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While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey…

While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in… (edition 2014)

by Elizabeth Enslin

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Title:While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal
Authors:Elizabeth Enslin
Info:Seal Press (2014), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal by Elizabeth Enslin



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Other cultures fascinate me, especially their family traditions, structures, and day to day life. I have often wondered what it would be like to be transplanted into the society of another country totally unlike mine. I was able to experience this through Ms. Enslin’s very interesting biography. Even more of a bonus to me, it was through the eyes of a woman.
Elizabeth loved anthropology and her burning desire was to live in Africa and do research among the women there. When she fell in love with Pramod Parajuli at Stanford University, she never dreamed she would find herself in Nepal living with his family. It is one thing to go and study people in a foreign country, but it is quite another to become an intimate part of them as a family member. I learned so much about the Hindu faith and culture. She was a brave and adaptable woman, both emotionally and physically.
While his family lovingly accepted her, their strict Hindu practices kept her at arm’s length in some areas of their lives. She is not pure enough to help with meals or even remove a pot from the stove that is boiling over. If she did the meal would have to be thrown out and remade. Yet in other areas she must follow the guidelines as a daughter-in-law and family member consistent with their society.
Upon arriving she knew little of the language. She also had to deal with very crude living conditions, no indoor plumbing, appliances, heating or air-conditioning, monsoons. Add to this experience being pregnant!
She and Pramod decided to move into the loft in the barn over the livestock for more privacy. Their only access was a narrow ladder. Their room had the added company of scorpions, spiders, not to mention the aroma of the buffalo below. It was here she went into labor. Complications necessitated she be taken by a hospital several miles away. In unsanitary conditions with limited medical help she gave birth to a small baby boy.
After that she was thrown into raising a child in this Brahman civilization. This gave yet another personal viewpoint, I have rarely seen written about. She adjusted beautifully. I personally would have been terrified in every way. I cannot begin to explain the many facets of life in Nepal that Ms. Enslin’s book thoroughly reveals.
I learned not only about the family and the Hindu faith, but also about political conditions past and present, the life of the women, responsibilities, hardships, their viewpoints on life, recreation, and more. You really do want to read this book!
I received this book free from FBS Associates, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  Mizroady | Oct 14, 2014 |
Elizabeth Enslin begins her memoir with the story of her son's birth in a small village in Nepal in 1987. After a long labor that wasn't progressing, she takes off through the rural roads of Nepal to the nearest hospital, which was her last choice in her options for giving birth. As Enslin reflects on this day, she sees her 6 years in Nepal in a whole new light and takes the readers through her arrival and years in Nepal. She eventually returns to the states, even spending a brief time in Iowa City while her husband studied at the University of Iowa. This memoir explores her journey as an anthropologist, as a wife of a Nepali, and as a mother.

Elizabeth Enslin and her husband Pramod travel to his home country Nepal as anthropologists. She meets his family for the first time and moves in with his parents and their extended family. She learns the cultural restrictions and norms for women and daughter-in-laws, and adjusts to the primitive lifestyle. Her doctoral study takes on a new focus and through her life in Nepal we learn much about the challenges for women in Nepal, the strong family ties and love of culture, and their resilience for a better future.

Enslin's memoir is quite fascinating, yet parts of it read like a research paper. Some sections were more readable than others. I preferred the parts of the book where she shared snippets of emotion and real life in Nepal. I ended up skimming sections that were heavy in political and anthropological notes where she ventured deep into the research and less into the stories. I also became frustrated with the political piece, especially when much of it wasn't resolved. The constant battle between men and women, between cultural and religious expectations and the different castes were constant road blocks in making any progress. I was especially interested in the tales of pregnancy and delivery, women's issues, the realities of domestic violence, the harsh living conditions, and the various cultural restrictions for women in Nepal. Hearing real concerns, stories, and descriptions of daily life remind me to appreciate the freedoms and choices we have here in America.

I was disappointed that there wasn't some sort of "update" at the end of the book related to the many members of their family. This book was written about her life in the late 1980's and early 1990's. I am curious to know how some of the family fared, especially Aama, the author's mother-in-law. What has happened to the author and her family now that they are living in the US? What has happened to Pramod's family and the culture for women in Nepal now that it is 2014. The only information we have on Enslin is that she is living in a strawbale house in Oregon. A brief epilogue at the end of the book would have given the reader a update on the people of Nepal twenty years later. Maybe this is something that could be offered on the author's website.

If you find learning about other cultures, women's studies, and travel interesting, WHILE THE GODS WERE SLEEPING might be a book for you. A portion of the processed from this book will be donated to the Rural Health Education Service Trust (RHEST) for projects dedicated to improving women's reproductive health in rural Nepal. ( )
  Staciele | Sep 23, 2014 |
After a wonderful, inspiring vacation in Africa, anthropology student Elizabeth Enslin decided she wanted to do her field work research there, romantically picturing herself living among and studying women involved in revolutionary or liberation movements, but then she married a man from the Himalayan nation of Nepal and not only did her focus have to shift, after living with her husband’s extended family of Brahmin caste farmers in a compound without electricity or indoor plumbing she discovered that being embedded in another culture is nothing like a holiday visit. Especially when you’re pregnant, a natural introvert, and can’t quite figure out how the unwieldy world you’re now part of can be filtered into a doctoral thesis project.

This is at least a three-fold book, part personal memoir of early married life, part story of an aspiring anthropologist trying to find her way in a new culture, and part intimately researched study of Nepal during a time of political turmoil, especially looking at the evolving and for me sometimes surprising roles of women, caste, and class. As a westerner and a non-Brahmin, Enslin feels her outsider status acutely. It confers a prestige that as an anti-imperialist academic she doesn’t want to exploit, but it also means that even in her husband’s fairly liberal family she’s not considered pure enough to help prepare their food--when she sees a pot boiling over on the stove she has to shout and point to it, but not touch it and thereby pollute the meal. Though not a lighthearted lark, While the Gods Were Sleeping utterly fascinated me.

I read an advanced review ebook copy of this book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The opinions are mine. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Jul 24, 2014 |
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"Love and marriage brought American anthropologist Elizabeth Enslin to a world she never planned to make her own: a life among Brahman in-laws in a remote village in the plains of Nepal. As she faced the challenges of married life, birth, and childrearing in a foreign culture, she discovered as much about human resilience, and the capacity for courage, as she did about herself. While the Gods Were Sleeping : A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal tells a compelling story of a woman transformed in intimate and unexpected ways. Set against the backdrop of increasing political turmoil in Nepal, Enslin's story takes us deep into the lives of local women as they claim their rightful place in society--and make their voices heard"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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