In Defense of the Volatile, Unlikable Girl, a guest post by Tanvi Berwah

Koral of Sollonia, the narrator of Monsters Born and Madeis a deeply unlikable sixteen-year-old girl.

Let me elaborate on what that one word–unlikable–encompasses in this particular instance.

Koral of Sollonia is angry and intensely traumatized. Her trauma stems from an intersection of her lived reality: a teen in a dysfunctional family unit, lack of money to live a safe life, existing within a gendered body, neurodivergence and undiagnosed mental illness, and belonging to the lowest end of the lower caste . Being limited by age, poverty, gender and mental health are still phenomena that we are familiar with, but the violence of casteism is probably not as talked about.

This is Shimla, a hill station in India where I brainstormed a lot of scenes from the book.

The social system that inspired the one in the book is, in reality, even worse than portrayed. It is an illogical system of dividing people by assigning them a “caste” by birth in Hinduism–and Indian people practice it both in the mainland and within the diaspora. There are castes that are upper and lower, and then there are those who are “untouchable” and out-caste, or the reclaimed term Dalit, which means the oppressed. Even in today’s India, the so-called untouchable people are manually made to clean sewers, have almost no rights in practice, and hearing that a Dalit person in rural areas has been killed because they dared something so mundane as to walk before an upper- caste person’s house is very common.