Saturday, May 17, 2008

Moving from Bangladesh to London!

The book that we'll be reading for June 2008 is Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

Here's the book summary:

Monica Ali's debut novel chronicles the life of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi girl so sickly at birth that the midwife at first declares her stillborn. At 18 her parents arrange a marriage to Chanu, a Bengali immigrant living in England. Although Chanu--who's twice Nazneen's age--turns out to be a foolish blowhard who 'had a face like a frog,' Nazneen accepts her fate, which seems to be the main life lesson taught by the women in her family. Over the next decade-and-a-half Nazneen grows into a strong, confident woman who doesn't defy fate so much as bend it to her will.

Brick Lane combines the wide scope of a social novel about the struggles of Islamic immigrants in pre- and post-9/11 England with the intimate story of Nazneen, one of the more memorable heroines to come along in a long time. If Dickens or Trollope were loosed upon contemporary London, this is exactly the sort of novel they would cook up.

Come join the conversation on Sunday June 15 at 2pm in the Inner Richmond district at the Blue Danube Coffee House on 306 Clement Street (between 4th and 5th Avenue).

The movie "Brick Lane" based on this novel, will be coming out on June 20th. Let's coordinate a movie night aftewards!

The High Price of Dowry

Although we enjoyed the romance of the novel, the story of "The Dowry Bride" brings significant issues to light, which are currently predominant in the Indian culture. Arranged marriages in India is still a highly practiced tradition and the cases of dowry deaths is still very high.

For those of you who want to learn more about dowry murders in present India, check out this great video at the following link:

Because it was a fiction, the book was easy to read and accessible, but there were many interesting facts that one could find throughout the story that reveals the context Megha, the main character, was living through.

We also talked about how the honour of a family is so valued that one will sacrifice lives to preserve that honour. Also, we discussed how shame is seen in India and how it relates to the dishonour of the families.

Even though Megha had many positive factors to her story, not everyone is so lucky in reality. This brought suspense to the novel and made it quite the page-turner.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Marriage in India can equal Murder?

Our next book for May 2008 is "The Dowry Bride" by Shobhan Bantwal.

Book Summary:

One sultry night, a young bride overhears an extraordinary conversation. The voices speak of a plot to murder a wife who has failed to produce a child and whose family has failed to produce the promised dowry... Megha is sick with horror when she realizes she is the intended victim. Her husband--the very man who tied the sacred necklace of marriage around her neck--and his mother are plotting to kill her!

In the moment of panic, she runs for her life. Frantically racing through Palgaum's deserted streets, her way lit only by the lights strung up for the Diwali festival, her single goal is to escape death by fire. But fleeing from her would-be killers seems impossible--unless she can find someone to help her...

Join us for a book conversation on Saturday May 17 at 2pm in the Inner Sunset district at Tart to Tart (on Irving Street).

A story about a generation of women

We had a wonderful conversation about the book "Eyes, Breath, Memory" where we shared our perspectives on the main character, Sophie. We accompany Sophie at different stages of her life and the lack of continuity might have left out details that were desired to be known. Nevertheless, we could witness a few key events in Sophie's life starting from her leaving her aunt in Haiti to rejoin her mother in the US, falling in love, and returning to Haiti to stay with her aunt and grandma. Some of us wanted to learn more about Haiti, but it was more a story of relationships between mothers and daughters and the cycle of tradition continuing in spite of a change of situation/country or culture.

In any case, it was great book to discuss about and it was a great easy read for us!