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The Dancing Girls of Lahore
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The Dancing Girls of Lahore

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  847 ratings  ·  108 reviews
The dancing girls of Lahore inhabit the Diamond Market in the shadow of a great mosque. The twenty-first century goes on outside the walls of this ancient quarter but scarcely registers within. Though their trade can be described with accuracy as prostitution, the dancing girls have an illustrious history: Beloved by emperors and nawabs, their sophisticated art encompassed ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published July 1st 2005)
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Petra X smokin' hot
Read in January 2011. Edited August 2011 about three times) and totally rewritten 24 Sept 2014.

This book wasn't what I thought it was going to be - an academic's study on the sex trade in Lahore. All the time I keep hoping the book will get to the nitty-gritty, it never does and it is explained in the afterword that the author does intend to write the sociological book the title implies 'at some point'. In the afterword!

The book is about the time the author spent living with a particular 'danci

This book attracted me because I am very interested in various forms of ethnic dance and the social positions of professional dancers in different societies. I spent many years of my life studying Egyptian style “Raqs Sharqi”, or what is here referred to as “belly” dance. I lived and even worked for a while as a dancer in Egypt and know first hand that dance has a very ambivalent position in the Middle East. On the one hand, almost everyone there dances. In the “old days” before the society got
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Louise Brown is a British academic who has spent many years researching prostitution and trafficking of women and girls as sex slaves throughout Asia. Over a period of four years, she made periodic visits to Lahore, Pakistan. During each visit, she spent a month or two living in Heera Mandi, the official brothel quarter within the old walled city. Her main focus was on one family, consisting of Maha and her three adolescent daughters, but she got to know many other people as well.

The profession
I loved this book. I have a very strong streak of wanderlust and this book seemed to put me right in the middle of the red light district of Lahore Pakistan. A place I'll probably never get to see nor particularly want to. But its so much more than a sensationalist or purient tract. Its the story of one main family and other relations and friends. It horrific and beautiful at the same time. Its life as it exists for many in the 3rd world. Its a chronical of child slavery and prostitution but it ...more
Julia Graf
Fascinating but grim look into Lahore's Red Light District, a mixture of artisans, transsexuals, pimps, drug addicts, children and prostitutes. Louise Brown touched on so many of the social issues surrounding this environment that affects the lives of the people living in this district, and how it causes so many problems that are almost impossible to break free of. I completely understand why the daughters of prostitutes frequently turn to the trade themselves, because in a society where they ar ...more
Fatima Afridi
A flat, almost passive tone and yet makes such an impact. I am a fan of non-judgemental report-like manner in which most of the western authors write. Reminds me of how we were taught to lose our opinion and write facts in our English Language class in school when writing a 'report'. It's not easy to write reports. Such a dedicated and professional take on the subject and yet she can't stop herself from getting emotionally involved which becomes slightly obvious in the 2nd half of the book.
I cou
I was instantly attracted to this book the minute it was mentioned. Not just because it talks about hush hush zone of Lahore but also I wanted to see the views of non pakistani Britsh writer.I was expecting a judgemental comments from british writer about Pakistan Muslim society.But I was disappointed. I became a fan of Louise Brown dedication and passion, she spent years living in heera mandi doing her research where women like me are scared to go in bright day light or even mention the name of ...more
This is an anthropological "study" of the red light district of Lahore, Pakistan. The author, Louise Brown, returned to Pakistan repeatedly for several months a year for seven years, living in the district and sharing the lives of the residents -- particularly the family of one. I found myself alternatively repulsed and saddened by their stories…and I often wondered how Brown could stand by and watch, without stepping in with the small amount of money that would have improved their lives so much ...more
A beautifully written account which transgresses the academic and makes the characters so real. There is no happy ever after ending here, as there never is with real-life, but there is always hope.
The first time i read it I liked it. But I just tried reading it again and couldn't get into it. This is a great immersion into a culture, especially if you don't know much about Pakistan. But the author spends a lot of time going forth in her cultural discussion between India and Pakistan which made it hard to remember the book is set in Pakistan. And she throws a lot of unfamiliar words at her readers without defining them. The first time I glossed over these, assuming she'd define them, but t ...more
An interesting look at the red light district in Lahore. The story is real. The author recounts her experiences with the people she met over years of living amonst them. It has a slight western perspective on many things (Engligh author) but recounts the chaos, emotions, and reality of life in the district very well. What I like most is that through the author's closeness to one family, the reader becomes aware of how difficult it really is for daughters not to inherit their mom's profession. A ...more
This is an interesting look at a part of Pakistan that is not often visible, discussed, or considered. The story is well written, covering the lives of many of the different elements of the seedy nightlife in the old city of Lahore. The author primarily follows the life of one family, along with the supporting cast around it. It is intriguing, disturbing, but entertaining all at the same time.
The author is an academic from Birmingham, England. But this book, although written in a matter-of-fact format for the most part, is informative without being dry. Brown writes about her trips to Pakistan from 2000 through 2004, after 9/11. If the author had focused on just Maka and her family the book might have been a bit more concise. All-in-all, I found this book very interesting.
The Dancing Girls of Lahore is a book about poverty and prostitution in a certain part of the city of Lahore in Pakistan. While the book is as painful and sad as one would expect it still contains a lot of hope and happiness. It's unimaginable that a life that to most of us would seem horrible is seen as "just the way things are" in other parts of the world. The book gives a good look into the daily lives of the woman in the early of Lahore that the book is about. This is a way for them to claim ...more
Sagheer Afzal
This is an excellent book. Louise Brown has the inner eye of a novelist and the analytical insight of an academic and she has combined the two to produce a profound and moving insight of the underbelly of Pakistani society.
Feisty Harriet
Too much conjecture, not enough story. I wish Louise Brown had a better, more personal way or writing, her research on brothels in Pakistan. The stories are gripping, but it was hard to follow them.
Rachel Balster
I loved this book. The author's writing is enchanting and I loved getting to know the people in the book. I was saddened by their difficult decisions and situations; amazed at some of the thought patterns; and a little annoyed with their uncleanliness. Honestly, it was like being there and I'm not ashamed to say this book made me want to visit. I doubt I would deal well with the lice and rats but it would be life changing. Thank you for this book. It was wonderful. (If I can say that about such ...more
Ayako Ezaki
This is one of the books that has really made me feel glad that I've discovered and read it - despite the exceptionally difficult and heart-breaking nature of the topic.

