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

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"The most stimulating and thought-provoking book on India in a long time..Bumiller has made India new and immediate again." THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women's lives she shared--from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in "The most stimulating and thought-provoking book on India in a long time..Bumiller has made India new and immediate again." THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women's lives she shared--from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in Bombay, intellectuals in Calcutta, and health workers in the south--and the contradictions she encountered, during her three and a half years in India as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST. In their fascinating, and often tragic stories, Bumiller found a strength even in powerlessness, and a universality that raises questions for women around the world.


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"The most stimulating and thought-provoking book on India in a long time..Bumiller has made India new and immediate again." THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women's lives she shared--from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in "The most stimulating and thought-provoking book on India in a long time..Bumiller has made India new and immediate again." THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women's lives she shared--from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in Bombay, intellectuals in Calcutta, and health workers in the south--and the contradictions she encountered, during her three and a half years in India as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST. In their fascinating, and often tragic stories, Bumiller found a strength even in powerlessness, and a universality that raises questions for women around the world.

30 review for May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of India

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hana

    This is not really a book about Indian women, it's a book about a European American woman who goes to India with her husband and wants to do real reporting instead of writing fluff pieces for the Washington Post's 'Style' magazine. Bumiller is a self-confessed liberal feminist and it's pretty clear that much of Indian life appalls her. I gave her two stars because to her credit she really does try to open her mind and she does slog about India talking to a great many people. I think the worst par This is not really a book about Indian women, it's a book about a European American woman who goes to India with her husband and wants to do real reporting instead of writing fluff pieces for the Washington Post's 'Style' magazine. Bumiller is a self-confessed liberal feminist and it's pretty clear that much of Indian life appalls her. I gave her two stars because to her credit she really does try to open her mind and she does slog about India talking to a great many people. I think the worst part of the book was its relentless, National Inquirer style focus on the luridly sensational: women who commit sati, families who kill their infant girls, women who are allegedly burned by their husbands and in-laws....By one estimate there have been 40 cases of sati (widows committing ritual suicide) since India became independent in 1947--yet India's population is over one billion people! Bumiller, sadly, cannot get out of the way of her own narrative. In a chapter on selective abortion of girl fetuses, Bumiller spends pages of tortured prose trying to reconcile her personal conviction that women should have the freedom to choose abortion, with her inchoate sense that Indian women are abusing that freedom. I would have appreciated it more had she simply told the story without wrestling for page after page with her own dented Western sensibilities. Yet in all those angst-filled pages, it never occurs her that the Indian experience suggests how unrestricted abortion could be morally problematic in America and Europe, not just India. Another example from the chapter on arranged marriages. Bumiller interviews a twenty year old Delhi University economics student who recently became engaged to a childhood friend her parents had chosen for her and asks the girl if she loves her fiance. "This whole concept of love is very alien to us", says the economics student. "We're more practical. I don't see stars, I don't hear little bells. But he's a very nice guy and I think I'm going to enjoy spending my life with him...I know everything about him, I know his family. On the other hand, if I was in love with this guy I would be worried because then I'd be going into it blindly." Bumiller immediately adds her personal editorial comment: "I thought this was madness, or a good job of brainwashing, but later decided [the girl] was simply rationalizing what she had been dealt in her life." Bumiller utters this dreadfully condescending statement despite knowing that a substantial percentage of western 'love' marriages fail and are often preceded by countless painfully terminated 'relationships'. Hey, Bumiller, did it even cross your mind that the young Indian economist might have been right? Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I found that in retrospect I gained more insights from V. S. Naipul's India: A Million Mutinies Now than from Ms. Bumiller's nearly contemporaneous book. Naipaul, much to his credit, is able to let the people he interviews simply speak for themselves--something that they do very well.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Piyush Verma

