Lorie Ann Grover is a young adult novelist and board book author. She has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and was a 2003 Washington State Book Award Finalist. Her works have been further honored by VOYA, Bank Street College, the New York Public Library, Parents Magazine, and Girls Life magazine. Lorie Ann is a co-founder of readergirlz, an advocate for teen literacy awarded the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize. She also co-founded readertotz, a board book blog to celebrate the best works for the youngest readers. For more information, please visit LorieAnnGrover.com
I just didn’t think it was possible. Today? How could gendercide still be occurring? This is what I wondered back in 2004 when I ran across a snippet of an article talking about the killing of female infants. I was dumbfounded and then outraged as I considered the reality: for male preference, females were being killed in the womb or shortly after birth. My anger against the atrocity found release in writing my fantasy novel, Firstborn. Sadly, as my book launches ten years later, gendercide continues in 45 countries around the world. “There is an entire system, a social machinery, that says we don’t want females,” says gender activist, Rita Banerji.
Now, as Firstborn heroine Tia’s story takes flight, I hope readers grow more exposed to the prevalence of gendercide today. I want all to know more girls are killed in China and India than the number of girls born in the United States each year. I hope readers discuss the fact that 200 million girls are missing due to dowry deaths, infanticide, and domestic violence, according to the United Nations. I want them to think of baby girls who are strangled, suffocated, and poisoned because they are disappointments or outlawed by policies which limit the number of children a family may have. Banerji says, “As a nation, we have need for examination, for shame, and for change.”
Knowing discussion can spring from story and instigate incredible change, I created a fictional piece with the hope to draw attention to the continued practice of the annihilation of female infants. I decided Tia would be a firstborn girl, not valued by the current oppressive rulers of her country. In my original drafts, I had Tia’s sex hidden. I thought she would be a girl, dressing and acting as a boy to fool everyone. But with research into gender transformations, or declarations, in cultural anthropology, I found an unusual solution for her situation. Rather than hiding her sex from everyone, her parents would be given the opportunity to declare her a male. Utilized in various cultures, the practice can transfer male inheritance rights to sole female offspring or redistribute labor when there is a shortage of males in a group. The latter would be the case for Tia. Declared males would bolster the ruling Madronian military or through enforced death of firstborn females, cripple the spirits of the R’tanians. By the power of an amulet tied about her hips, Tia’s female traits would be suppressed her entire life; she would be one of the first declared males, living and functioning as a male, forever denying her sexuality.
While nearly all in her village trust the power of her amulet, Tia’s initiation approaches, and her doubts begin to rise as she nears puberty. A failed amulet will mean her certain death. Tia’s heroine journey arches from her own self-doubt, to denial, to a fierce effort to prove her equality with other born males. By the conclusion, she emerges embracing her true self and worth.
I point everyone to the movie It’s a Girl and the Global Gendercide Advocacy and Awareness Project to learn more. I encourage readers to share current information from All Girls Allowed, or support a woman carrying a female infant. It’s so simple to spread the word, such as sharing any of the 30 posters I created on Polyvore to raise awareness and a dialogue.
With complicated political positions and cultural heritages, the situation isn’t an easy one to alter, but we can’t look away. As former Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said, “It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken simply because they are born girls. Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
Together, let’s educate ourselves. Let’s understand what is happening and act. Let’s say unanimously, let them live.