I actually "finished" reading this book in 2008 (according to the "date I finished this book" that was saved here), but back then I actually had not. I'd stopped without reading the last couple of chapters, and decided that I didn't really like it. I can't remember exactly why, but I think it became too difficult, and maybe a bi
Kagama-the Literaturevixen

Its been some time since I read this book.But it still remain fresh in my mind.Its a sordid world the author presents,with young girls who become prostitutes,sometimes even guided into the world by their own mothers.Seems there is a tradition of that sort of thing in Pakistan More about that here

Womens emancipation has come a long way since we got the vote. That is in the western world. But if you are poor and female in that part of the world...things arent so great.

The author debates with h
A beautifully scripted heart wrenching saga on the turbulent life of Maha( a veteran in sex trade) in the illustrious red light area of Heera Mandi /Diamond Market in Lahore, Pakistan.

Heera Mandi once famous for its artistic aura of courtesans known purely for their dancing and singing skills has now been reduced to a commercial sex factory. A similar fate experienced by the courtesans of Lucknow (India) and the Geishas of Japan.

Brown’s protagonist Maha who is at the dusk of her career (prostitu
Fantastic review of the middle age women who live within the Walled City of Lahore, Pakistan in the Herra Mandi neighbourhood. The life of prostitution and the marriages these girls are forced into at ages as young as 9 - 12 is stunning and unbelievable. The filth they live in, the open toilets they're forced to use is dispicable at the very least. A thoroughly engrossing, interesting page turning novel . You won't soon forget the peope you will meet living in this moballa (neighbourhood).