    There is a typical Indian reaction to a woman accomplishing something remarkable. "Yeh kis mitti ki bani hai?" (What soil is this women made of?). I was forced to ask myself the same trite question when I finished reading Ms. Bumiller's incredible account. It is incredible for not just being a work of great patience and physical hardship accomplished in an India 25 years ago, a much excruciating place than what it is now but its empathetic and humane narrative. It is one of the few accounts of m There is a typical Indian reaction to a woman accomplishing something remarkable. "Yeh kis mitti ki bani hai?" (What soil is this women made of?). I was forced to ask myself the same trite question when I finished reading Ms. Bumiller's incredible account. It is incredible for not just being a work of great patience and physical hardship accomplished in an India 25 years ago, a much excruciating place than what it is now but its empathetic and humane narrative. It is one of the few accounts of my impoverished and strange country that does not treat the people it deals within its pages as creatures of poverty to be studied as one would study a rhino or giraffe in the Savannah. This is a book in the true journalistic tradition. Ms. Bumiller chooses to get her hands dirty in her zeal to tell a true and complete story, occasionally making efforts to include the men's point of views. In the course of her travels, she realizes, and so does the reader, that there is no typical Indian women. She refuses to make generalizations and sweeping statements, choosing not to get judgmental even when she comes face to face with the most gruesome facet of gender inequity in India - female infanticide. It is a work of great merit and of great importance, not just to the outsider looking to understand Indian women but also to the Indian looking to make sense of the bewildering difference in the status of men and women and among women of different socio-economic strata.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dhara Mehta

    May you be the Mother of a Hundred Sons is a documentary about the women of India. E Bumiller is a journal who follows her husband to the heart of India to see how women from different social-economic backgrounds live and work. The undereducated maid is contrasted with the police chief, the prime minister with village house wife, the artist with the mid-wife and poor young mother with the billionaire movie star. Taboo subjects such as wife burnings, sati, infanticides, feticides, are dowries are May you be the Mother of a Hundred Sons is a documentary about the women of India. E Bumiller is a journal who follows her husband to the heart of India to see how women from different social-economic backgrounds live and work. The undereducated maid is contrasted with the police chief, the prime minister with village house wife, the artist with the mid-wife and poor young mother with the billionaire movie star. Taboo subjects such as wife burnings, sati, infanticides, feticides, are dowries are dealt with candor. For a mere 300 or so book it covers diversity of Indian womanhood with humility. However, the book was a nauseating read for me. Coming from culture that elevates the status of women to that of a goddess and then relegating it to that of a slave is challenging of me. Reading this book, opened up old wounds, thus was a challenging read. There are times that I could not turn another page but managed to do in the hopes of a light in the tunnel. In a land where a ‘son’ is equivalent to social security a daughter is simply not valued. Only when a poor village widow lives at her married daughter house, then and only will they be equal to their brothers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    한 카트

    What a joyless book! Way to go to a country that has one billion people in it and report the saddest stories and try to persuade us that this is what India is all about. Take a social phenomenon. Criticize it through your holier then thou western attitude. Ask an Indian woman about it. She gives a honest answer. Discredit it her answer by writing a ten page monologue about the dangers to western feminism. Rinse, repeat. Is it that hard to accept a different culture and not try to impose your bel What a joyless book! Way to go to a country that has one billion people in it and report the saddest stories and try to persuade us that this is what India is all about. Take a social phenomenon. Criticize it through your holier then thou western attitude. Ask an Indian woman about it. She gives a honest answer. Discredit it her answer by writing a ten page monologue about the dangers to western feminism. Rinse, repeat. Is it that hard to accept a different culture and not try to impose your beliefs on it? Very condescending book, makes me wonder what she really liked about India excpet living the life in a rent free appartement and treating everyone like some exotic animal at a zoo. Disappointing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    This is a hard-hitting investigation of how selective interpretations of Hindu tradition affect women's lives. It's especially revealing of how cultural expectation shapes the economic worth, or should we say the expected expense, of a girl child or a woman. This is a hard-hitting investigation of how selective interpretations of Hindu tradition affect women's lives. It's especially revealing of how cultural expectation shapes the economic worth, or should we say the expected expense, of a girl child or a woman.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Neha

