Rupi Kaur has vision beyond her years.
At 24, the Indian-Canadian artist and poet decided to create a menstruation-themed photo series for a college project. She posted one now-famous photograph to Instagram, showing herself lying on a bed facing the wall, period blood staining her sweatpants and the bedsheet. Instagram repeatedly took down the photo from Kaur’s account, but the image went viral, attracting international attention. Though still a college student, she was something of an Instagram star already, thanks to her luminous and striking poetry, which she posted on the account.
She told HuffPost at the time that she was galvanized in part by the stigma attached to menstruation ― an aspect of her project unwittingly reinforced by Instagram’s removal of the photo. “I always see women complaining — I’m one of them — about how much our periods suck,” she said. “But they’re also so beautiful. They give rise to life.”
Less than two years later, a publishing house put out Kaur’s book of prose and poetry, Milk and Honey (originally self-published in 2014), and it began dominating best-seller charts. The text and illustrations ― both by Kaur ― examine the emotional states of a modern young woman. Her work is simply but powerfully expressed, and viscerally captures both universal human experience and the particular struggles of a young woman today.
Kaur’s art has meant opening a window into her mind and bodily experiences for audiences, whether through candid poetry or realistic (though staged, with fake blood) period portraits. Another intimate revelation ― what’s on her bookshelf. The brilliant artist and writer shared her 47 picks with The Strand, where she curated a bookshelf. For those who aren’t in New York City, here’s an alternative to browsing her hand-picked display.
Check out Kaur’s bookshelf below.
1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
3. A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
6. Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
8. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card