Girls Burn Brighter

Rating: 
Author: Shobha Rao
Genres: Fiction
Pub date: Mar. 2018 (read June 2018 as audiobook)

This was a super heavy read. At one point I’m sure I read the synopsis for this and thought, a book about disenfranchised women who find power within themselves, how empowering, sign me up. But between reading the synopsis and downloading this book as an audiobook, I totally forgot the plot and was super disturbed at how dark this was!

Girls Burn Brighter is set in India (amongst other places) and focuses on the friendship between two young women, Poornima and Savitha. They are only friends for a short period of time, but they develop a strong relationship during that time and come to realize that the other is the only person to ever truly love and care for them throughout their lives. They are torn apart by the circumstance of being young women of marrying age in India and both suffer some truly atrocious acts of hatred and spite against them.

It’s totally evident if you read the synopsis, but I did not realize this was a book about human trafficking. Human trafficking is one of the great injustices facing our world today and yet there is very little literature devoted to it and it makes for a truly upsetting read. I suffered through this book along with both Poornima and Savitha. It was uncomfortable and hard to read and that’s exactly how a book about human trafficking should be. A few months ago I read a book, A Girl Like That, about the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia and was truly appalled.

For some reason I thought India treated women better (than Saudi at least), but this book shocked me in its malice. The men in this book had so little regard for women and many of the men in the novel truly despised them. Yet I had no problem imagining these men and their cruelty. I did know I was getting myself into a tough read, but this book really made me despair for humanity. It also tells the story of two strong women who, despite all the suffering that has been visited upon them, still yearn and aspire to a better life. They find strength in the love they have for one another and no matter what shit life throws at them, they always continue to pursue something better for themselves, and in Savitha’s case, something better for her family too.

I listened to Girls Burn Brighter as an audiobook, but I’ve since decided to switch back to non-fiction for my audiobooks for a while because this is another book that the audio just didn’t quite do justice to. The writing is quite flowery and I think I would have liked it a lot in written form, but in audio I tended to get a bit distracted by the writing and sometimes would zone out.

The ending is oh so frustrating. I knew I was approaching the end and I was so nervous as to how the author was going to end things and while I don’t fault her for the ending, it was still torture! The plot was a little unbelievable for me, partly because I couldn’t believe so much hardship could be experienced by two people, but also in that the coincidences in this novel were just a little too far past believable for me. But it is a great story about the strength and perseverance of women. Just mentally prepare yourself before you go into this book because it was honestly one of the most emotionally draining books I’ve read it a long time.

Love, Hate & Other Filters

Rating: ⭐⭐
Author: Samira Ahmed
Genres: Young Adult
Pub Date: Jan. 2018 (read Apr. 2018)

This was disappointing. I picked this from my library’s limited selection of audiobooks because I’ve been having a lot of success with Young Adult audiobook’s lately and I’ve been seeing some buzz about it.

To be honest, I didn’t even look at the synopsis, I just new it was about an Indian teenager who was into film. I didn’t like the Maya’s voice from the beginning and I found her such a whiny narrator to listen to. When I hit the 20% mark and this book was still just a surface level romance novel, I debated DNFing and went back to look at the synopsis. When I realized the main premise of this book was actually supposed to be about a terrorist attack and the struggles many Muslim people suffer to be accepted after any terrorist attack, I decided to stick it out.

I appreciate what Samira Ahmed was trying to do with this book. She addressed several different themes: the struggle of Indian daughters to breakaway from their parents expectations, the struggle of any teenager to pursue a career in something as unstable as the film industry, and the xenophobia and hate against Muslims and those who are “othered” in the United States. These are all great themes and I was interested in exploring the different ways people react in the aftermath of a tragedy and how some people let their hate overcome them, while others fight for those who are marginalized. But I thought the execution in this book was terrible.

Honestly, this was a romance novel with a brief look at some of the themes I’ve discussed above. It didn’t explore any of these themes in any great depth and I thought all of the characters emotions were very surface level. This book had more unyielding parents (I’ve read a lot of books of this nature lately), but the drama felt really forced and not authentic. In theory I understood that Maya’s parents were trying to protect their daughter in a world that is not very kind, but no one used any reason in this book (Maya included), except for her Aunt, and everyone felt extremely 1-dimensional. The main story was ultimately a romance and it wasn’t a very well written one. It was so cliche and I just couldn’t help rolling my eyes through the entire thing. This book just had so much more potential, but it got bogged down with a heavy romance and the author barely explored any of the complex themes she introduced into the story.

Even though this tacked something I haven’t seen addressed much in literature, I would not recommend this book. It was too poorly written and executed. Pick up I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterThe Nowhere Girls, or The Poet X instead.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

AKA: One Day This Will Matter
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Scaachi Koul
Genres: Non-fiction, Essays, Memoir
Read: Dec. 2017 on audiobook

 

I listened to this as an audiobook and I loved it! It is narrated by the author and I really enjoyed both her writing and narration.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is a series of essays written by Scaachi Koul, daughter of Indian immigrants who grew up in Calgary. She later moved to Toronto for university and I believe she currently works for Buzzfeed.

I didn’t really know what this was about before I picked it up. I selected it very quickly when I was looking for something to listen to on a run because I had seen some buzz about it and I like non-fiction audiobooks that are narrated by the author. I was thrilled to discover it was written by a Canadian and about her experiences growing up in Canada and the challenges of being the daughter of immigrants.

Scaachi is really funny and she is also very insightful. I can’t believe she is the same age as me, which made this book all the more impressive. Canadians like to be critical of America (especially in the Trump era) and we like to think we’re better and more progressive, but there is definitely still what Scaachi calls “casual racism” happening here. I wouldn’t say this book was necessarily “eye-opening” for me, but it was definitely a perspective I don’t hear very often and I really appreciated Scaachi’s observations.

She talks about what it’s like to grow up female and Indian. How she is envied for her lush, thick indian hair, but at the same time shamed for having hair everywhere else on her body. What it’s like to travel back to India and discover that while you don’t quite fit in Canada, you don’t fit here either and the life your parents so fondly remember doesn’t really exist anymore. How challenging it is to have to hide all your romantic relationships growing up and what it’s like bringing a white boy 10 years your senior home to your parents.

Her parents have had a large influence on her life and it was interesting to learn more about Indian culture – the stereotypes, inequities, and familial importance. I like to think I’ve learned a little bit about Indian culture since moving to Vancouver, but I was really interested in Scaachi’s thoughts on Indian weddings, arranged marriages, and the rites and passages of her culture. She has a contentious relationship with her father that I couldn’t relate to – I found her father very unyielding and sometimes even childish in his reactions – but she still made me like him and helped me to understand a little bit more about Indian families.

I think stories like Scaachi’s are important because they provide perspective and enable you to walk in someone else’s shoes to an extent. It helps when they’re really well written, which this was. Scaachi had a perfect blend of just enough humour to make it fun, but enough perspective to also make her stories meaningful.

It’s a quick read, even as an audiobook, and I would definitely recommend!