I Kick and I Fly: A Discussion with Ruchira Gupta


Professor Ruchira Gupta joins us to share her young adult novel I Kick and I Fly (Scholastic, 2023), which was inspired by her experience making the Emmy-award winning documentary The Selling of Innocents. I Kick and I Fly is set on the outskirts of the Red Light District in Bihar, India, where fourteen year old Heera is living on borrowed time until her father sells her into the sex trade to help feed their family and repay his loans. It is, she’s been told, the fate of the women in her community to end up here. But watching her cousin, Mira Di, live this life day in and out is hard enough. To live it feels like the worst fate imaginable. And after a run-in with a bully leads to her expulsion from school, it feels closer than ever. But when a local hostel owner shows up at Heera’s home with the money to repay her family’s debt, Heera begins to learn that fate can change.

Content note: this episode addresses the subjects of sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, familial and intracommunity violence, anti-indigenous violence, poverty, food insecurity, housing insecurity, and violence against women and girls.

Our guest is: Professor Ruchira Gupta, who is a writer, feminist campaigner, professor at New York University and founder of the anti-sex-trafficking organization, Apne Aap Women Worldwide. She won the Clinton Global Citizen award in 2009, the Sera Bangali Award in 2012 and an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism in 1996. She has helped more than twenty thousand girls and women in India exit prostitution systems. She has edited As If Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader, and has written manuals on human trafficking for the UN Office for Drugs and Crime. Professor Ruchira divides her time between Delhi and New York. I Kick and I Fly is her debut novel.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, who is the host and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore what stories we tell and what happens to those we never tell.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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