spectrum. What happens in our lives can pull us one way or the other, every single day. In a nutshell, that was the universal truth I really wanted to underline.
What I dug into as the characters developed on paper was really the why of women in situations of hardship. Why stay? Or, why keep abuse silent? Why keep it a secret? Why hide? The answers to the why questions don't come easily; they are never simple. They involve a myriad of other considerations that do vary greatly from person to person.
Incest, rape, infertility, and domestic abuse are but a few of the issues affecting women today. Let me just say that none of these problems are endemic to a certain culture or a certain part of the world. They cross all boundaries. They touch lives in every part of our planet. And yet, they largely live in the shadows, shielded by a kind of hush effect.
Only by breaking the silence can we begin to put an end to the suffering. Carolyn Heilbrun in The Last Gift of Time penned the idea that women could catch courage from other women. Quite simply, that is the why of Backshadow—to hopefully inspire the catching of courage.