    I picked up this book because it was lying in my bookshelf. First few pages turned me off. Yet another holier-than-thou commentary on the sad Indian women, I said when a colleague asked me how I'm liking my current read. And he said that maybe we need an outsider's perspective sometimes, for our perspective might get skewed and narrow over time. So give it a chance. And give it a chance, I did. Almost every sentence was laced with a sweeping condescension, benchmarking the 'Indian feminism' with I picked up this book because it was lying in my bookshelf. First few pages turned me off. Yet another holier-than-thou commentary on the sad Indian women, I said when a colleague asked me how I'm liking my current read. And he said that maybe we need an outsider's perspective sometimes, for our perspective might get skewed and narrow over time. So give it a chance. And give it a chance, I did. Almost every sentence was laced with a sweeping condescension, benchmarking the 'Indian feminism' with the 'western feminism' and a tripe on how unenlightened the Indian woman is. I'd have preferred it to be a mere reportage, sans the personal observations, for her observations do not add anything to the narrative. if at all, they make it a drag to read, especially for an Indian reader. And that makes me fearful of being seen by the world through her eyes. The style of writing veers towards gossip sprinkled with a generous dose of random (and often hanging) statistics, rather than a journalistic venture. Not surprisingly, even in the stories of accomplished women, her desire to bring out juicy details of their lives lurks in the foreground, and her disappointment in not being able to elicit such details is palpable in her words. And of course, not to ignore the glorious editorial errors including spellings in a few places (years for ears and so on), Kiran Bedi's year of marriage reported as two years before even her birth(!), and many more, which turned me off completely.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I suppose this is understandably somewhat dated at this point. But several sections are still relevant because of some topics in the news. It drags a bit in some places, and sometimes Bumiller puts herself into the book too much, but I found the sections on abortion to be rather interesting.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julia Langnes

    I noticed that this book was getting a whole lot of heat in the review, but on my part I thought it was a fascinating read. However, that is only when you remember what this book actually is, and keep that in mind the entirety of your reading. This is the perspective of one woman after having lived in India for 3 years, as she interviewed a selection of women in India, in the late 1980s-90s. I think that's very important to remember. It isn't a definitive guide, nor can it hope to reach any defi I noticed that this book was getting a whole lot of heat in the review, but on my part I thought it was a fascinating read. However, that is only when you remember what this book actually is, and keep that in mind the entirety of your reading. This is the perspective of one woman after having lived in India for 3 years, as she interviewed a selection of women in India, in the late 1980s-90s. I think that's very important to remember. It isn't a definitive guide, nor can it hope to reach any definitive conclusions, but it is a good read and does shed some light (albeit a small amount) on certain matters. Summed up, ask yourself 3 questions as you finish this novel. 1. Does this show everything about women in India? No. 2. By reading this book, do I therefore become an expert in the status of Indian women? Also no. 3. Should I supplement reading this book with other sources about women in India, before making a better conclusion based off my own perspective? Heck yes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Preet

    My father has always been a voracious reader. He's stopped in recent times, preferring the company of the television and his Samsung phone. I was 7 years old when we went to India for the first time. My father, to the dismay of my mother who knew we were running out of bookshelf space, bought a whole bunch of fiction and non-fiction from the bookstores of New Delhi. This was one of them. I was 9 years old when I read it for the first time. At first I didn't understand what was going on, I though My father has always been a voracious reader. He's stopped in recent times, preferring the company of the television and his Samsung phone. I was 7 years old when we went to India for the first time. My father, to the dismay of my mother who knew we were running out of bookshelf space, bought a whole bunch of fiction and non-fiction from the bookstores of New Delhi. This was one of them. I was 9 years old when I read it for the first time. At first I didn't understand what was going on, I thought it would be as easy to get into as Mark Tully's short stories. But when the gravity of the theme sunk in - sex selective abortions, female infanticide - it changed the way I looked at families, especially other Indian families. Have they ever....? Has my family considered....? I would wonder. This book had a profound impact on my young, impressionable mind. I went through the entire gamut of emotions - horror, sadness, shock, despair, incredulity - and when I was done, I was changed forever.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Priyanka

    The question that came to my mind is - what new things am I reading? I bought the book thinking it might provide some interesting perspective or insights but was a little disappointed. The book has a sense of an American looking at India and saying Oh my God... The author has made efforts to gather varied information and some things are nice but overall, it is an okay book. Also, it is very old - 1991. This fact should be mentioned upfront on Amazon and other book sellers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    D.

