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Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera
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Shame (2007)

by Jasvinder Sanghera

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61None193,333 (4.02)4
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  1. 00
    Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: both are memoirs written by brave women who chose to stand up for themselves and not agree to be sacrificed for some traditional concept of “family honour.” Both women over came considerable odds to get an education, and now are using their brains and experience to assist others.… (more)
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Shame is a gripping memoir that I read in under 24 hours. When she is 15, British born and raised Jasvinder, a Sikh girl, is told it is time to marry the man her parents have picked out for her—a stranger from India who she hasn’t met. She only wants to finish school and maybe even go to university. Having watched her older sisters enter miserable forced marriages that they are told to shut up and endure, she refuses to get married, and her parents lock her under house arrest. With the help of a friend’s older brother, she escapes. A month or so later, a police officer convinces her to contact her family. She hopes that she has made her point and that they will let her come home. She is shocked to hear that they consider her dead to them and they hope that she becomes destitute and is forced to live in the gutter.

*warning: spoilers below*

She eventually marries the brother, Jassey, they have a daughter, start several businesses, and buy houses. Unfortunately, because she left home while still very much a child, and because her parents didn’t teach her any life or coping skills, and because she had no healthy relationships on which to model her marriage, Jasvinder screws up and her marriage ends. This is followed by another failed marriage and two more children.

Throughout this, Jasvinder painfully misses her family, and at times reconnects with some of her six sisters and occasionally her parents (but never her one brother, who was raised by his parents to be a spoiled, entitled loser). Most of her contact with her family, however, involves her helping them out without them ever supporting her. One of her sisters tries to leave an abusive relationship but her family and the community leaders tell her she has to stay with her husband. The next week the sister burns to death. Officially it is deemed a suicide, but Jasvinder wonders if it was murder. Spurred by this tragedy, . . . .

*end spoilers*

. . . she vows to help the voiceless women who are suffering in the south Indian community. She starts a charity, http://www.karmanirvana.org.uk/, earns her A levels and then a university degree. Through her charity, she is successful in gaining recognition for honour killings and the problem of forced marriage in the UK—a problem that most people didn’t realize existed at the time. The book ends with some horrific cases of honour killings that she has come across in the UK. This was published in 2007 and followed by two sequels. This year (2013), she was awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Shame one of the more compelling books I’ve read this summer. It’s a memoir, so don’t expect a literary masterpiece. Some readers complain that they don’t like Jasvinder because she makes stupid decisions, mistreats her first husband (who is made to look like a saint), and is sometimes selfish. Just a little lacking in insight. Okay, a lot lacking in insight. I guess if they ran away from an abusive situation while still a child, with no life skills, and made their own way in the world, they would be likeable, cheerful, and perfect at all times. (Was I just being sarcastic?)

Jasvinder’s story takes place in the Sikh community in the UK, but similar stories happen in other cultural groups throughout the world. The cultures and religions vary, but hers is an unfortunately too common problem. That said, I’ve had two close Sikh friends, and many Sikh acquaintances, and Jasvinder’s story is extreme. I just wouldn’t want someone to read this book on my recommendation and then walk away thinking that this is the norm for Sikhs (at least it isn’t in my experience).

Recommended for: this is one of those books that I give a broad recommendation as a must read for everyone, especially anyone who is unaware that forced marriage is a problem in Europe and North America, Australia, and New Zealand. ( )
4 vote Nickelini | Aug 28, 2013 |
Lots to say about this book but not finding words to formulate.

First of all it pissed me off, the way her parents thought they were better than The English people, they considered white, low class (there words , not mine) but the whites were good enough to let them live there and care for them and this is what is wrong with Europe nowadays.
Then they stick with there own, do not mix with white people, don't learn English and let there daughters marry people from their former country so the husbands also get a visa to live in Europe.

Especially this made me angry: she was writing about her poor mom, who paid all the taxes and was let down by the English at the end of her life looking after her? She is talking about the nurses. I think it was her mom's responsibility to learn English when she arrived in this country and not the other way around.

Then about the author. Sorry but I am not a fan of her actions. She seems very selfish and very quick to cheat but on the other hand, it is brave of her that she admitted to all of this.

At the end of the book I was glad to finally been able to agree with her. For instance her fight against forced marriage and more importantly her fight against so called Honour killings. Great work.

Oh and what scares her and me is that the younger generation of the former immigrants are even more strict in there ways. ( )
  Marlene-NL | Apr 12, 2013 |
A compelling account of one woman's escape from an attempted forced marriage. Jasvinder Sanghera defied her family and her culture by refusing the marriage and going her own way in life. She has paid a heavy price for that decision. A sad story but ultimately a hopeful one. ( )
  boleyn | Nov 2, 2007 |
Oh dear, where to start on this? Shame by JS is a difficult book delivering an insight into disturbing elements of Sikh family life in multi-cultural Britain today. It is a personal account of a child’s escape from an arranged/forced marriage, her flight into an underage sexual relationship with a boy/young man five or so years her senior, leading to pregnancy before marriage and rejection by her parents and family. Another unsuccessful marriage and more children follow divorce. Meanwhile numerous school aged siblings are subjected to arranged marriages via the traditional holiday visit to India, with the returning wife required to work and save the money needed to bring the husband ‘over’. Add to this suicide by fire and what seems like inescapable violence for every Sikh wife and you have the flavour of it. For redemption, the author survives, and achieves economic and educational success out of proportion to the odds of achieving either. (These Sikhs sure have a strong Protestant work ethic)! Surely this is uplifting in a story of such personal tragedy but it sometime happens, those in distress can fail to notice the distress they occasion others.

I cannot imagine that this book has been written for the Sikh community, there is much description but no prescription for improvement, though tellingly, in one passage about an abused wife the author makes a plea along the lines of ‘ if only she had reached out to the culture of the country in which she was born’ But that is about as far as the author goes in trying to get from where she is to getting where she, and all consciously aware people, would like her and her sister victims to be. Yet by her experience that solution will surely require some external influences and an exploration of how they might be brought to bear would be welcome.

The family realities described, of girls being totally subservient to a male defined concept of honour, enforced through oppression reinforced by physical and emotional violence, needs something doing. But the author avoids addressing that aspect of the problem and thus runs a danger of seeing her work categorised as a funding resource for her charity ‘Karma Nirvana’ laudably focused on providing culturally appropriate shelter to persecuted Asian women. This is an important book in that it pulls back a curtain and allows outsiders an intimate view, which will hardly recommend it to the Derby (where I lived until recently) or wider Sikh community. The sad thing is that what is glimpsed is so depressingly awful. Where women are diminished, belittled, crushed and ridden by guilt by opposing a parental but essentially masculine domination then indeed there is shame and much for us all to be ashamed about. ( )
  summonedbyfells | May 11, 2007 |
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The true story of a girl's struggle to survive.

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