Her Story: Ladies In Literature With Aditi Khorana

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!


About Aditi Khorana

Aditi Khorana spent parts of her childhood in India, Denmark, and New England. She has a BA in international relations from Brown University and an MA in global media and communications from the Annenberg School for Communication. She has worked as a journalist at ABC News, CNN, and PBS, and most recently as a marketing executive consulting for various Hollywood studios including Fox, Paramount, and Sony. She is also the author of Mirror In The Sky. She lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time reading, hiking, and exploring LA’s eclectic and wonderful architecture.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

I say this with a kind of conviction that only a book as brilliant as Anna Karenina might inspire: to read this book inevitably means to love Anna. She is arguably one of the best characters in all of fiction. And that is precisely why her suicide (a spoiler, but the book’s been around long enough that even those who haven’t read it might know of Anna’s eventual fate by now) is so tragic.

Some call Anna Karenina a love story. Others believe it is a cautionary tale. Leo Tolstoy saw it as a meditation on the intersection of free will and fate, a topic that so many of us indulge in and reflect on at various junctures of our lives.

And as we read the book, it is impossible not to wonder who Anna might have been had she lived in a different time or in a different place.

Anna is a formidable woman. She is intelligent, charismatic, worldly, beautiful, thoughtful and famously kind. She reads voraciously, writes children’s books, appreciates art. She is tastefully reserved, yet captures the attention and devotion of virtually everyone she encounters. She is committed to love – romantic love, but also friendship and is devoted to her brother Stiva and his wife Dolly, and to her son. She receives guests at her country home with warmth and despises fakery. When she makes what she considers a mistake, she is more disappointed in herself than you are. Don’t you already love her?

That’s the thing about Anna – she is relatable enough that she could be your friend – the kind of friend who you’d confide your deepest secrets too. And she would safeguard them, and give you the best advice, but she also sparkles in that way that only a very few do. She’s sort of so perfect that you want to hate her, but so kind, so vulnerable, so fair, that you can’t help but fall in love with her.

And yet she lives in a time, and in a society where laws are biased against women. There are prohibitions against divorce, a system of courtship that forces girls to marry young, and societal blacklisting of women who indulge in extramarital affairs.

In our world, Anna might have struggled with her passions, her desires, her choices and her fate. In the world of the book, Anna is hemmed in by a combination of her deepest wishes and the constraints of her society. It’s not love that eventually wrenches the best out of Anna, driving her to her demise. It’s the sexist mores of a patriarchal and misogynistic society.

The first time I read this book, when I was 22, I felt betrayed by Anna. I believed that with all her gifts, she would somehow maneuver her way into a better life, and when she didn’t, when she resigned herself to her ill-fated circumstances, I wept for her.

But by now, I’ve read the book at least half a dozen times (can you tell how much I love it?) and it makes me reflect on the idea that women, at any time, in any place, are hemmed in by societal mores that limit their freedoms. Brilliant women are punished for their brilliance. Mediocre men are rewarded for their mediocrity (see: the 2016 election for evidence of this). It was tragic then and it’s tragic now, and you’d think we’d be more cognizant of it as a society. When will we have a world where the playing field is level, where the Annas of the world are free to live the lives they’ve earned, the lives they deserve?

Meanwhile, Levin, a character who Tolstoy’s wife, Sonia often described as “Tolstoy, without the talent,” practically gets away with murder in the book (not literally, just in my opinion). It’s hard to ignore that Levin is also kind of like Anna, but without the brilliance, or the beauty, or the charm or wit or charisma or warmth or…anything else really. Levin is simply a meh guy who is surprised by his own good luck because he knows he’s meh. And let’s be clear here: his luck isn’t simply luck. It’s white, male privilege that he benefits from. Which is why his luck and his happiness infuriate me.

Levin is a bore. I once broke up with a guy because he thought Levin was the best character in Anna Karenina. What an idiot, right?

I could talk about this book forever. And I could talk about Anna forever, because she is beloved to me, and to so many readers across the world.

And while Anna might have been able to live out her deserved fate in this day and age, while she might have been able to divorce her husband, keep her child, marry Vronsky, be lauded and admired by her girlfriends for making a tough choice, and perhaps, even be happy, she would have still been paid 79 cents on the dollar (or ruble), been catcalled as she walked down the street, been maligned on social media by jealous idiots and laughed at if she asked for decent maternity care. She would have had to endure the election of 2016, an insult to all women, and she might have marched with us the day of the women’s march. Then again, who knows, maybe she would have thrown herself into the tracks in frustration over how cruel we are to women, even now. I hope not. I’d want her to persevere, just as I want all women to persevere, to succeed, to taste the happiness and success that could easily be theirs, if perhaps they find a way to just keep going.

RIP Anna Karenina. I hope one day we can create a world that is worthy of a character as amazing, as wonderful, as beautiful as you.

Title The Library Of Fates
Author Aditi Khorana
Pages 354 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Fantasy
To Be Published July 18th, 2017 by Razorbill
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and The Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything — family, her childhood love, and her freedom — to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The palace is soon under siege, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on one another. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life — and another love — await?

2 responses to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature With Aditi Khorana”

  1. Such an inspiring post!

  2. I have never felt such a desire to read Anna Karina before. I’m not usually one for classics, but I’m convinced to at least to try it now. Thanks!

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