    This was an extremely interesting book about the lives of women from various classes in India, from the poor villagers to upper-middle-class women. It gave me a bit more perspective on the lives of my MIL and SsIL. However, the book was written based on the author's experiences living in India in the 1980s, and I think things have changed so much since then, at least for the middle class. It would be interesting if the author did a follow-up. This was an extremely interesting book about the lives of women from various classes in India, from the poor villagers to upper-middle-class women. It gave me a bit more perspective on the lives of my MIL and SsIL. However, the book was written based on the author's experiences living in India in the 1980s, and I think things have changed so much since then, at least for the middle class. It would be interesting if the author did a follow-up.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robin Biffle

    I quit it after 150 pages. Wordy. Self-conscious. Dated. (Hana's review below nails it.) I quit it after 150 pages. Wordy. Self-conscious. Dated. (Hana's review below nails it.)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Akila Ally

    erhm, just another white-washed Orientalist lens.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Renuka

    Trite - many well known prejudices and pre-conceived notions; some interesting interviews. Useful as another voice, another view, even if rather blinkered. Sorry.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I read this many years ago. It was very good, very educational, and very sad.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I first read one chapter of this book for a history of India class, and I found it engaging both then and now. I like how the author describes her own conflicted morals about many of the situations described in the book, and I think that the interview style makes for an interesting read. Some parts were a little bit long. I felt that the Indira Gandhi chapter in particular was unnecessary, because there are plenty of good Indira Gandhi biographies out there, and the author makes it sound like he I first read one chapter of this book for a history of India class, and I found it engaging both then and now. I like how the author describes her own conflicted morals about many of the situations described in the book, and I think that the interview style makes for an interesting read. Some parts were a little bit long. I felt that the Indira Gandhi chapter in particular was unnecessary, because there are plenty of good Indira Gandhi biographies out there, and the author makes it sound like her impact on the average Indian woman was negligible.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Kapoor

    Colonial crap. This self-righteous "author" has done zero research into the origins of the practises she reports on. They are all colonial constructs designed to weaken Indian society and break up India. She has the nerve to paint the picture that this is all common practice in India today in order to brainwash the reader into her perverted viewpoint that she is in India as a civilising voice. Unbelievable arrogance hurting the sentiments of nearly 1.4 billion people. Colonial crap. This self-righteous "author" has done zero research into the origins of the practises she reports on. They are all colonial constructs designed to weaken Indian society and break up India. She has the nerve to paint the picture that this is all common practice in India today in order to brainwash the reader into her perverted viewpoint that she is in India as a civilising voice. Unbelievable arrogance hurting the sentiments of nearly 1.4 billion people.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Afreen

    "May you be the mother of hundred sons" A blessing for Indian sons and a curse for indian daughters....or being a girl in india is itself a curse ? Yes I had exactly same kind of reaction when I read the first half of the book I was devasted !!!! Although the book was written back in 1980's where all types of social evil practices were carried on by the people towards girls/women but the anger within me could not find a surface. But the second half did impress and inspire me. The second half consis "May you be the mother of hundred sons" A blessing for Indian sons and a curse for indian daughters....or being a girl in india is itself a curse ? Yes I had exactly same kind of reaction when I read the first half of the book I was devasted !!!! Although the book was written back in 1980's where all types of social evil practices were carried on by the people towards girls/women but the anger within me could not find a surface. But the second half did impress and inspire me. The second half consists stories of women who went beyond and took one step ahead to towards gender equality. The stories in this book are not extra ordinary but the women are.... The book just gives one message that if a women can spend her whole life under a veil and suffocate herself and her dreams for the sake of her family. Then yes the same women can go to any extent if she decides to achieve her goals no matter what cost she has to pay for it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    For me, this book was insightful and as interesting as any in-depth essay on the recent history of women’s issues in India could be. Only three stars because I doubt many of my friends are as interested in India as I am, a couple of chapters were tiresome, and because the book is dated (published in 1990).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katy Lovejoy

    Some of these are points that need to be addressed but others...i don't know. Some of these are points that need to be addressed but others...i don't know.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joana Canada

