Book review of Unbowed by Lestine
What it takes to unlearn years of patriarchy is a rebellion.
It’s not only that women are taught to grow up to be good wives, to learn housework to find the perfect husband, to dress up in a certain way, to curtail to their desires and keep their honour intact, it’s also how the society allows men to grow into savages. It’s also about how society thinks women can be contained within four walls, taught to be silent and told what they should do and shouldn’t while men can do what they please or what they think is right, as the societal construct is made by them. May it be orthodox Muslim countries where honour killings are but a part of the life of women.
Unbowed is told in three parallel storylines: of Basma whose life is a quagmire of honour and dealing with the most vicious of men for whom she is but an object meant to be either used or be kept perfect, of Dr. Sethi who is trying to educate people on the honour killings that take place even in developed societies like of that in America while the government does nothing but sit silent, of Zafeera who is a fearless journalist trying to find her lost sister amidst a land which can label her an outcaste, a danger for the society or even worse, a terrorist. As these three storylines unwind and intertwine you merge yourself in the currents of the tides that show you how diminished the privileges of women are in the toxic masculinity supporting society.
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Lestine, as an author does an incredible job of using her writing to present us a topic of concern. Though set in currents of privilege where the voice of the narrator may be questioned for it’s integrity to tell the tale as of the usage of languages, etymology and words that may or may not be even appropriate, of the usage of context or the appropriation of culture of the unknown for them, where it might not be even the context but rather the intent that might come out as a hurdle. I didn’t find any but you may.
Apart from that, the writing is apt and astute, scenes open up in their most extravagant of narrations, all of three protagonists unfurl in layers and layers with a connection much deeper and emotional with the reader. While the writing is breezy to read, it does what it is intended to do which is to give the effect, gamut and gore straight with a punch in your guts. You can’t escape the room if you have wronged, you can’t escape if you are one of them, you see women rising, rebelling to claim their place and respect in the society, that they so damn deserve.
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