Spoken word & Live literature
Talks & debates

Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth: South Asian Feminist Writing

Part of Alchemy

From Shakespeare to Sophocles, writers often look to the classics for inspiration for their work, bringing age-old human questions into modern-day scenarios.

Many British Asian women writers are finding ways to explore the classics by presenting intimate, fresh and contemporary narratives through a feminist lens.

In this event, writers Preti Taneja and Mona Arshi discuss their work in a conversation led by Arifa Akbar, looking at subverting well-worn literary paths, as well as creating a new trailblazing legacy for literature.

Preti Taneja's novel We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press) is a modern-day King Lear.

Set against the backdrop of the anti-corruption riots in 2011 – 2012, it provides startling insights into modern India, the clash of youth and age, the hectic pace of life in one of the world’s fastest growing economies – and the ever-present spectre of death.

Preti Taneja was born to in the UK to Indian parents. She has worked as a human rights reporter and film-maker, and her work has been published in The Guardian and Open Democracy. Taneja is a fellow at Warwick University. In 2014, her novella Kumkum Malhotra won the Gatehouse Press New Fictions Prize. We That Are Young has been nominated for the Jhalak Prize.

Mona Arshi is a poet and a lawyer who lives in west London. Her debut collection of poems, Small Hands, was published by Liverpool University in the spring of 2015. The collection won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2015. Mona was one of ten poets selected for the ‘Complete Works’, a national development programme funded by the Arts Council.

Arifa Akbar is a journalist, critic and former literary editor of The Independent, where she worked from 2001 until 2016 as a reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2013. She is now Head of Content at the publisher Unbound, and editor of its long-form online magazine, Boundless.

Akbar also writes for the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Evening Standard. She is a trustee of the Orwell Foundation and co-administers its annual book prize. She was most recently a judge for the Costa Biography Award 2017.

Dates & times

5 May 2018
Approximate run time: 90 mins
Run times may vary, find out more


Purcell Room


Booking fee: £2.50 (Members £0.00)


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Age recommendation
For ages 16+.