By Saesha Bhat (‘24)
High schoolers have many goals they want to achieve: getting a driver’s license, graduating high school, making a sports team, or even getting accepted into their dream school. For SBHS Junior Aparna Parthasarathy, becoming a published writer can be checked off that list.
At just sixteen years old, Parthasarathy published her first novel, Tales of the Invisible, an anthology of women and children with different backgrounds who suffer from the lack of women’s rights in their respective countries finding the strength to overcome these obstacles. The stories take place all over the world from Nepal to Peru to even the Democratic Republic of Congo; each occurs in different periods, showing how the oppression of women’s rights has always been a problem throughout history.
As an advocate for women’s rights and an intern for state assemblies, Parthasarathy recognized the inequality and mistreatment girls were experiencing, even in South Brunswick. It inspired her to understand how women from all walks of life endured and conquered this prejudice.
“The biggest motivator I think was just definitely seeing the fact that even in our school district, there are still some disparities that women have, even if it's not directly in policy if it comes just from other students, peers, or teachers. There is a certain sense of entitlement and a sense that girls do not often have the same opportunities or same abilities that boys do. I am lucky enough that in South Brunswick, we don't have that, we do have a certain amount of equality, but in other school districts and other nations, it's not like that. And I kind of wanted to explore that a lot more.”
The four stories all include the same theme but vary in situations, bringing light to hidden issues that many experience. They follow teenager Sagnika in Nepal who faces the denial of women's education, a storyteller in Mali who advises children on what to do and not do through her marriage, Kesi who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo during WWII when there was a single-women tax, and a mother-daughter duo in Peru who struggle due to global industrialization and an abusive, alcoholic father.
Her story in Peru has more of a personal connection since Parthasarathy had visited female weavers in rural Peru whose talent and ancient craftsmanship were not generating enough profit to survive. She noticed this was a trend in many countries as she had also visited women in India with similar situations.
“I did have the chance to work with a couple of these women and help them by helping come in contact with other organizations and people that would be able to finance them out west. In addition to that, I have also been lucky enough to speak to women who have undergone similar situations [in India]."
With no way of growing a company due to a lack of finances and guidance, these women are struggling, scraping by through life. Parthasarathy realized that these stories must be shared with the public to honor these strong women and create awareness due to ignorance that forgets the ones barely surviving.
Why should anyone read this? Why should we care about the people grinding and working till the sun sets? Or the women who have no rights when Americans have many more?
“Just because we live in a privileged world and we have a certain amount of privilege in the way we live and the area that we live in, that doesn’t mean that everyone else has the same amount of privilege that we do. And we should not always be afraid to take action, we should always help those who are in a situation where they can not fight for themselves and can not voice what they are feeling. And it is important to be able to advocate for those who are being oppressed and not getting the support that they need,” Parthasarathy said.
It is always important to learn about world issues as we see more and more problems arising due to women's rights protests and the heated political climate. In addition, it is also imperative for individuals to react to this information to find solutions to these issues.
“Take action. Honestly, I try to do the best that I can. I’m trying to help women. The proceeds of my novel are going to women’s rights organizations and they are helping women that are being oppressed or harassed. Even if you feel like you can’t do anything, there is always something that you can do,” she said.
English teacher Mrs. Jaclyn Jennings is one of the many supporters of Parthasarathy during the novel-making process. She recognized her teacher’s help during the COVID-19 pandemic “through her teachings and through this club that she runs called She’s the First.”
Mrs. Jennings said, “Aparna was a wonderful student! She was always such a hard worker and truly put 100% into everything. Not only was she kind and funny, but she also had a wonderful work ethic. It was an absolute pleasure having her in my class.”
For Parthasarathy, being a published writer, although finding it very hard when balancing school and writing, has a satisfying feeling when the work has finished and is ready to be read by many. Aparna sees herself writing more in the future as she grows her awareness and understanding of world issues that many vulnerable people face today. Her novel is available on Amazon in Ebook form. It will be available in paperback form in October on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.