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May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A…

May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of… (edition 1991)

by Elisabeth Bumiller

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227151,069 (3.8)5
Title:May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of India
Authors:Elisabeth Bumiller
Info:Ballantine Books (1991), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, women, india, travel, history, sociology, 2012

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May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of India by Elisabeth Bumiller



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Every star was aligned to make this book unpublishable. Burmiller, a privileged wealthy US journalist with - at best - hazy romantic notions of India followed her husband out to his new job there. She admits that although she had done charitable work and written about the poor (once...) she hadn't ever done any deep thinking about poverty or its causes. Her journalism to that point had been more of the 'social column' type, reporting on the off-duty activities of the most powerful people in the world in the most powerful Capital in the world - Washington DC. She had never experienced either poverty or gender discrimination in her own life, having grown up in a generation, a place, and a social millieu where the battle of 60's and 70's feminism had been already won. After her arrival in New Delhi she devoted herself to reporting on the arts and culture of the elite of Indian society. She was aware of the press of humanity, of poverty, the injustice and chaos, and the overwhelming prejudice against women in Indian society, but was - as she says - hesitant to write about it all because she was 'intimidated' by the subject.

But then, after two years in India she plunges in. It was perhaps the most courageous and surprising thing she had ever done, and there's something about her uncertainty and humility that works magic with this book. It will always be an outsider's 'looking in' story of India and Indian women, but rather than taking the path of the expert commentator, or the ironic observer, Bumiller slogs her way towards the heart of the stories of the dozens of women in this book, never quite reaching an absolute truth, but being absolutely truthful about her limitations in discerning, and reporting on what those truths are. And for someone who had previously been 'charitable' she faced again and again the terrible realization that she was powerless to do almost anything at all to change the circumstances of the women who were so discriminated against and who lived lives in numbingly cruel and harsh conditions. Except that she could write, and she has written their story - and her own - powerfully, sympathetically, intelligently and with a remarkable and engaging humility.

Very highly recommended, as a feminist text, as a story of India, and most of all for any student of journalism. ( )
  nandadevi | Jun 23, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449906140, Paperback)

Before Elisabeth Bumiller lived in India in the mid-1980s, she had reported mainly on upper-crust Americans for the Washington Post. Her four-year stay turned her romantic image of India and largely unexamined feminist sentiments upside down and shook them hard. Although Indian women are guaranteed equality by their constitution, religious and cultural conceptions of their lowly role make this a hollow boast for many. Bumiller's well-spun book deals with admittedly sensational topics: a bride burning case; a rare death by sati, in which a young widow joined her husband on the funeral pyre; poor villages where girl babies are so unwelcome that some don't survive and cities where boy babies are given the edge by prenatal tests and the availability of abortion. Arranged marriages, the lives of village women, and the great histrionic appeal of the Indian film industry also catch her Western eye. Beneath the surface of each story several others bubble up, sometimes illuminating customs or obscuring easy outrage. Other times, though, they emphasize the limitations of being an outsider. --Francesca Coltrera

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:22 -0400)

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