Midweek Mini Reviews #24

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books by Palestinian American women.

The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan

I loved Hala Alyan’s début novel, Salt Houses. This lead to me discovering her TEDx talk, which was a spoken word performance where she talks about the cities she’s been in and their effect on her. The talk really resonated with me, so I was excited to pick up her poetry collection, especially when I learnt it was titled The Twenty-Ninth Year. Being close to but not yet 29, I was hoping to find more pieces that truly spoke to me. Unfortunately, The Twenty-Ninth Year ended up not being my cup of tea. It was darker and rawer than I’d expected, touching a lot more on topics like assault, substance abuse and loss rather than just about a young woman coming of age. There were, however, some poems that stood out to me such as “Honeymoon”, “Gospel: Newlyweds” and ‘Step Eight: Make Amends” because they showed a more realistic take on a young marriage. Honest and candid, The Twenty-Ninth Year may not be a collection of poetry for everyone, but if it is for you, then it will make you feel like you are not alone.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum 

In Etaf Rum’s A Woman is No Man, a woman named Isra and her daughter, Deya are the central focus of the book, however we also get to know Fareeda who is Isra’s mother-in-law. Isra’s story is particularly tragic because of the foregone conclusion that she and her husband both die when Deya and her sisters are still young since the girls are being raised by their grandparents in the present day. What’s even sadder is that not much has changed for women, as Deya is also pressured to get married after graduating high school despite it being 2008 and her wanting to attend college instead. I really liked Deya’s story, especially how it was connected to the other women in her family and it was thrilling to watch her slowly discover the truth about her mother. I also found it refreshing how none of the characters were multi-dimensional and that no one was truly an evil person. For example, by getting Fareeda’s back story we see that everyone, not just Deya and Isra have their own traumas, struggles and weaknesses. I also appreciated how it was shown that no one in their cloistered community was truly “free”, even the men have expectations and pressures thrust upon them. A powerful and well written novel, the book is made more significant once you learn that the authour drew inspiration from her own experience. And while I could have done without the epilogue, I am satisfied with the book’s hopeful ending as it was about time things started to change and move into a more positive manner for these women.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #22

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books focusing on South Asian women.

A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose by Samra Zafar

A Good Wife is about arranged marriage and domestic violence, knowing that it comes as no surprise that it was a difficult read for me. Still, I felt like it was a necessary read as even today domestic violence and sexual abuse is still prevalent, especially in Asian communities where unfortunately, more than often than not it is swept under the rug. I appreciated how Samra doesn’t sugar-coat the abuse she faced as well as the reality of what happens when you leave a marriage and the mixed feelings when your marriage ends. And it was refreshing to hear her path to being free wasn’t just an easy and straight road. Instead she was constantly plagued with doubts and even backslides at one point. However, this just makes her tale all the more inspiring and powerful, especially when she gains the strength and motivation to finally stand up for herself because of her father and daughters’ love and faith in her. More than just a survival story, A Good Wife is also the story of the importance of having a community and social support system. It’s also a heartbreaking read, but also one with some hope as Samra continues to tell her story and work to help those in situations like the situation she was in.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters appealed to me as it’s about travelling to a country where you look like the locals on the outside, but on the inside you’re different because you were born/grew up elsewhere. I also appreciated how the Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina were all complex and well-developed characters, and how the book looks at the challenges and issues women travellers face. The novel’s themes of sisterhood, culture and travel is also obvious in how the chapters are laid out. I loved that each chapter started with the girls’ late mother writing to them as it provided greater insight into who she was in addition to giving the readers some background and context about why she wanted her daughters to do the things on the itinerary she made just for them. This also made me feel like I was joining the girls on their pilgrimage and that I was right there with them every step of their journey. The conflict between the three sisters felt authentic and I truly empathized with each of them as they all had their own issues and struggles which, when not dealt with directly only exacerbated their various misunderstandings with one another. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a refreshingly empowering read. What I enjoyed most was how it touches upon issues like dysfunctional family dynamics, cultural representation in the media, female feticide, sexism and misogyny while still maintaining a good amount of lightheartedness thus making it the perfect vacation read.

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Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.