Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Sisters Made Of Light review by Sandra Sanchez

My Sisters Made Of Light
By Jacqueline St. Joan
Press 53
PO Box 30314
Winston-Salem , NC 27130
9781935708063 $19.95

My Sisters Made of Light is a brilliant book made of beauty and an honest look at brutality, deep insights and soaring lyricism. It is fiction based on the harsh realities of the culturally and socially accepted  honor crimes against women in Pakistan .  We watch in horror as a father lights a disobedient daughter on fire. We read in disbelief as a mother escorts a hired assassin to a meeting with her daughter and watches as he shoots her child dead. We hold our breath as a Muslim woman escapes her family to marry a Sikh man whom she adores. Theirs is a love of historic significance.  The author encapsulates a long and bloody history into unforgettable images:
        In 1958 the air was still sour with the stench of the slaughters that had occurred eleven years earlier when the British ran like dogs and India cracked. The blade that slashed the map also partitioned the bodies of the people, etching fear in their bellies and revenge in their hearts. . . . . . If a trainful of Hindus was murdered by Muslims from Lahore (and they were), then a trainful of Muslims would be murdered by Sikhs and Hindus from Amritstar (and they were).  Entire families were butchered and their body parts were delivered by horseback to their villages. The people emptied baskets of breasts and pails of penises onto the ground  - even the stubs of baby penises with scrotums like tiny figs. The soil was soaked with all the lost futures and when it was done, when the trauma finally subsided to abide in the bodies of the people, they had to plant seeds in and eat the fruit of that same earth. Sikhs and Muslims alike knew the taste of each other’s blood well and they kept to their own.
        Kulrag and Nafeesa in London . Romeo and Juliet in Verona . A Muslim and a Sikh in Pakistan .  All of history conspired against them, but no matter. They would find a new way.
This book is about the courageous women who risk their lives to teach a new way to the young women of Pakistan .  Interspersed in the rich mix of their stories are passages of pure poetry:
I knelt before the shrine for long periods. I read no textbooks. Poured no oil on the doorstep. Took no milk in my tea. No tea. No dusty sandals. No laundry. No letters. No toothbrush. No prayers. No songs. No memories. No soft sisters. No tough sisters. No purpose. No me. For days and days I faded away.
The author has sought and achieved recognition and success in the fields of law and literature in order to further her agenda of making the world safer for women. She donates half the proceeds from sales of the book to a grassroots organization building a safe shelter for women and children escaping abuse. Even if it were not a great read, buying this book helps people in need. The bonus to you is that it IS a great read.
Sandra Shwayder Sanchez, reviewer

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