Praise for Empress
The New York Times
Empress is: Editors’ Choice / Staff Pick in the Aug 19 issue of The New York Times Book Review!
India has forgotten one of its greatest monarchs—a Mughal empress
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The New Indian Express
…the rise and reign of a self-made Mughal queen
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How a Mughal Empress Broke the Glass Ceiling Five Centuries Ago
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The most powerful woman in the East
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At Book Expo last week [May 30-June 1, 2018], librarian Stephanie Anderson from the New York Public Library held up her advanced reader copy of Empress during the Library Journal Shout & Share panel.
A luminous biography…It is a captivating account, its depth of detail recreating a world whose constraints of lineage would seem to preclude the advance of an unknown, self-made, widowed queen…Lal’s book is an act of feminist historiography.
– Rafia Zakaria, Guardian
Lal’s intriguing biography, with its chronology of [Nur Jahan’s] relatively swift rise to power and even swifter descent, restores [her] to her full splendour.
– Jane Ciabattari, BBC
There’s much more to the story [of Nur Jahan], as historian Ruby Lal reveals in her fascinating new book.
– Randy Dotinga, Christian Science Monitor
Lal has done a service to readers interested in the Mughal period and the many forgotten or poorly remembered women of Indian history.
– Vikas Bajaj, New York Times Book Review
Ms. Lal has not only written a revisionist feminist biography; she has also provided a vivid picture of the Mughal court, with its luxuries, beauties, intrigues and horrors. Moreover, at a time when India’s Hindu-nationalist government chooses to emphasise one strain in the country’s history, she offers a reminder of the diversity of Indian tradition.
Ruby Lal’s marvelous account of Empress Nur Jahan’s life is as intriguing, inspiring, and relevant to us today in 21st-century America as it was to her times in 17th century India.
– Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
The author’s descriptions of Agra are superb, and her detailed explanations of Nur’s upbringing reflect her long study, deep understanding, and modern take on a little-explored subject…[Nur] must be held as one of history’s great independent, powerful women. A page-turning, eye-opening biography that shatters our impressions of India as established by the British Raj.
– Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Lal makes clear her subject’s relevance…Closely researched and vividly written, this telling finds that the truth is as fantastic and fascinating as myth.
– Publishers Weekly (starred)
This is an outstanding book, not only incredibly important but also a fabulous piece of writing. Here, India’s greatest Empress is reborn in all her fascinating glory in a luminescent account of her life and times. Ruby Lal has written a classic – one of the best biographies to come out this year and certainly the best ever of Nur Jahan.
– Amanda Foreman, author of The World Made by Women
What an extraordinary and detailed account of a remarkable woman – amazing! A very impressive, thorough, poetic, humane work.
– Deepa Mehta, filmmaker and screenwriter
An enchanting evocation of the brilliant Mughal empire with a tender tribute to India’s first female leader: lush and sensuous, a jewel box of a book.
– Rosalind Miles, author of The Women’s History of the World
The panoramic sweep of this extraordinary feminist history is matched by the exquisite storytelling, that brings the magnificence of the Mughal Court and the intricacies of its statecraft to life.
– Namita Gokhale, Writer, Publisher, Founder-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival along with William Dalrymple
With stern adoration and a steady hand, Ruby Lal has boldly recut the crown jewel that was Nur Jahan. Proceeding now by the archive and now on a hunch, she discards the romantic Nur while rescuing countless piquant details of everyday life in Mughal times. In her nimble telling battles and skirmishes, hunt, harem, camp, and picnic come to vivid life even as the central story unpacks its riches. Her exemplary Nur (in pants, with a gun, from a striking miniature of the time) corrects a gender slant and refits the heroine for fresh adventures. Her empress, burnished and reset, product of a lapidary’s patience and address, is a triumph worthy of the original.
– Allan Sealy, Novelist
Praise for Coming of Age
Impeccably researched and beautifully written, Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India insists on the vital necessity of pleasure, creativity and play in lives constricted by patriarchal norms. This is feminist scholarship at its best. Erudite and expansive, rigorous and experimental, this book is much like the mischievous girl-child/woman it traces, escaping confinement to dance across rooftops and forbidden terraces.
– Lynne Huffer, Emory University
Ruby Lal’s fine monograph, Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness radically shifts the terms of … inherited debates around the “woman-question. Lal urges us to retool our understanding of the place of the girl-child/woman…Learned, experimental, and engagingly ambitious, Lal’s book is a must-read…
– Anjali Arondekar, Cambridge, January 2015
Praise for Domesticity and Power
Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World, describes a female world quite at odds with the usual image of harem life as a place of orgiastic sexual pleasure for men, and of harsh and exploitative confinement for women…Ruby Lal, the young Indian historian whose study of the domestic life of the Mughals is likely to rewrite completely the social history of the period.
– William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books, NY, November 22, 2007
Ruby Lal’s book breaks completely new ground and does so with an ease and a mastery that do not suggest that this is her first book. Yet it is. The book marks the arrival of a major historian of Mughal India, a historian who is not stuck in the rut of merely reading the available documents and taking them at their face value. As this book shows, she is relentless in her questioning of the source material, penetrating in the way she teases out answers (and more questions) from the documents, and fearless in the way she applies her imagination to the sources.
– Rudrangshu Mukherjee, The Telegraph, Calcutta, December 2006
After Lal’s persuasive exposé of the inextricable links between the male and female, the political and domestic worlds…, it should be impossible to write about Mughal politics without considering domestic factors and issues of gender. This book should be required reading for anyone working in the fields of Mughal history, gender history, and the history of Islamic civilizations.
– Katherine Butler Brown, The Journal of Asian Studies, Cambridge, May 2007