From d
Apr 07, 2009 Joan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joan by: Beth, my dentist
Shelves: gender, islam
Louise Brown's The Dancing Girls of Lahore is an ethnography set in Heera Mandi, the historic red light district of Lahore, Pakistan. Brown, a British professor, lives in the district on and off for over four years, documenting the lives of those who live there and immersed in a culture that is, on one hand, woman-owned and woman-centered, and on the other hand, incredibly limiting and rooted in traditional beliefs about gender roles.

Brown focuses much of her attention on Maha and family, an agi
A bit graphic, but a very telling book on the most famous Red Light district in Pakistan. Before partition (India and Pakistan) it was well established as a red light district - yet in a very different way. It was considered a place of art. Where musicians and dancers lived. Many of the female dancers would be called on by great rulers and "nawabs" to dance for them and their parties... after-party deals by some dancers were made and expected. After partition, many became Muslim (majority Shia) ...more
As parents go, Louise Brown's are brave. Most of us would cringe if our daughters put themselves in such danger, but HER parents encouraged her by caring for her children when she visited the "mohalla" to research her book. Aside from the danger of living in a veritable den of iniquity, Ms. Brown risks her entire digestive system with the food she eats.

This documentary-style book opens dingy windows into the shady life of the women in a neighborhood of Lahore, Pakistan who earn their living wit
Rida Rizvi
though the research was quite extensive, and i appreciate that, highlighting the harsh facts of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but you can not generalize the situation, nor could you judge the country or religion on the basis of it. Moreover, the truth is, you can not know any society or culture by just living there for a year or two and conclude it by interviewing some 10s of people.
May 23, 2008 Kristana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like to learn of other cultures or marginalized groups, or women's issues.
Recommended to Kristana by: Found it in a bookstore
Very interesting to learn of the cultural aspects and long history behind the plight of the poor women and girls who sell their bodies in the grimey depths of the Lahore slums. You truly begin to see the interdependence of the caste system, families, money, crushing poverty. One is reminded constantly of the struggle to survive and the effort to maintain some dignity in this sad underworld. The author's perspective is fascinating as she completely and obviously did not look Pakistani, yet lived ...more
it took a long time for this book to get going. the first 50 pages or so were very dry historical information about kanjiri in pakistan, and that was pretty tough to slog through. but once you get past that, the book is amazing. she wrote very objectively, presenting events and stories in a very straightforward way. she only delved into her personal differences with how people were behaving occasionally--and at those times it was necessary. for example, she discussed the inner conflict she felt ...more
I really found this to be an interesting and compassionate but insightful telling of the story of the women who are prostitutes in Pakistan. The timing was very unique as in the later part of the book she deals with the impact as a western woman in Pakistan right after 9/11. I think the book was already fascinating because of the access she was given to the women working in the Pleasure District and their families. I was especially touched by the challenges that comes with being a western woman ...more
Haider Budini
Lucky enough to read this book by a researcher. It not only gives an insight into the social setup and culture of Heera Mandi, but also into the psyche of common man. thanks alot for the book but the religion is excessively injected without much research.
British academic Louise Brown spends months at a time living and researching the long-established prostitution trade in Lahore, on the Pakistan-Indian border. Extremely respectful of a culture very different from hers, even though at times Brown admits her reasonable anger at both the way her friend Maha, a traditional dancing girl raising modern dancing girl daughters, treats her children and the way the men in society treat all women, but especially the prostitutes they fuck and support, very ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Louise Brown is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Asian Studies at the University of Birmingham, England, and the author of several books on Asia, the sex industry, and sexuality and gender issues. She has lived and worked in Asia, including spending two years in Kathmandu, Nepal.
More about Louise Brown...
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“a raped girl is bad for the family: it shows that they can’t protect their women; that they have little social standing; and that they’re not respectable. It’s worse for the victim because once a woman, or a girl—or a boy—is known as the target of a rape she becomes so despised, so shamed, so worthless that she turns into public property. No one is raped only once.” 9 likes
“I’m playing catch with Nisha and Nena. They’re standing against the opposite wall shrieking with enjoyment. They’re teenagers, but they’ve never played catch before and lack any sense of coordination; when they throw the ball to me it flies in any direction. Sometimes it hits the wall behind them. We’ve been playing for half an hour and they have only caught it twice.” 1 likes
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