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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  925 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
"The most stimulating and thought-provoking book on India in a long time..Bumiller has made India new and immediate again."
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
ebook, 320 pages
Published August 24th 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published 1990)
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(showing 1-30)
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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
Piyush Verma
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 but its empathetic and humane narrative. It is one of the few accounts of m ...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
Hanan Kat
May 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a joyless book! Way to go to a country that has one billion people in it and report the saddest stories and try to persuade us that this is what India is all about.

Take a social phenomenon. Criticize it through your holier then thou western attitude. Ask an Indian woman about it. She gives a honest answer. Discredit it her answer by writing a ten page monologue about the dangers to western feminism. Rinse, repeat. Is it that hard to accept a different culture and not try to impose your bel
I suppose this is understandably somewhat dated at this point. But several sections are still relevant because of some topics in the news. It drags a bit in some places, and sometimes Bumiller puts herself into the book too much, but I found the sections on abortion to be rather interesting.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My father has always been a voracious reader. He's stopped in recent times, preferring the company of the television and his Samsung phone. I was 7 years old when we went to India for the first time. My father, to the dismay of my mother who knew we were running out of bookshelf space, bought a whole bunch of fiction and non-fiction from the bookstores of New Delhi. This was one of them. I was 9 years old when I read it for the first time. At first I didn't understand what was going on, I though ...more
Mar 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because it was lying in my bookshelf. First few pages turned me off. Yet another holier-than-thou commentary on the sad Indian women, I said when a colleague asked me how I'm liking my current read. And he said that maybe we need an outsider's perspective sometimes, for our perspective might get skewed and narrow over time. So give it a chance. And give it a chance, I did.

Almost every sentence was laced with a sweeping condescension, benchmarking the 'Indian feminism' with
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Забележителен журналистически поглед върху "незабележимия" живот на индийската жена!
Robin Biffle
I quit it after 150 pages. Wordy. Self-conscious. Dated. (Hana's review below nails it.)
Akila Ally
Aug 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
erhm, just another white-washed Orientalist lens.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this many years ago. It was very good, very educational, and very sad.
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
'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
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
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
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
*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
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[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
Mick Canning
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a study of the roles, conditions and lives in general of women of all walks of life in India. Throughout the world and throughout history, women have frequently been discriminated against, victimised and abused by men and the social system in place in their world. In many places they are still routinely bought and sold, denied education, jobs and even healthcare, hidden from the world and defined as essentially evil (although used happily enough by men for pleasure and to produce (prefer ...more
Zoya Dimitrova
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Когато прочетох ревюто на книгата си помислих, че е просто сборник от разкази за живота на няколко индийски жени. Книгата е нещо много повече от това, бих казала едно огромно проучване на живота на тези жени - от най-бедните до звездите на Боливуд. Традиции, история и много авториски размисли за представите, които имаме и действителността. Чрез разказите за жените в Индия, авторката представя цялата индийска култура, общество и най-вече проблемите, с които се бори тази огромна държава. Романтичн ...more
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
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
Sep 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book. Depressing in some ways because it made me realize how massive India's problems are between overpopulation and the fact that so many people live in poverty and also in villages that are hard to reach and hard to change. I wonder how much has changed since this book was written but I can't imagine that there has been extensive progress. I read Elizabeth Bumiller's book, "The Secrets of Mariko" about women in Japan first, and found that more engrossing because it focus ...more
Kathleen McRae
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary Anne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rarely have I been so moved by a book. Ms. Bumiller captures my experience perfectly when she says: "As alien as their lives were to the lives in the world from which I had come...when life is pared down to its essence, there is a universality to each woman's experience. In the end, I did not feel so very different from them. As the Indian journalist, Anees Jung wrote in 'Unveiling India': "In the macrocosm of a vast land I find the microcosm of my own experience repeated and reaffirmed.""
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Elisabeth Bumiller (born May 15, 1956) is an American author and journalist who is the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times.

Born in Aalborg, Denmark, to a Danish mother and American father, Bumiller moved to the U.S. when she was three years old. She moved to Cincinnati, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School in 1974, and was inducted into their Alumni Hall of Fame on April 30,
More about Elisabeth Bumiller...

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