Let the Truth Be Told

- The New Indian Express Newspaper Book Review by Simar Bhasin

Suzanne Franco’s Soul Force, tag-lined ‘Valliamma Found Herself No Longer a Child, Not Yet a Woman, But an Activist’, narrates the life and times of Valliamma Mudaliar, a young Indian-origin girl who dedicated her life to Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha in South Africa.

“I was drawn to Valliamma’s story because of her sheer grit. Not only that, I was fascinated at how a young girl of just 16 years could have such dedication, no matter the dire consequences, to a cause greater than herself, greater than her own life,” says Franco.
I visited her prison cell, her gravesite, and Gandhi’s Tolstoy Farm where she lived, to get a very ‘real’ sense of Valliamma’s point of view and her turbulent life,” Franco shares, adding that the book took about eight years to write.


Life in exile


Franco, who also authored Exile Child, exploring the life of Sarah Bartmann, another South African female historical figure, has also started work on a third book — to complete her trilogy on South African women.


I will continue to be a mouth-piece for our forgotten heroines, she says.

Describing the process of penning down the story of the young activist’s life, Franco states that years of research went into making the narrative seem authentic.


When asked about her personal favourite historical books on the freedom movement, and Franco is quick to name Inside Indenture by Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, which relates the stories of many indentured labourers from India to South Africa, which began in 1860 till 1914.”


Notion Press, INR 390.story, Valliamma’s story is interspersed with the larger political history of the freedom movement in the backdrop of white oppression in South Africa in the early-twentieth century.


Read the article here