“Fragments of Riversong” is a compelling collection of short stories about a variety of people from a different backgrounds in Bangladesh. These stori“Fragments of Riversong” is a compelling collection of short stories about a variety of people from a different backgrounds in Bangladesh. These stories take seemingly ordinary moments and show the readers what life is like for a variety of Bangladeshi, especially Bangladeshi women. An underlying theme in many of the stories is difficulties that women face in a male dominated society. Many of the stories contain sadness as the main characters struggle to make it through life, but there is also humor in several stories.
“Getting There” starts with Laila on a car ride from Chittagong to Dhaka, and as the story unfolds, we learn of her history, her family’s history, and the reason for her long journey. The story unfolds in a way that makes the reader want to learn more about Laila’s past, as we also learn about a woman’s life in a patriarchal society.
“Old Delhi, New Tricks” is an amusing tale about an Englishwoman and a Bangladeshi living in England, as they visit Delhi and have to deal with some of the difficulties that any tourist would in a strange land.
“Big Mother” is a story with a lot of unhappiness for Lali, but a hopeful ending, as she is on the verge of getting a visa to come to America for a better life, which primarily means escaping the overbearing title character. This is another story showing the difficulties of being a woman in a male dominated society.
“Just One of the Gang” shows two teenage Bangladeshi girls who drift apart as they go to new schools. Tough Bangladeshi-Americans, this story could be of any two “mean girls”, showing that this phenomenon is not limited to Lindsay Lohan.
“Waiting” is a story about two poor siblings during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. In addition to showing how hunger can be such a big part of being poor in Bangladesh, but it also gives us a glimpse into how some other people, such as a rich woman, conduct themselves during Ramadan. I enjoyed looking at how the people from different walks of life fare during Ramadan, and the happy ending was especially enjoyable.
I especially enjoyed “The Mosquito Net Confessions”. This story is about Diya, an employee of Grameen Bank who has been assigned to escort two African women from the Ivory Coast through rural Bangladesh. This story is about several different things – the culture shock of a city person (Diya, in this case) travelling through rural areas (something many Americans could relate to just as easily); the difficulties of acting as a translator (Diya speaks English and Bengali, but no French, so yet another translator, Shahanna, a Bangladeshi-American who speaks French but not Bengali) as we see the mental fatigue this causes; and the growing confidence and self-worth of Diya, as this trip takes her out of her comfort zone and forces her to grow as a person. My wife, being from Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh) is a city girl’ and also had to act as translator for me when I visited, so these first two issues are something that I could relate to, even if only through my wife.
In “The Assessment” Ghuznavi dabbles in science-fiction, though this is just a vehicle to make a statement about society.
In “Waiting for the Storm”, another story about a repressed wife, she decides to turn the tables on her husband.
“The Homecoming” tells of the atrocities committed during Bangladesh’s war for independence against Pakistan in 1971. As my wife’s parents lived through this war, I have heard stories from her that give this tale resonance.
“Escaping the Mirror” is a heart-wrenching story of a schoolgirl from a well to do family who is harassed by the family chauffer for a period of years. This was a difficult story to read, as I felt Dia’s distress, and wondered how it would end. This story of sexual abuse is something that could just as easily happen in America, or probably just about any society.
"The Guava Tree Rebellion" is told from the perspective of a young girl, about her relationship with her Nanu (grandmother). This story is a fun one, and I especially enjoyed the interesting character of Nanu, who has her own way of raising children.
Ghuznavi’s style is informal and easy to read. This book is a good choice if someone wants to find out more about the state of women in Bangladesh, and life in Bangladesh in general, or if someone just wants a fun, quick read. ...more