    A cativating book, that takes you in a journey through the lives of different Indian women, from different backgrounds, and allows to get a better understanding of Indian society. It's a very interesting read. A cativating book, that takes you in a journey through the lives of different Indian women, from different backgrounds, and allows to get a better understanding of Indian society. It's a very interesting read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Smitha

    'In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women's lives she shared--from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in Bombay, intellectuals in Calcutta, and health workers in the south--and the contradictions she encountered, during her three and a half years in India as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST. In their fascinating, and often tragic stories, Bumiller found a strength even in powe 'In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women's lives she shared--from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in Bombay, intellectuals in Calcutta, and health workers in the south--and the contradictions she encountered, during her three and a half years in India as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST. In their fascinating, and often tragic stories, Bumiller found a strength even in powerlessness, and a universality that raises questions for women around the world.', says the blurb, and it had me hooked from the first page. Elizabeth Bumillier's husband's foreign assignment in India, brought her to New Delhi in 1985. She writes about how she came to write this book, going from a person who knew little about India, to someone who travelled through India, lived in villages and came to understand the lives of women across India. Absorbing it all in, and writing about it in the most non-judgemental manner possible. She writes about the dowry burnings, female feticide, the complex hierarchy that exists, the condition of women in both rural and urban areas. The ironies that is India. Despite the powerful women in the political arena, women, are still facing issues with the most basic of things, health care,safety, basic equality and social freedom. The traditions that bind even the richest families in India to patriarchal norms that have resulted in the deep-seated lack of gender equality in India. Women who make the most of their lives despite all the challenges that they might face, women who adjust, accept their fate, and some who succumb to the challenges they face. Although it was written over two decades ago, the book is still relevant in so many ways. The way in which women's lives have not changed at the rate at which one would have expected it to change is evident when we read the book. She explores the lives of successful, independent women in India, socialites, feminists as well as women bound by traditions, and rules, for whom life hasn't changed much from the time of their grandmothers'. The manner in which she writes, the way she sees it, without being judgemental, or stereotypical makes it a great read. Her observations of life as it is in India for women, across all strata of society, the difference in lifestyles and expectations that could vary so much and at the same time be so similar for women across India. My husband read it. He rarely reads a book these days - he finds reading on the Kindle much more easier,he just couldn't put it down. For a book, on a subject that can be sad, and heavy, it was a surprisingly quick and interesting read. A book I would definitely recommend.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pawanraj

    An "outsider" look at issues women face in the Indian context. A series of articles providing women's perspective and problems they face. Articles written by a US journalist, from her experiences, and "on-field-research" during her 3+ years in India. The topics are wide ranging from population control, to arranged marriages, role of women in the household, change in women's awareness of their own rights, female infanticide, feminist movements in the country, and the like. The good: 1. Wide ranging An "outsider" look at issues women face in the Indian context. A series of articles providing women's perspective and problems they face. Articles written by a US journalist, from her experiences, and "on-field-research" during her 3+ years in India. The topics are wide ranging from population control, to arranged marriages, role of women in the household, change in women's awareness of their own rights, female infanticide, feminist movements in the country, and the like. The good: 1. Wide ranging set of topics covered 2. While the book is "feminist", the tone is measured, even and the treatment of subjects is not one-sided. Alternative viewpoints are considered 3. The writing style is simple, and straightforward and personal. 4. A good perspective into the state of women in the 90s The bad: 1. It's old (1990). Perhaps, after 3 decades, another edition is in order? 2. It's based on limited interactions and understanding of someone who doesn't live here. This, is simultaneously good and bad. It's good because the contrast between the women in US and the women in India is what explains some of the problems. It's bad because it sometimes misses the context in which India lives, and relies on limited knowledge. It must be said, however, that most observations are substantiated by the author spending time in villages / with feminist groups / observing the working of society and organizations. Thus, it's not just hearsay passed as fact. 3. The writing could be tighter. Quite a few places are ramblings and thoughts unconnected to main article. 4. In a lot of places, (perhaps because the context is missing), the base assumption is that women are not well off, and "findings" are therefore given that perspective, that is to say, "this is a hammer, so every problem is a nail" syndrome is apparent in a few articles. All in all, a decent read. It is not "extreme-feminist", still provides a female perspective, for an outsider looking in. The author tries to be balanced and account for the fact that she's in a different culture, looks at alternative viewpoints. Due is given to people trying to bring about a change, and this isn't just a "doom-and-gloom account". It is also heartening as an Indian to note that things have improved a lot in 30 years since the book was published, but it is also sobering to realize that a lot of these problems still exist in the country.

