Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review: Bengali Girls Don't by L.A. Sherman

I was born in the United States in 1971, a stroke of luck that I may have taken for granted over the years. I could be anything I wanted to be, could live anywhere in the country that I chose, and would not be forced to marry against my will. I could vote and go to college. In fact, I started college at the same age Luky, the protagonist of Bengali Girls Don’t: The True Story of a Muslim Daughter, found herself in an arranged marriage. Luky was also born in 1971, but into very different circumstances: on the run during the revolution that created the country of Bangladesh.

I found this memoir by L.A. Sherman fascinating for a number of reasons, the least of which was our common birth year. I cannot evaluate it as I would a piece of fiction, because to do so is to dismiss the heart of the work. This book represents a real life. Luky truly walked this path, even when the steps seem illogical or “out of character.”

The story is choppy at times. The author’s use of italicized first-person commentary can be a bit distracting, and the reader never really figures out who Luky is talking to. Is it a psychologist? A friend? A lover? On the other hand, these conversations give an adult perspective to her story that seems necessary. Thankfully, the book has been carefully edited; I found fewer than twenty typos in the book.

In the end, Bengali Girls Don’t is a compelling read. Luky is the kind of woman I would be honored to have as a friend – a survivor who overcame long odds to become the woman she is today.

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