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

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  581 ratings  ·  54 reviews
"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...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 30th 1991 by Ballantine Books (first published 1990)
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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. It is incredible for its empathetic and humane narrative. It is one of the...more
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...more
Nezabravka
Забележителен журналистически поглед върху "незабележимия" живот на индийската жена!
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.
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...more
Sara
I read this many years ago. It was very good, very educational, and very sad.
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
CarolB
Here is a heartbreaking work of non-fiction. In a clear, journalistic style, Bumiller looks into several issues in Indian society by way of specific women's stories. She deals with wife-burnings because of dowry greed, abortion of female fetuses, routine snuffing out of female babies, forced sterilization and other frightening issues affecting the lives of Indian women.
I read this in preparation for a trip to India and handed over to another woman on my trip when I was done, who launched into i...more
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...more
Vicky Pinpin-feinstein
I discovered and bought this book in a cozy, little bookstore in Goa while travelling in India a few years ago. Once I began reading, I could not stop. Bumiller captures the complex dynamic of what it is like to be an Indian woman as a wife, a mother, or a member of your caste. You will probably learn more than you would like to know particularly when the knowing about a group of women is a painful one, an odyssey of hardship, discrimination and lack of opportunity. But in the end, and if you ar...more
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...more
Kathleen McRae
This book was published in 1991 and was researched in 1987-89. It is slightly over 20 years and yet it remains relevant today. I think the biggest change has been in technology..cell phones and mini loans and those are recent vehicles which will eventually release woman from the servitude.The recent media coverage of rape in India is perhaps good as wife beating and drunkenness has been cloaked in secrecy in this patriarchal and misogynistic society.The caste system continues to dominate this co...more
Linda
This book was recommended to me by the owner of a small bookshop in Khajuraho, India, while I vacationed there a few weeks ago. I love local recommendations when I travel overseas, and this one didn't disappoint. Though dated, it was an interesting study of women in India that is relevant to women everywhere. Great observations, with a conclusion that matched the one I came to by the book's last pages. This was a great companion piece on my trip and during the days of jetlagged recovery.
Sue
It is a very interesting book on the status of women in Indian culture, with clear examples of several cultural traditions that set women to be properties of men. However, I would had enjoyed the book more if the author was more to the point. Sometimes it seemed like she had a page quota to fulfill and so some chapter were a little longer than it needed to be or included details that were more fit to a gossip magazine than a book. Overall, an interesting book.
Jula Silber
Great topics to discuss and research, am traveling India right now in March 2013 and many issues are still the same... but the writing style resembled a bit of a research paper and less of an actual book reading. but many topics were really interesting and i do recommend the book as reading while traveling India!

Does anyone know if there is an updated version of the book, or a similar book given its written in 1988 or 1989 and some issues i hope have improved!
Sarah Allen
A good read if you want to learn more about the challenges facing Indian women, the history of the women's movement in the country and the diversity of situations that women find themselves in today. Covers a vast expanse of topics, although especially after reading Bombay: Maximum City, the interviews and contacts that Bumiller relies on for much of her content seem pretty superficial. She generally does a good job of recognizing these limitations, though.
Carrie
This book was inspiring, infuriating and severely heartbreaking. It has helped me understand such an important part of India and also a deeper part of my own country as well. Women's rights is a mission I fight for constantly. I can only hope that everyone reads this book. It is an eyeopening view into a woman's world in India, but understood in any country.
I felt so many similarities between Elisabeth Bumiller and myself and would love to meet her.
Ariana
I didn't mind this book (it was at least good for keeping me entertained on the elliptical), but I guess overall it felt too narrow, too personal, too specific to the author's experiences. But it is over 20 years old at this point, and so much has changed since then--in India, in literature, in journalism styles, in the world--so I think maybe the main problem with it is that it's dated. Anyway, I didn't mind it, but I wouldn't really recommend it.
Marmite
I've read this book about the lives of women from various classes in India in 2003 when I lived in India myself. It gave me a bit more perspective on the lives of women in India and even though things definitely have changed since the 1980s (when this book was written), it is still applicable to at least the women in lower classes and those living in rural areas.
Very much worthwhile to read.
Alexandra
The book was written in the 80s so it is a bit dated, but still a great read. It touched on a variety of different topics and gave a good look of a full spectrum of issues that Indian women face from diverse backgrounds. Some things still hold true for today, even though the book was written almost 20+ years ago.
A good read for those who are interested in Women's Studies in India.
Piyush Kumar
I feel enlightened. Now i know more about harsh treatment/cruelities the females have gone through.
Female infanticide, sati system, age old traditions, why women should be educated if we trully wish to see the nation progress, population control.
I was excited when I read familiar names who are still alive. Shabana azmi, kiran bedi, sheila dixit.
Etcetera.
Sephie
Aug 01, 2007 Sephie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in women's issues and India
Shelves: auto_biog, travel
A very interesting insight into the lives of women in India. Although written in 1990, this book does explain the diversity of women's status from earlier times up to fairly recent times. Grinding poverty still exists, but India is an emerging SuperPower and her women are very much part of the reforms.
Grace
An American journalist living in India spends 2 years discovering the country through interviews with various women. Especially interesting is the chapter about conflicting eyewitness accounts of the last sati or widow burning in the 1980s.
Ancie
Apr 16, 2013 Ancie is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-up
More like a documentary on the lives of lower middle class women in India. Not up to it right now.
Also seems like a collection of article based on women from all walks of life.
Maybe in the future... I might feel like reading it.
Amit
even though it covers well worn topics like arranged marriages, dowries, bride burnings, female infanticide, still a fascinating look from a western woman's perspective in India. not a light or easy read, but well worth it
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