In this debut collection, Bangladeshi characters in both Bangladesh and the U.S. encounter the scourge of tradition and the indifference of modern life.
Hasanat takes joy in the expressiveness of the written word. At times, multiple exclamation points and all-caps speech are distracting, but that's a small price to pay to enter her world, which is imbued with casually dropped literary references. In particular, the book’s opening story, about a Bangladeshi woman living in the U.S. who is taken to a mental hospital after she walks into the sea, invokes iconic suicidal authors like Plath and Woolf and the character Edna Pontellier from Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Throughout the collection, Hasanat details the suffering undergone by women in Bangladesh and in the West but also their resilience. In "Mother Immigrant," Noor Jahan is a Bangladeshi immigrant who’s been living in Florida for 40 years, being bounced across the Southern states among the households of her children. She spends her days cooking familiar food for family and fellow expatriates. Noor Jahan is frustrated by her lack of agency, but this doesn’t stop her from a visceral, vivid display of anger directed at a crowd of strangers ridiculing her during a trip to the mall. Other characters suffer for being different, too. In "The Hyacinth Boy," 17-year-old Shojol presents as a boy, but the reality is more complicated. Shojol’s attempt to escape Dhaka, his lecherous uncle, and the local pimp is unflinching and tragic.
Lyrical and challenging.