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a book, film + chit chatty blog

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera


**I kindly received this book from Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinions on the book.

Synopsis:

When she was fourteen, Jasvinder Sanghera was shown a photo of the man chosen to be her husband. She was terrified. She'd witnessed the torment her sisters endured in their arranged marriages, so she ran away from home, grief-stricken when her parents disowned her. Shame" is the heart-rending true story of a young girl's attempt to escape from a cruel, claustrophobic world where family honour mattered more than anything -- sometimes more than life itself. Jasvinder's story is one of terrible oppression, a harrowing struggle against a punitive code of honour -- and, finally, triumph over adversity.

Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

While I love a good autobiography, I normally find it difficult to be engaged when reading the life story of someone I don't know much about. Going into this,
I didn't really know much about Jasvinder Sanghera other than that she founded the charity Karma Nirvana - providing training and support to prevent forced marriages and honour based abuse.

I did however find myself hooked from the get go and read it in just 2 sittings. Though she goes through so many, you could say horrendous experiences, it's almost uplifting to see how these formed the woman she is today and how every life experience brought her to this point of starting this charity which now helps so many other women. I think what I was struck most from this book was how it seeks to challenge certain cultural norms.

So Jasvinder is of Indian descent and had seen her older sisters gradually go off into unhappy arranged marriages. At around the ages of 16 they'd go off on holiday to India and return married and it seems this was common practice within the predominantly Indian community she lived in. Jasvinder however had her own aspirations to go to college and then university. But at age 14 (!!) , her mum shows her a photo of her future husband and naturally, she freaks out. And then runs away.
So while she actually manages to escape an arranged marriage, because of her family and imminent community, the sometimes shocking effects of forced marriages and honour abuse still run so deep in this book.

I also felt really confronted by the issues in a way that made me feel often uncomfortable mainly because, these events all take place in Derby. I spend a lot of the year living in Nottingham so this is practically in my backyard and let me tell you, the proximity makes it SO REAL. I think that when we hear about forced marriages we think, well it happens in far away lands and it really is such a shame - and then we forget about it. But it's actually happening right here and it's not something that as a society we can separate ourselves from.

It probably goes under the radar because of the lack of cultural integration which we really see in this book. But it's to the point where I think girls and women don't feel comfortable to talk about certain practices because of how society treats certain cultures in in quite a derogatory way, often as being "backwards" which is part of the problem.

Someone said something on Facebook which popped up on my feed - you can be proud of where you come from and still see the flaws of your culture and seek to dismantle them. Shame is in many ways a perfect example of this. I felt Jasvinder laid out her culture as it is, the admirable aspects but also the ugly. And starting Karma Nirvana was not a rejection of her culture but a way of saying that her people are capable of being so much better.

Shame gave me so much food for thought and I'd definitely recommend it.

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