As someone who does gender and development, I was intrigued when I heard about Vuto. The novel is inspired by A.J. Walkley's experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi in 2007. In an interview on Daniele Lanzarotta's blog, A.J. Walkley says that she "loves to tackle topics that make people think, from LGBT issues to abortion (Choice) to women's rights (Vuto)".
During her time in Malawi she encountered several customs including the "two week rule" of birth - a father will only acknowledge his child if it survives the two-week point. This tradition forms the basis of her book, and in the same interview questions she asked herself before writing the novel, "What if one woman refused to follow this tradition? What would happen to her?".
Here's a synopsis of Vuto:
Vuto is only 17 when her third child dies, mere days after birth. Malawian tradition prevents men from considering a child their own until it's lived for two weeks. Frustrated at not being able to speak to her husband, Solomon, about all three of the children she's had to bury alone, Vuto forces him to acknowledge the dead baby. Her rejection of tradition causes Solomon and the village elders to banish Vuto from the only home she's ever known.
Vuto seeks refuge in the hut of U.S. Peace Corps volunteer Samantha Brennan, where Solomon discovers his wife has not left as she was told, leading him to attack both women. Disregarding her oath to remain uninvolved in village politics, Samantha interjects herself into the centre of the conflict, defending Vuto and killing Solomon in the process.
The women go on the run from Vuto's village and the Peace Corps, encountering physical, ethical and cultural struggles along the way.
A.J. Walkley has started a Kickstarter campaign to get Vuto published (she has a publisher but needs help with printing costs etc.) so I thought I'd share it. You can check it out here. It ends May 9th.