Manhattan Beach novelist Kristopher Dukes finds inspiration for contemporary women in the tradition of Albanian women who are given men’s rights
by Kevin Cody
Nine years ago, Kris Dukes read a New York Times article about sworn virgins in the mountainous region outside the city of Shkodra, in northwestern Albania.
The Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini, the code that rules the region, is hard on men.
“A man who has been dishonored is considered dead.”
And harder on women.
“A woman is a sack, made to endure.”
But the code makes an exception for women who take a vow of chastity. Sworn virgins may dress as men, serve as heads of households, do men’s work, carry a gun, smoke, drink alcohol and socialize with men — all things women are are otherwise forbidden to do.
The tradition, once common in Eastern Europe, continues to this day in the mountainous regions of northern Albania.
Dukes saw in sworn virgins the full spectrum of male/female tensions in contemporary culture, from the glass ceiling to transgenders.
“In our culture, women also must suppress their sexuality to be treated equal to men. If we were gender blind, would there have been any question in the last presidential election about which candidate was the most qualified?” Dukes asked during a recent interview in her Manhattan Beach home. She is married to Manhattan Beach native Matt Jacobson.
Last year, Dukes self published “A Sworn Virgin:…
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