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The degradation of women in India is nearly universal, and ranges from their second-class status in society, often excluding them from educational and professional opportunities, to their frequent physical and psychological brutalization, often involving assault, rape, and sexual slavery. The media carries the hair-raising news reports; we shake our heads in outrage, confused that such cruelty and debasement of women is commonplace in a country that has long had the benefit of western cultural influence, education, and governmental systems. Yet the awful reality women endure in India completely escapes us because we are unacquainted with the actual, tangible details of their lives and the world they inhabit.
Capturing the forced and grim realities facing women in India today, along with the raw emotional power of great drama, Amina: The Silent One by award-winning author Fiza Pathan proves an incredibly powerful read from the start. An unblinking look at lives no human being should be required to lead, she avoids the temptation to concoct prescriptive characters and instead shows us, without compromise, the depth of their pain and the totality of their suffering. It wouldn’t be disingenuous to say there are times when Pathan’s novel is harrowing, cruel and incredibly sobering as she allows her story to develop organically. In this respect, Pathan’s novel fits the classical definition of tragedy, the daily desolate reality her characters have no option but to face, and within which they must find some degree of dignity. For many readers, unfamiliar with the machinations of Indian culture, Pathan’s words will leave an indelible mark that’ll linger long beyond the last page turned, and yet it’s the kernel of hope manifested in Amina’s extraordinary gift that ultimately prevails.
A truly remarkable work of fiction that touches heart and mind, Amina: The Silent One is sure to engender much thought and discussion. It is recommended without reservation.
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