When I Hit You

by Meena Kandasamy

“I am the woman conjured up to take on the life of a woman afraid of facing her own reality”

Kandasamy’s stirring and lyrical work of biographical fiction, When I Hit You, presents the harrowing account of a woman’s struggle to escape a brutal and destructive marriage. Published in 2017, this fictional memoir takes place in India and includes commentary on the country’s caste system and the cultural practices and attitudes that oppress and devalue women. The narrator of the story is incredibly articulate, and she recounts the abuse and violence of her marriage evocatively. The project of writing as a means of escaping or recovering from a traumatic relationship is central to this text, and Kandasamy offers possible models for sharing one’s painful and unpleasant experiences.

Questions:
  • Earlier portions of the book cover the courting phase of the narrator’s relationship with her eventual husband. Does the narrator note any worrisome behaviors or tendencies that may have served as warnings of the horrors to come? If so, does she give some kind of justification for her concerns in order to keep the relationship going?

 

  • Besides physical violence and intimidation, what types of emotional and psychological abuse does the narrator’s husband inflict on her? What are her immediate responses? When/how does she come to conclusion that she needs to leave her husband?

 

  • Kandasamy’s text highlights many societal and cultural barriers to escaping a broken or abusive marriage. What are some of the obstacles and challenges the narrator must overcome in order to free herself from a dangerous marriage? Why is it so hard for her to gain sympathy from others in her community, including her own parents?

 

  • How do state and other large institutions (law enforcement, the judicial system, the university, etc.) fail the female narrator and frustrate her quest for freedom from a despotic husband?

 

  • This fictional memoir presents a dualism between the person who actually experiences the abuse and the authorial figure who tells the story about the abuse. Would you find this distancing technique to be effective, if writing about your own troubling or traumatic experiences? By writing about trauma, are you merely reliving it or are you reimagining it?