  24. 5 out of 5

    dead letter office

    updated below. June 09. an interesting book about women in india by the woman who later became (starting sep 10, 2001) the white house correspondent for the new york times. she should have stuck to writing books about india, because she was fairly good at that and in her incarnation as a national affairs correspondent in washington she was a total failure. as she said of her role in the press conference leading up to the war: "I think we were very deferential because ... it's live, it's very inte updated below. June 09. an interesting book about women in india by the woman who later became (starting sep 10, 2001) the white house correspondent for the new york times. she should have stuck to writing books about india, because she was fairly good at that and in her incarnation as a national affairs correspondent in washington she was a total failure. as she said of her role in the press conference leading up to the war: "I think we were very deferential because ... it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time." so i guess she'll have to be content to go down with judith miller and thomas friedman and the rest of the incompetents at the new york times who were more concerned with not rocking the boat and being on the right side of public opinion than doing any actual reporting. maybe the next war will occur at a less serious time so she can gather the nerve to ask a question. update, june 09. bumiller's at it again with more shitty reporting on sensitive national security issues. true to form, she hooked dick cheney up with some timely talking points. at least this time it only took weeks rather than years for the times to run a correction in addition to a lengthy piece by the public editor observing that the article was "seriously flawed" and demonstrated again the dangers when editors run with exclusive leaked material in politically charged circumstances and fail to push back skeptically. The lapse is especially unfortunate at The Times, given its history in covering the run-up to the Iraq war. keep up the good work, elisabeth bumiller.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ally

    *Content warning: this review does not contain spoilers, but it does mention some of the tougher topics in this book. Read at your own risk.* Loved this book. It is probably one of the most even-handed and respectful books on the topic of the many and horrible situations of the women in India. I have many friends who are first or second-generation Indian immigrants, and because of my interest in British history, at some point I stumbled sideways into a fascination with Indian history, tradition a *Content warning: this review does not contain spoilers, but it does mention some of the tougher topics in this book. Read at your own risk.* Loved this book. It is probably one of the most even-handed and respectful books on the topic of the many and horrible situations of the women in India. I have many friends who are first or second-generation Indian immigrants, and because of my interest in British history, at some point I stumbled sideways into a fascination with Indian history, tradition and culture. Of course as a feminist, I knew the book would be good, but I had no idea the depth and consideration that went into it. This was a book that really made these issues stand out for me, not in the typical, "oh my God, that's horrible" way they do when you read about them or watch news or documentaries on television. It's easy for us, for example to abhor sex selective abortion even when we're pro-choice. But the women who take part in such things make a chilling amount of sense. It's amazing to consider some of the most powerful politicians in India have been women, and yet women as a whole are still seen as breeding livestock more often than not. With the highest population in the world, India seems both a law onto itself, and a cross section of women of the world. Bumiller peels back the thousands of years of history and tradition to get at the roots of India's culture and attitudes, and the lives of it's modern women. Get this book. You may cry your eyes out through the whole thing, (or develop a desperate need to adopt an Indian daughter) but I guarentee, you will ask questions you've never considered before.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    [Note: I wrote this review for SAWNET (South Asian Women's Network) in 2001 or so.] I remember reading "May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons" by Elisabeth Bumiller when it was first published more than 10 years ago and thinking that it was a refreshing look at Indian women and that it did NOT stereotype Indians in the way that other western writers did before. In fact I was very impressed with the fact that she met with and described women from all strata of society from village women to Ela B [Note: I wrote this review for SAWNET (South Asian Women's Network) in 2001 or so.] I remember reading "May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons" by Elisabeth Bumiller when it was first published more than 10 years ago and thinking that it was a refreshing look at Indian women and that it did NOT stereotype Indians in the way that other western writers did before. In fact I was very impressed with the fact that she met with and described women from all strata of society from village women to Ela Bhatt to kitty party socialites in Delhi to Calcutta poets and actresses. There was very little one could generalize about such a wide range of women but the fact that they were bound geographically... and that is what I really appreciated about the book: that she refrained from drawing the same old sorry conclusions about the plight of Indian women, but instead brought out the diversity. At the time that I read it, I felt that only someone who was either Indian herself or had lived all her life in India could possibly see that diversity for what it was. So it was to Bumiller's credit, I felt, that she was able to reach that point in her travels and experiences in India.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mick Canning

