Question: In The King and I, we see Anna teaching girls. That seems revolutionary, especially in light of the Nicholas Kristof remark that I know you find inspiring: that in our day the most dangerous thing in the developing world is the education of women -- giving them books.
BShere: For me this is rooted in the story of Tuptim. We need to make clear that she represents a tributary relation between Burma and Siam, a sexual gift to ensure an alliance. That is the root of a deep and profound injustice. In "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," we learn that Tuptim is the more sophisticated one in regard to power dynamics, and is challenging authority. A story about injustice needs change agents. Tuptim is a change agent in part because she is willing to take greater risks and seek justice for herself and for a basic human right.
More and more I am feeling like Tuptim -- and that ain't the gayest thing I have ever said. She was a smart girl, smart enough to draw parallels from Stows's book and her life. Give a person a book and see what happens. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the book that opens things up for Tuptim. It emboldens her. It empowers her.