From Bangladesh-born writer, doctor, and death fatwa recipient, a searing account of growing up in a dysfunctional family beleaguered by religious intolerance.
Colorful details of food and landscape offer some relief in an otherwise grim tale of unhappiness and fanaticism. Nasrin’s story begins in the early 1970s as her family flees their provincial home for refuge with relatives in the countryside. Her country, the former east Pakistan, is fighting, with India’s help, to gain independence from west Pakistan. After the war, in the newly independent Bangladesh, Nasrin, born in 1962, describes her family: two older brothers and a younger sister; her parents (her father, a farmer’s son, became a doctor and married the daughter of the man who helped him financially); and her maternal grandparents (a spendthrift dictatorial grandfather and a grandmother determined to save money and food for her family). The writing is personal and understandably angry, although this is its weakness, since Nasrin seems to imply—without giving any wider context for readers to judge by—that the horrors she details are universal: her sexual abuse by two uncles when she was five and seven; beatings by her father; her mother’s increasingly erratic behavior; and the arranged marriages of talented school friends to much older men. Nasrin attributes her growing feminism and religious skepticism to what she observes on entering adolescence: a mother who had dreamed of going to college but became a religious zealot, reviling education and women’s rights (although, paradoxically, her father is determined that Nasrin be educated); her father’s philandering; her mother’s cruel treatment of female servants; hypocritical men who use religion to abuse and confine women; the Faithful, who discount all scientific knowledge; and limited freedom for women (a walk along the river ends in an assault). By 14, Nasrin had become critical of her family, her country, and her faith.
A raw and impassioned account of the making of a young feminist.