    This is a study of the roles, conditions and lives in general of women of all walks of life in India. Throughout the world and throughout history, women have frequently been discriminated against, victimised and abused by men and the social system in place in their world. In many places they are still routinely bought and sold, denied education, jobs and even healthcare, hidden from the world and defined as essentially evil (although used happily enough by men for pleasure and to produce (prefer This is a study of the roles, conditions and lives in general of women of all walks of life in India. Throughout the world and throughout history, women have frequently been discriminated against, victimised and abused by men and the social system in place in their world. In many places they are still routinely bought and sold, denied education, jobs and even healthcare, hidden from the world and defined as essentially evil (although used happily enough by men for pleasure and to produce (preferably male) children). Women in modern India are, unfortunately, still the victims of their system (and when I say victims, I really mean that) despite supposedly being emancipated by Independence. In the 21st Century it is an absolute disgrace that women in any part of the world should still be considered 2nd class citizens, never mind being victimised in the numbers and dreadful ways that they are. All men should be forced to read this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Bumiller, who now writes for the New York Times, spent three years in India in the 80's working for The Washington Post. This book is a compilation of her study of the lives of Indian women - research and hundreds of interviews. Topics range from Sati (a woman killing herself by throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre) to actresses of Bollywood. Her writing is engaging and reflective. I learned about India while reading this book and reflected on the lives of women in general. A quote fro Bumiller, who now writes for the New York Times, spent three years in India in the 80's working for The Washington Post. This book is a compilation of her study of the lives of Indian women - research and hundreds of interviews. Topics range from Sati (a woman killing herself by throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre) to actresses of Bollywood. Her writing is engaging and reflective. I learned about India while reading this book and reflected on the lives of women in general. A quote from the author's final chapter. "I have learned that to write about women in India is to write about their problems of work, marriage, children, poverty and aging - problems that are not unique to India but are rooted in any society's definition of womanhood."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ktolsson

    A little dated, but learned about the beginnings of some incredible organizations helping women and initiating the micro-finance movement; The author seemed a bit out of her element and interjected many unnecessary and somewhat naive personal opinions throughout - not what you would expect from a reporter - have since learned she was a social reporter before her time in India so this may explain some of her distorted perspective. This book was a gift from Pete from his last trip this summer. I wi A little dated, but learned about the beginnings of some incredible organizations helping women and initiating the micro-finance movement; The author seemed a bit out of her element and interjected many unnecessary and somewhat naive personal opinions throughout - not what you would expect from a reporter - have since learned she was a social reporter before her time in India so this may explain some of her distorted perspective. This book was a gift from Pete from his last trip this summer. I will treasure it because it touches on a country and issues that he and I both feel passionately about!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Could have been a much better book in the event that a professional journalist didn't write it. It's a well-researched book, but you never get a sense of how the western author actually merges with the Indian culture -- she seems to be a reporter on the outside. Still a great read (in terms of being informative) however, and it goes quickly. The 9th chapter on the poet/the director/the painter really give a sense of what I'd want out of the book, as I really felt as though I saw India. While I c Could have been a much better book in the event that a professional journalist didn't write it. It's a well-researched book, but you never get a sense of how the western author actually merges with the Indian culture -- she seems to be a reporter on the outside. Still a great read (in terms of being informative) however, and it goes quickly. The 9th chapter on the poet/the director/the painter really give a sense of what I'd want out of the book, as I really felt as though I saw India. While I certainly saw the women of India in the lead-in chapters, it was tough to get a full sense of their environment until Calcutta was truly described.

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